What Football’s All About

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what the point of football actually is. Of course the instinctive reaction is to say ‘winning things’, but the more I think about it the more I’m not sure that that’s actually true. Between 2006 and the start of 2019 Liverpool won just one trophy, which was the League Cup in 2012. Other clubs won even less during that time, yet very few of them lost supporters despite their lack of success in a ‘winning things’ sense. As much as we all love to mock Evertonians, can you even begin to imagine how fed up you’d be if the Reds hadn’t won a trophy since 1995? It’s no wonder they’re so bitter. Yet whenever there’s a match at Goodison Park there are thousands of Blues that rock up and support their team. Why? It self-evidently isn’t about the shiny things or they’d have given up decades ago.

It strikes me that winning stuff is about bringing in new fans more than it is about keeping hold of the older ones. That’s not to say that I don’t think winning trophies is important, of course. Seeing your team lift a pot is the culmination of their efforts and, nine times out of ten, a fair reflection of what they deserve. Sometimes it’s a sign of the things to come, as was the case when Rafa Benitez won the European Cup in 2005 with a squad nowhere near as good as the one he assembled in the years that followed, though that one ended up getting very little to show for it. Of course winning competitions is hugely important if you’re looking for something that reflects a club’s ability, but from the point of view of supporters it simply can’t be the be-all and end-all of the matter. That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately and here’s what I think matters.

Sharing The Experience

When I first got my season ticket a few years ago I was really excited because I thought about the people I’d get to know by going to the game on a regular basis. Though I’ve lived back in the north-west since 2012, having spend the previous decade studying and then working away, and have got plenty of friends here, they’re not ones that are as passionate about football as I am. I’ll watch matches with some of them, of course, but they’re rarely bothered about doing so in town or somewhere else with an atmosphere, so I was keen to have that shared experience with people who love the game as much as I do. Sadly it wasn’t quite such an easy thing to accomplish, with people on the Kop often initially wary of newcomers because they’ve all got their own cliques that they stand with and talk to. Mark and his dad Gordon, who I stand next to, were friendly and welcoming from the off but it still wasn’t quite the experience I was expecting.

I needn’t have worried, though. It’s just about time. My experience of working on and with the Anfield Wrap lads meant that I slowly but surely began to meet new people who in turn introduced me to others. Robbie Fowler (not that one) knows anyone who’s worth knowing, so soon I began to chat away with all sorts of waifs and strays. I met Robert Lawson when he did some electrical work for me and we’ve been friends ever since. He in turn introduced me to Paul Lambert, who gave me a lift to the Manchester City game on Sunday. We all had a few drinks pre-match and then met back up again after the final whistle for a few more, giddy with the excitement of the Reds going eight points clear at the top and nine points clear of Pep Guardiola’s side. It was then that I realised that sharing the experience with these people, who had little-to-nothing in common but for the football, was a big part of what this whole things is all about.

Creating Memories

Everyone experiences football in a different way, obviously, but if you’re anything like me then even when you’re on your own you still want to find a way to communicate with others. I think that’s why Twitter has been so successful for sports communities, because of the desire to have some sort of shared experience however you can manage it. That’s why I’m not entirely sure that it even matters whether or not you’re in the same physical space as the people that you’re sharing these things with. There have been countless times this season when we’ve won a match I haven’t been at and yet I’ve phoned Robert or he’s phoned me just to talk about it. When the full-time whistle goes on any big game then my immediate desire is to give my dad a quick call if I haven’t been able to watch it with him.

Whilst winning is the key thing to that it’s not the only thing. Speak to any of the people who went to Kiev for the final in 2018 and they’ll tell you what an amazing time they had. They’ll talk about the fan park and the atmosphere and the sheer joy of it all, with the result being of secondary importance. Yes, that’s easy to say given that we lost but anyone that was there will be quick to point out that a win would have simply been the icing on the cake, not the constituent ingredient. Making memories is what football’s all about. Again to go back to the Evertonians for a minute, they’ll always maintain that they were the reason we didn’t win the title last season. It’s nonsense, of course, but why shouldn’t they cling on to that? Not all teams can always win all of the time, so there has to be more to football. The friends you make and the memories you take are surely the answer.

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