Are you missing football? It has been over two months since football has been played in England and there’s ongoing talk about an imminent return on these shores. How have you all coped?
Let’s just make this clear, this post is not about whether football should return. Neither is it about the intricate nature of football returning. This post is not joining the debate about leagues continuing, discontinuing or how you work out points per game. I will leave that to the Duckworth Lewis method. Finally, this post is not about the way football has been perceived during the Corona Virus outbreak. It is simply aimed at whether you are missing football or not?
Football affects so many people: young or old; male or female and is an integral part of British culture. As my Nan says, “I’m watching Midsummer Murders now football isn’t on. It’s boring isn’t it?”
My Nan has become obsessed about football over the last ten years and never misses a match. She certainly knows her football. She loves continental football and Arsenal. “Poor old Arsene,” were three words I heard continuously for about ten years. It didn’t bother me as those words came with about five biscuits of the chocolate variety, a milky coffee and most of all chats that I cherish.
Thinking about it, I’m sure I heard Arsenal fans shout an adjusted three word version of that phrase that ended with “Arsene.”
My point is, if football found my Nan and Grandad (who’s sadly watching proceedings up above) in their seventies, then it can find anyone. Therefore, DCI Tom Barnaby deduces there are plenty out there missing football.
I put this to my friends, as well as following Nihal Arthanayake’s social media feed where he posed a similar question. I appreciate this is not a reflective sample of the missing football population but nor are the one hundred people chosen for Family Fortunes.
That does not stop you saying, “cotton wool is made out of wool because I saw it on Family Fortunes.” Therefore my survey says “UH UH.” Who has an image of Les Dennis in their mind? I don’t really know!
Professional football was not something that was overly missed. “I’m not missing the money side of football and the Premiership Corporation Limited,” commented one fan. This is a discussion for another time about the role of the footballer in today’s professional era.
There’s an abundance of money at the top level and that’s a whole different blog post there. Or an abundance of blogs to go with the abundance of bunce that lines their gold plated Georgiano Armini pockets. Therefore, let’s try sticking with missing football.
Professional football was acknowledged where one fan said, “I’m missing those lower league scraps and dog fight games, the passion and spirit.” Football is massively social and has it rituals and a couple of ardent fans highlighted:
“You know what I miss about the game the most, the buzz before the match in the pubs and walk to the ground, the colours especially in this weather. The fans that make the Premier League the best in the world.”
“I think the thing I miss most is the structure it gives me looking forward to travelling to a game on the weekend or watching a game on the TV on the Sunday.”
The week long build up and the banter it provides before and after are legitimate reasons for missing football. It dominates Wattsapp Groups before, during and after matches. It’s habitual picking your Fantasy Football team on a Saturday morning. Who dislikes those Friday night matches that catch you out? How long does it take to pick your double points scoring captain? These decisions can make or break your weekend.
Some people like to sit in the pub and watch people on the big screen talk about goals or near misses happening. Those sat there scream when the over exaggerated pundits let out an even more exaggerated scream. Most football fans have strange quirks that will be noticeable whilst football is not happening.
Football fans are a special breed and it allows the opportunity to forget about the world for a while. Sure shouting and screaming at eleven players for ninety minutes (plus time added on) seems immature and childlike but it’s some form of emotional release. A release from the pressures of work; a release from your family life or a release from reality for ninety minutes.
It seems people are pining for the social element that football bring and the opportunity to see their mates. Here some fans said:
“Not missing the actual football that much, more the few pints and meeting up with friends that is part of going to games.”
“Really missing the day out with my mates, not too bothered about the game itself.”
The social element is something that has proved popular reasons for missing football. Life has been extremely difficult of late where people have had to follow strict guidelines to ensure a fully functional society for our future. I prefer to call it fully functional as opposed to the new normal! I respect it but cannot stand that phrase.
“It’s a funny old game,” said the great Jimmy Greaves in reference to football and he was not wrong. People missing football are part of that funny old game. These football fans are the key contributors here. They put the funny into the old game.
A major part to my university reunions are the arguments about whether Gary Neville is world class or whether Spurs are bigger than Everton or Manchester City? These ongoing debates have been happening for nearly twenty years and our passion, desire and stupidity to argue the toss is just music to my ears. I wouldn’t have any other way. Football brings out a biased passion that exists in only the football world. It is hilarious really but this is why people are missing football.
For some this is a void that is hard to fill for thousands of people. “I’ve missed it so much. I watch football to unwind, and not having it at a particularly stressful time has been tough,” mentioned one frustrated fan.
“I feel it is needed for the connection it brings to others. Speaking to people about football is huge for some [people]. It shouldn’t be underestimated how powerful it is for mental health. Football is life for many,” remarked one fan that’s missing football.
To make matters worse football fans all across the country are having to learn how to coat fences, build random household items out of random bits of wood and how to wash up.
I can hear the fans whisper, “I cannot wait until Saturday comes.” Or any other day of the week actually with football being a week long event nowadays. People are desperate and missing football. They need this madness to end. There is the need to see other people. It is also a community affair that bonds households:
“Us all going to our friends’ house or them coming here to watch the matches together, sharing lunches or drinks. Looking forward to being able to watch together with them again,” sums up the community element that football brings to households.
It joins households together and perhaps this custom that was taken for granted will feel different in the future. Perhaps the hatred that comes with the territorial fans could end? Will future football have fans of opposite teams sat next to each other? It is food for thought.
Those at grassroots level are missing the opportunity to take part in their weekly cup final. Some put it simply by stating that they miss playing. Coaching others was mentioned as reasons they were missing football. This got me thinking the impact on youngsters. It was put perfectly:
“My daughter is missing football loads. She just loves it. The thing she misses most is the training and seeing her friends.”
“I miss seeing my son training and playing though, that’s the stuff that matters.”
Youngsters need this social structure and playing sport helps immensely with character building and confidence. I was quite a shy youngster (I think I still am, others will beg to differ) but football helped me in so many ways. Having the confidence to stand in goal meant I had to stand up and be counted.
There is no better feeling than making a save that keeps your team in the match. You have the power in your goalkeeper gloves to keep the hopes alive of at least ten other people. It is some responsibility standing there on your own thinking about all sorts and it is simply fantastic when you save the day.
It is equally lonely and heart-breaking when your mistake costs the match. I struggled with that as a youngster. I suppose I still do on the odd occasion I play. As you get older you learn to laugh at yourself but it still hurts.
In both examples these experiences have shaped my character. They helped me overcome confidence issues as a youngster and still teach me humility today. I maintain sport is character building and youngsters must be missing this immensely.
Children must be getting extremely bored if they are constantly winning or losing the garden 1v1 challenge. You need the challenge that sport brings. You also need that fresh challenge to work the mind.
Everyone needs to learn how to win and lose. Most of all you need to experience this with your friends. Youngsters out there must be craving the opportunity to have a kick around again. Most of all having the banter that the beautiful game brings.
Grown adults still need to stimulate their competitive juices and some clearly need to let off some steam. A technically gifted footballer with a love of the physical side said, “The first 5 minutes of playing. Where I can kindly let someone on the other team know I’m there. With a strong (but fair) tackle.”
Others remarked that missing football meant they are missing their late tackles. I will let you know I have some decent mates but they just love the battle. The footballing sub culture will make for interesting reading once I write it.
A lack of football was effecting some peoples personal hygiene and dietary requirements. One person missed the showers at football. While the other missed the pies that football provides. Worrying times! I have a friend that is a Samaritan and I may seek their advice to advise them further!
It was agreed to pop round and leave a fifty pence piece on the doorstep for the hot water meter. This will assist with the personal hygiene and shower situation. It was recommended that I get the two for one offer on Higgidy Pies down the corner shop for my other mate that ate all the pies.
It is evident that football fans are funny creatures but those with a personality make them even more special. Football fans should be able to laugh at themselves and their own teams at all times. Especially in those heated exchanges. I have some of my best footballing laughs with those that support other teams.
“After the season Spurs were having? My Saturdays are far less depressing now,” joked a Spurs fan about missing football. Another fan quipped that they were gutted to miss out on not having the worst record in their six aside league for the first time for many seasons. Stoke City fans were a lot more happy these days too!
Joking aside there are fans that have regularly travelled to the same ground that shall not experience that journey again. Spare a thought for Brentford fans that may not get the chance to bid farewell to Griffin Park. Brentford are upgrading their ground, much like other teams around the country.
The attachment that football fans have to their home stadium is remarkable and even more emotional. It’s is a sad day when the old grounds disappear for their modern upgrade. I’m sure fans of clubs that have moved into luxurious purpose built mansions would rather the good old days in the council flat.
It’s similar to Del Boy and Rodney coming into their six million pound fortune. They still wanted to be down the market as opposed to that little known department store called “Arrods.”
Of course, there were some fans that were not missing football. There were many that are welcoming the break and having an emotional rest from following football. People are revaluating their spectating sporting habits and football may not necessarily be the same. Having a break from football has allowed fans to take a step back and decide what they liked and what they don’t like. There’s a vast amount of critical reflection going on.
I found it interesting but maybe not necessarily surprising that fans have not been missing football. Personally, I’m not missing it as much as I thought. It’s made me realise that I took for granted playing and seeing my mates through football.
I do not regularly attend matches but I have had time to reflect on the buzz this brings. I would like to try and watch more matches live and perhaps local non-league football beckons. It may not be the riches of the top flight but it will be real. Well I hope it will be real.
The last match attended was Yeovil against Halifax in December 2019. I went with my Halifax born Dad and it was lovely experience. It took me back to those times watching AFC Bournemouth in the late 1980’s.
There was non-stop football chat. We chatted about a football blog I wanted to produce about sharing football memories from the real footballing world. The discussion moved about trying to get down to clubs like Yeovil and Halifax and talk with locals about their footballing experiences. A month later I had booked on to a web building course and I suppose The Lonely Goalpost was officially born that Saturday afternoon. We had a couple of pies to celebrate.
The Halifax fans were superb, all twenty seven of them. Unfortunately, the team were not as committed. Ten men Yeovil (I missed the sending off after five minutes) defeated Halifax 2-0 on a cold December afternoon. The feeling was brilliant watching a three o’clock kick off on a Saturday afternoon. It was even better listening to Sports Report on BBC Radio 5 Live on the way home. It felt like we had contributed to the footballing afternoon. There was a legitimate reason listening to the show.
Before this strange situation happened I had kind of distanced myself from the game. Maybe I have been having the emotional break that was needed. There are only so many times I can stand around in a penalty area shouting at my team mates. Equally there are only so many times I can pick the ball out of the net. I miss playing in goal and I do not miss it at the same time. Makes sense? Of course it doesn’t, it’s football after all. As someone once said, “It’s a funny old game.”
Nihal Arthanayake’s Twitter Feed 18 May 2020.
My friends contributing to social media.