It doesn’t matter which sport you follow you’ll understand what I mean when I say there is no greater pleasure or pain than seeing your team win or lose. It’s an addiction.
The only thing that is comparable for me is love, the pleasure you feel with the right person and the pain you feel when things go wrong.
Our teams fill us with false hope and break our hearts and we continue to be there, year in year out.
We spend large amounts of our hard-earned money in support of people who often earn more in a week than we do in a year.
We watch their good and bad performances knowing if we were to under achieve that much in our jobs we would be sacked; yet we find excuses for their poor form to justify it.
They had a long flight, they’ve played three games in a week, the other team had an extra days rest, he’s played a lot of matches he needed a rest, he isn’t getting the delivery he needs, he’s being played out of position. We’ve all done it.
We have arguments at work and in the pub over the main talking points and constantly remind our rival supporters of their slip ups. All in the name of banter.
I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For all the disappointment and upsets I’ve had good fun. I’ve watched my team grow from nothing to one of the best. I’ve watched us lose big finals, lift trophies and lined the streets for open top bus parades.
There have been times when I asked myself ‘Why do I put myself through it?’ The answer is simple, I have never felt more alive or more a part of something than I have when I’m in a stadium watching my team win.
That moment when you step into the stadium and become part of a family, even though you don’t know any of the people you are all united for 90 minutes.
The explosion of raw emotion as a goal is scored and someone you’ve never met in your life hugs you is something you just don’t experience anywhere else in life.
I was lucky enough to watch England v Spain in Euro 96 when Stuart Pearce scored his penalty. The man in front of me turned round distraught as we saw Pearce walking towards the spot. He asked me if I was going to watch and I said ‘Of course, he’s going to score.’ The man laughed and said ‘I’ll watch you then love’ and his mates turned round and watched for my reaction.
I remember grabbing my Dad’s shoulder and mumbling ‘Go left, go left’ as he put the ball down, took his run up and scored. The crowd erupted and the men in front started jumping up and down.
I looked back onto the pitch and saw Pearce walking towards where we were sitting roaring and banging his chest and in that moment his reaction was happening all round the ground. The man in front looked at me, grabbed my hand and said ‘You called it love’ my response ‘Never doubted him’.
We said ‘See you later’ at the end of the game and went our separate ways, never to meet again but I still remember that man every time I see that penalty or think back to that match.
I have a lot of little stories of people I remember from attending sports matches. People I encountered once, never to meet again, but they live in my memory because we shared a moment.
Sports are good. They teach us the value of winning and losing. They teach us pride and accomplishment. They bring people together and unite strangers in a common goal. They give us something to believe in when the real world sometimes seems full of darkness.
There are times when I’ve sat and wondered how much easier my life would be if I hadn’t let myself develop an interest in football. Then I close my eyes and remember all the good things it gave me and the hope I have of good things in the future and I know its worth it.
My team didn’t win anything this year but we came close a couple of times. It doesn’t really matter to me as we do it all again next year with a clean slate.
All hopes now turn to England in the World Cup, a fresh new pain begins. I’ve stopped hoping for England to win as I find it easier, anything they do will be a bonus for me. I’ll be watching and cheering them on nonetheless.
The flags and bunting will go up and the neighbours will complain we are lowering the tone of the area again as they always do but who cares? They are my team and no matter what I will support them win, lose or draw, pleasure or pain because there is no feeling like it.