The beautiful game is capable of making one experience unadulterated euphoria, joy of an incomparable height, a zenith seldom reached in any other genre. Yet, football also has the power to create a gut wrenching sickness like no other, to incite rage and fury you weren't even aware of being able to produce, and to rip your loyal and devoted heart out before stamping on it.
Anguish, despair, frustration – all feelings I associate with football, but I try hard not to forget that the game is at the root of some of my most cherished moments and has shaped me into the person I am today. That’s why my 25th blog post is dedicated to the ten things I love about football.
1. The walk.
Walking to your football stadium alongside the masses produces an unparalleled feeling of unity, unanimity and harmony. Living two hours away from the club you support, particularly when the only other supporters of said club that you know are your Dad and brother, leaves you relishing every single second you spend in the company of the thousands of other beings who share the same love, and passion as you do. It’s not only this feeling that I love; it’s the buzz surrounding the walk, the anticipation prior to kick off, and the carefully considered personal team selections being discussed as your home from home reaches your line of vision.
2. Being angry.
A football stadium is probably one of the most cathartic places on the planet. When you've had an utterly rubbish week, one of the best things about football is being able to swear and shout and release inhumane amounts of aggression without being judged. This experience is made even better when the release of anger is provoked by a controversial decision administered by the referee. The minute of uproar that rings out across the stadium is one you get lost in. (Despite most of the time knowing that the referee’s decision was actually correct.)
3. Goals. Obviously.
The ecstasy that you feel when you witness a football smash into the back of a net is paramount. There is no other feeling like it. Seeing your team score is one of the most glorious scenes to witness in the world. The way that you instinctively jump up and scream as soon as the ball glides into the goal is something rather wonderful. It is made even more special by the simultaneity of every other person in the stadium doing exactly what you are doing at that one moment in time.
4. Evening matches.
There is just something about evening matches that I have always loved. Even when it’s a freezing cold night in December, and you’re getting beaten at home by Bolton, there’s just something special about them. Shivering in the cold as your bum begins to feel numb on the plastic seat, the floodlights shining on the wet grass. Perhaps it’s knowing that while other people are sat indoors in the warm watching Eastenders, you’re watching something far more important. Whatever it is, evening matches are my favourites.
5. Away days.
This may sound silly, as I’ve only actually been to two away days to support my team. One I can’t really remember, but the second was bloody brilliant. It was an evening match too which added to the experience. I like the fact that at away games, the only thing deemed unacceptable is to stop singing. It’s a written rule that if you’re sat in the away stand, you just keep singing.
Penalties are something which will absolutely crush one set of fans, while bringing absolute delight to the others. After being awarded a penalty, it’s all a blur. First you’re laughing and cheering because you know it’s a great opportunity, then you’re sitting anxiously biting your nails, or holding your breath as your striker puts his foot to the ball, and within a second you’re screaming. Screaming either with pure joy and excitement, or complete despair and disappointment. Regardless of why you’re screaming afterwards, they’re a great addition to any match.
7. Derby Day.
I can wholeheartedly say that when David Dunn equalised against Burnley in the 94th minute of the game last season, it was the greatest day of my life. Derby days are completely different to any other match day. Players play on a different level, tensions run high, and the pressure to beat your rivals is unbearable. But when you do beat them, it’s the best bloody feeling in the world.
The loyalty a fan has towards their club is like a man to his dog. Unfortunately, players tend to lack the loyalty trait, but occasionally, very rarely, you come across an absolute gem of a player who will stay with your club till it’s just not possible any more. Morten Gamst Pederson was one of these players. Even when he was completely past it, his legs had gone, and his free kicks were no longer a sure fire goal, he was still loved by most fans. He’s left Blackburn now, but he will always be remembered.
One of the beautiful things about football is the sense of belonging that comes with it. Sitting in your allocated plastic seat at the stadium you visit every other Saturday is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I love knowing that that seat is my seat. I love sitting in that seat and knowing the faces around me. I love looking at everybody else sitting in their seats and knowing that we are all sharing a common dream for our club.
10. Ground Hopping.
This is a more recent love, since I've only started visiting other grounds this season, but I love visiting other football stadia. Non-League, League One, Premier League – they have all been enjoyable experiences. I absolutely adore sitting at a football ground, and appreciating the history of that club, or pondering over the fact that like Ewood Park is a home to me, this is a home to the fans that are here now. Every football ground has some likeable quality, whether it’s the name of one of their stands, or the colour of their seats, it’s just finding what it is you like.
So there you have it; ten things I love about football. There’s a whole host of other things I appreciate within the beautiful game, but if I were to write about all of them, I’d be here all night.
Regardless of whether football makes you cry, scream, or rejoice, it is the beautiful game, and regardless of whether it’s changing due to the augmentation of oligarchs, the escalation of ticket prices, or the upsurge of corporative and business involvement, it always will be the beautiful game.