Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Kick-Off

 Today is the start of the Premier League. All the pre-season friendlies to promote the clubs and their big-money sponsors in the Far East are finished. Time now to get down to the real business.

A football fan is a passionate supporter of a particular team. Their love for football resolves around this team’s fortunes, and if that team didn’t exist, perhaps they wouldn’t even like football. They shout horrific abuse at the referee for not giving them a throw-in despite them being wrong. When our team time-waste at the end of a game we applaud their professionalism, when our player makes a dive and goes down a bit easily we turn a blind eye and so on and so forth. They go through an emotional rollercoaster every game. They feel a numbing sickness every time their team are defending a lead. They suffer the inevitable lows but they also cherish the unforgettable highs.  Love is such a strong emotion that it’s only natural that it also inspires hate, and with that, a complete lack of decency, morality and logic. The worst excesses of tribalism are ugly – abuse of players, hooliganism and biased, dogmatic opinions. That is the essence of supporting a football club.

Football is a sport that can cost thousands of pounds to watch. Many are willing to pay so much to deify players who earn more in a week than most do in a life-time. Grown adults wear ill-fitting club shirts. People skip weddings, christenings and family reunions to watch it. Part of following a football club is the strong sense of belonging that it engenders: that feeling of being united by a cause with a number of like-minded people from all sections of society, celebrating together, suffering together, side-by-side cheering on your side. It is the nature of humans as intensely social animals to associate with others, and want to be part of something bigger than themselves and their own lives.

The commercialisation of the game has changed it beyond recognition but there is still a strong sense of community and solidarity amongst supporters, which at its best, goes some way to explaining why supporters spend considerable chunks of their income following their clubs up and down the country and in some cases to fund the wages of their players through supporters’ trusts and the like at the lower levels.

Like a junkie they keep coming back for more.

It is as a result of the atomisation and alienation many people feel as well as the generalised effect of living in a consumerist, competitive, capitalist society. The association (addiction) between yourself and your football club, to the point of mislaying morality and any sense of perspective, is an unconscious attempt to fill a gap for many people.  "If you're a member of the Kop you feel as if you're a member of a big society, where you've got thousands of friends all round about you... and they're united... and loyal." Bill Shankley once said.

The Socialist Party doesn’t give a damn what team you support. We want that same community and commitment dedicated to support the struggle for socialism. 

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