I realised that despite the common goal shared by each and every individual sat in the stadium, that they are all so very different.
|Birmingham City FC|
There's the quiet, analytic fan, who remains fairly calm throughout the entirety of the game. They watch from their seat and analyse every pass, cross and tackle, they notice things that others do not. The analyst rarely engages in chanting, and seldom shouts at players. They are content to merely observe; silently praising the well-timed assists and neatly passed balls, and wordlessly cursing the dodgy tackles and defensive mishaps that lead to a loss.
Then there's the family fans, a mother and father with their children. Children who are too young to understand the consequences of conceding a goal in the second last game of the season, when the club sits in the relegation zone staring League One in the face. The mother and father hold their heads in their hands as the reality of relegation looms nearer and nearer, yet they still find the patience to explain to their five year old why the referee has not awarded a penalty, or why the ball has gone out for a corner rather than a goal kick.
I heard those that I could not see, the volcanic fans who erupt with either anger or ecstasy depending on which net the ball smashed into. Even when the chants have died down and the stand is quiet, these fans are unashamed to scream at the players, urging them on. They don't care whether they attract disapproving stares as they use profanities to express themselves, and when the burning lava finally spills out of them as their frustration increases and they completely lose it, they ignore the muffled laughter of those around them.
These fans are juxtaposed with the faithful optimists, even if your club was going bust these fans would search for the faintest glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. They infuriate you at times; when you are aware that you have let emotion override your rationality they are able to maintain a level head. Despite their tendency to make you want to swear at them profusely, they are a very helpful fan. Indeed, when you have lost yet another game, they are the ones who inform you of the improvements the club has made since this time last season. When you despair and wallow, they inject a little bit more hope back into you. These fans can be heard shouting continuous words of encouragement even to the defender who let three goals in.
At every game there's one fan who is just ever so slightly odd. They can be seen whirling their t-shirt around their head despite it being a bitterly cold Tuesday night in the middle of December. Or they may be spotted sporting a random onesie at the bottom of the stand, adopting the role of maestro as they orchestrate the chants of their choir. They might be doing neither of these, and simply be reeling off decade old facts about a former player of the opposition to anyone who walks past them on the stairs. Either way, you know who they are and you embrace them regardless.
I heard one chant sung by the Blues fans which really stuck out to me; "we don't care about Carson, he don't care about us, all we care about, is BCFC''. I realised that despite the individual differences between every fan, regardless of how they express their feelings about their club, there is something else that makes football fans special. It is the unity of football fans that is amazing, the pride as you sing with your fellow supporters, and the knowledge that even when you have lost and you want to cry, the other tens of thousands of fans in the stadium feel exactly like you do.
So as I sat in my seat at St. Andrews I was aware of one fact. Each and every Birmingham City fan on Tuesday night, despite their unrelenting anger at the way their club is being run, despite their frustration at not winning a game at home since October, despite their anguish as their defence conceded yet another goal, found themselves sat in the same seat they have sat in for every single home game this year. They question why they come back each week to suffer the same heartache, but their loyalty enables them to be faithful and believe that tomorrow will be their day of victory, pride and euphoria. Even when tomorrow never comes.