What’s a football club?

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What is a club in any case? It’s not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy, clambering up the stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.

Sir Bobby Robson

Being an immigrant footie fan sucks

Another weekend and another poor result for my beloved Sporting Clube de Portugal (aka Sporting Lisbon). This time it was a 1-0 defeat to Nacional da Madeira.

We’re on a slump, having not won any of our last 4 league games and been knocked out of the Europa League in the dying minutes of our tie with Glasgow Rangers.

I hate it, absolutely detest it.  How did we get like this?  Only two years ago we’d been 2nd for 3 years running despite fighting for the championship against team with twice and three times our budget. Now, we are the laughing stock of Portuguese football (at least I think we are anyway).

Besides the crap season we are having there are many problems with this situation:

  1. I can’t change teams – the undying rule of any football fan… two things you can never change – family and footie team.  So I’m stuck supporting them, through thick and thin, success and failure, ecstasy and despair.
  2. I can’t see it changing – the people running the club all talk a lot of crap but offer no real solution… the board of directors doesn’t know what it’s doing, we’re buying crap players, playing the wrong formation and getting the wrong type of managers.

But worst of all, it’s not being there.  There is a helplessness that comes from distance.  As much as I would love to be there watching the game, giving my support or showcasing my displeasure I can’t because I’m here.  I tweet about it every now and again, but it feels pretty mute compared to screaming in the stadium.  I have to contend with watching as many games as I can on my laptop, hoping and praying for a decent connection and an inspired team.

They say that people play in the lottery not because they actually think they are going to win but because of the chemicals induced whilst the draw is happening.  Watching from afar is much the same, you’re always excited and on edge during the game but (nowadays at least) you never expect to win.

Having your eyes open to this very fact is what sucks the most.

The latest tabboo for football to overcome

So Andy Gray has been fired and Richard Keys is in serious trouble for their sexist remarks about Sian Massey, a female who was the referee’s assistant in a Premier League game. This prompted the inevitable question about prejudices against women.

But this is just another prejudice in football’s long history of it.  Football still suffers from racism (some countries more than others) and prejudice against homosexuality.

The problem is not just from the fans but (as Gray and Keys showed) also from within the game. These stigmas prevent women, gay men and women and people from ethnic minorities from taking part in the game at a more involved level, not merely as fans.  This in turn means those communities do not have role models who will compel them to enter the game. For example, how many openly gay footballers are there?  How many black managers are there in the whole of the Football League?  How many women pundits and commentators are there?

Until those ‘figures’ are in place it will be very difficult to remove the stigmas.