How eleven men stole my heart & Saturdays
Talking Point columnist Lisa Harrison on her new found love...for the beautiful game
Anyone who knows me would agree that the last place on Earth they would expect to ever find me is in a football ground. Never, ever.
For the best part of 42 years I have actively despised the sport, barely able to be in the same room as any sort of TV coverage including Saturday afternoon’s final scores chuntering in.
Not even the lure of a glimpse of David Beckham, Thierry Henry, David Ginola, Jamie Redknapp or any other gorgeous god-like being could tempt me. But that all changed when I fell in love. Sucker.
Then, one Saturday, there I found myself at an actual football ground, among hordes of other fans, watching the beautiful game.
I had no idea what was going on: There was chanting (some amusing, some irritating), there was clapping (at every opportunity), there was a bit of verbal abuse (mainly from my companion. “You’re a disgrace, referee.”) But, most surprisingly, it was all very civilised. I was especially fond of the butter pie and lack of queue at the ladies loos.
Despite coming away clueless as to what had happened on the pitch I felt uplifted and like this could be the start of something new and exciting.
What followed were more trips to the home ground and some adventures to away games. Each time I went I felt less and less awkward and more a part of an exclusive club.
As time went on, lines were drawn and compromises made over the quantity of games attended and the amount of TV matches watched. And there was a definite scrunch of the face and a frown when the words ‘Match of the Day’ were uttered and dismay when that chirpy theme tune started up.
Who can stomach two hours of Gary Lineker’s inane ramblings on a Saturday night? He’s the ruination of a packet of Walker’s salt and vinegar for me now.
By winter, my fandom was waning. After 90 minutes in the cold with thick concrete beneath my feet, my mind was wandering to images of crackling fires and mugs of hot chocolate. There’s no place like home in your comfies.
The Husband bought me a thick, team scarf and a big, cosy bobble hat in girlie colours. I learned to layer my socks and wear thermals. I was good to go.
There have been times when I’ve tried to fight my new-found love, but these days I’m more inclined to get swept away in the highs and lows of supporting 11 men running around a pitch.
It’s fun to listen to a playlist on the journey up to the ground with the scarves flapping gently in the wind as we zoom up the motorway.
It’s fun to watch the manager all angry and sweary at players ignoring his commands.
It’s even more fun to sneak a cheeky glance at the players getting their kit off, then on again, for a substitution.
But the most fun is the elation when the team wins and feeling a part of something special.
I still don’t get the offside rule, I’m not convinced I ever will, but so what? I’m hoping I will keepy uppy my new hobby.