North Bank Joy

These are happy days. Arsenal sit proudly at the top of the Premiership and God speaking English(unlike most of the Arsenal players) sits  equally proudly in heaven. As I go to yet another test for this and that there is a skip in my step.

My next door neighbour Ron meanwhile suffers the slings and arrows of supporting lowly and nearby Fulham. They once more seem destined for the exit door. My son ,the blessed Leo had a mixed week although his team Chelsea beat Arsenal they lost on Saturday. A neighbour’s son has left riverside Putney to study in Newcastle because he supports that team.

This of course is trivia of the most exaggerated  kind. A plague on all their  stadia. Why should men borne down by PhDs,the latest Paul Klee show, the hacking trial, the joys of  grandfather hood, the pleasures of a rich and colourful autumn care a fig for the ability of men to control a leather ball with their feet. There are after all agencies  who sell pictures by unfortunates who are forced to paint  with their feet. They are not paid so well.

Why for many men regardless of educational status has allegiance to a football team  seeped into their DNA. So that come what may, every  match day they must  know the result.  A win and its drinks all round, a loss and the heart stops if only for the briefest second. Real fans go further and are  known to weep and howl in failure and punch the air and scream with pleasure  if they score more than the opposition.

So is this just a media created phenomena? The media obviously supports this habit but for most  of us  our allegiance and its emotional foundation start long before. My first game at Highbury, where I lived as a boy, was in 1955. I stole the money from my step mother’s purse(serves her right) and watched Arsenal versus Portsmouth. A draw.

Despite taking Leo to Arsenal several times as a youngster he had read his Oedipus fable and decided to support more local Chelsea ,not least because they were rivals to his father’s favoured side.

In a male world support of a football club is one of the way’s you are identified.  It also gives you a male  currency to trade. But of course  what is really fascinating is the emotions  soccer fanship channels and create.

Is soccer a  religious substitute? Interestingly  supporting  British and European soccer teams via satellite television in a sign of young men in the East breaking away from their traditional beliefs and morals. Maybe it was the same in the early 20th century Europe and South America. But as local identities have broken down especially in the Premiership so has the identity role of the football club.  Men of course love to belong to tribes  and organisations. As much so they can hate the opposiotion as well as love their own. But what is great is that its all make believe, its only a game, its drama for just an hour or so.(Like a born again church service, an emotional break from the everyday)

One could go on. Since few work in factories or mines and even less go to church the football match is one of the few places where collective singing takes place. A  very satisfying and often emotional experience. As our national and cultural identities change and are eroded ,so a football club despite its often global identity gives some permanence. Ironically  these global clubs were once  a way of signalling a very local  relationship.

Given the  delight of football fans to turn their back on 2000 years of  individual intellectual development and all wear the same  shirt one has to come back to the idea that a football club satisfies the parts of identity that  nothing else can.

 A man can be a man without supporting a football club, but without this interest questions have to be asked.  Many of my friends have questioned  the status of someone “who doesn’t even support a football team”.

When I was a lad and my father took me across Highbury Fields to the library, I asked what is that noise. The roar of an Arsenal goal or near miss. An Oxford man, he looked at me  with pained eyes and said. It is the roar of animals. He was right but I couldn’t wait.

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