This is not an article, but a brief story and one with which all of you will be familiar. Something I've never done before: Football Fiction.
The train is silent, except for the odd hushed murmur about anything other than what we’ve just seen. And yet as hard as we try, we cannot forget and we cannot rub out the disappointment. It haunts us, and it diminishes the claret that we wore so proudly a mere two hours ago, tribal and primitive in the colours that act as a collective mask and most potently, an identity. Now we are left with blue alone.
Alone. That is how each of us is on this return journey, no longer part of the group we formed before, on the way to the game. The together is no longer. Not until next week, anyway.
Watching your team lose a football match makes you question a lot, and not exclusively football-related matters fill the peripheral cavities of your troubled mind. You wonder why you spend your life obsessed with such a sport, surrounded by these buffoons who use the veneer of a crowd to act like animals, screaming filth and bias at other human beings. With the football mask on, we are different people, different beings. You wonder why you spend your money on these weekly forays into the depths of either despair or delight. There is no in-between with football. Even a draw is either heartbreaking or triumphant.
You wonder whether you could be doing something better with your life, exploring more of the civilised world outside of the stadium – this concrete structure filled with hope, dreams, fury and the smell of deep-fried food, curry sauce and disappointment.
You wonder if you could be more than simply one of the crowd, and whether you are above this obsessive, aggressive and narrow way of life. you wonder if there’s more out there than the local area to which your football team binds you forever, even if you were fortunate enough to escape the crippling handicap of a Birmingham accent. Are you one of these people, who spends their money – hard-earned or most likely otherwise – just to go and watch some largely overpaid, unintelligent and ill-mannered men kick a ball around a field? Is this all there is?
Maybe you take life too seriously, if you are really this upset and this reflective because of a game.
The truth is that the answers to all of these questions are meaningless anyway. They are meaningless because deep down, you know that it is more than a game. Fundamentally, football is a way of life, and you will waste your life loving it and living it for as many days as you live. So when you step off of that metallic tube that shoots you to and from the match each week, you’ll walk home and will resume your normal life, taking off the mask. Even so, all of the emotions and the obsessions will remain, bubbling under the surface.
You won’t ever forget that rousing explosion of adrenaline you feel when you first emerge from the bowels of the stadium, and you get that initial glimpse of the most perfect green grass on Earth. Like a child, the feeling is fresh on each occasion, as if you’ve clambered through a wardrobe and discovered Narnia for the first time, or another, magical world at least.
And so it will all build again: the optimism, the excitement, the anticipation. When Saturday rolls around, nothing else will matter. Life will make sense, questions will be futile. Because today is match day, and there’s only one place you need to go, and one person you need to be.