A New Love of Football

 

I grew up in a very traditional Australian sporting family.  I was brought up in the steadfast knowledge that you play cricket on Saturdays in summer, Aussie rules in the winter, and golf whenever you can fit it in.  Netball is for girls, soccer is for wogs and tennis is for those who couldn’t cut it in a team sport.  Most of all you don’t miss Saturday sport for trivial things like birthdays, holidays or weddings; to the extent that Dad missed his Godson’s wedding last year to play in a 4th XI side that couldn’t make the finals. (He is the oldest player in the team by some 30 years)

As such, I am a passionate sports fan, more so as a player, less so in terms of watching.  However, once I started Uni and had hours upon hours to watch various sports I started following Harry Kewell’s move to Liverpool, half-heartedly watching a few games in an effort to avoid studying.  Whilst Kewell proved to be somewhat of a disappointment there, I discovered the genius that is their captain – Steven Gerrard.  Stevie G was quickly added to my list of “favourite sportsmen of all time” – an elite list that comprised only of two others, Mark Taylor and Jason Dunstall.  His story of losing his cousin in the Hillsborough disaster, being a one club player and a local lad who went on to lift the European cup is an incredibly rare and special one in modern sport.  Over the past 7 years, my love of the Liverpool football club has grown perhaps beyond my lifelong love of the Hawks.  I honestly don’t think I would get up at 3am on a Monday morning to watch the hawks play the sort of mediocre football that Liverpool are producing at the moment.

I couldn’t tell you why I’ve been dragged into watching the EPL (English Premier League) so passionately, no one else in the family has much interest and I couldn’t care less about the A league – but each and every Saturday night I’m up at 3am watching my beloved Reds.  When I was in the UK a few years ago I made a 16 hour round trip on a bus from London, just to do a tour of Anfield (the bus cost me 8 pounds and the train 100 – a no brainer for a backpacker who was down to his last credit card).

The other thing I’ve noticed about following soccer is the infectious nature of following the world game and the irrationality that goes with it.  If one of my mates says Buddy is on drugs and the Hawks members are all pets, I’ll laugh it off.  If one of them makes a joke about Liverpool selling out to USA based owners I lose the plot!  The ludicrousness of the transfer rumours and exorbitant amounts of money that get thrown around by owners make for a supporting experience that is quite unlike anything in Australia.  This is a sport that is at once both so far ahead of the AFL and at the same time so very backwards (yet the romance of the FA cup is brilliant).  Things we take for granted like weekly injury updates are unheard of in the EPL.

A number of my friends have since jumped on the EPL bandwagon, and it seems to be growing in popularity in Australia, although this may just be my age group and the incredible popularity of the FIFA soccer videogames.

I would be interested to hear how many others are getting into world football, and how they settled on their team.  Although shame on you who have recently jumped on the United or City bandwagon….

 

Comments

  1. Can certainly relate Luke. I started watching the EPL highlights on the ABC which was shown on Monday nights, back in 1979. My older brother followed Leeds and I followed Liverpool, mainly because they were the power at the time. I loved Kenny Dalglish, Peter Shilton and Graeme Souness.

    In 1986 I watched Newcastle United thump West Ham 4-0 at St.James’ Park and the atmosphere of that crowd intrigued and captivated me. It seemed to mean so much to the Geordies. Since then I’m a devoted Newcastle fan (The Collingwood/Magpie/Tragic History helped) and rarely miss a game on Foxtel. Still have a soft spot for Liverpool and was delighted when Gerrard helped them win the Champions League in 2005. He virtually carried them over the line himself. Stirring stuff!

  2. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Luke, my eldest sister who lives in Melbourne has been an EPL fan for years . We grew up in a traditional country Victorian (footy ) rural community. She was a David Beckham fan before he became a household name . She has followed the trials and tribulations of Alex Ferguson’s coaching career and wouldn’t miss sitting up til all hours watching the EPL for anything . I am visiting her next week and have to plan my visit around her watching hours! You are not alone out there.

  3. Skip of Skipton says:

    I like the Champions League but don’t really care for the domestic comps or follow any particular team, although I was barracking for Chelsea in the ECL last season and loved the ridiculous amount of good fortune that took them to the title. Barcelona should have beaten them 10-1 over the semi-final legs.

  4. Also can relate with your article Luke. As a kid became a fan of a young Mark Viduka while watching Melbourne Knights games on SBS in the old NSL. When I installed pay-tv in my own house in 2001 Viduka was playing for Leeds United so watched alot of their games. A few years later Viduka transferred to Newcastle United and I started watching more and more of their games, gradually becoming a passionate Toon fan. And now, like you, I am up every week watching Saturday or Sunday night 1AM or 3AM games. My mates don’t believe this story (they don’t follow the world game) and think I only follow Newcastle because of their black and white stripes as I am a Collingwood fan. Just a glorious black and white coincidence. Unlike you I also follow the A-League and have been a Melbourne Victory supporter right from the start.

  5. Neil Belford says:

    Barca for me Luke – was a teenage Arsenal fan in the 70’s in WA – ‘there is only one Liam Brady’ and so on, used to games at Highbury in the early 80’s (which was truly terrifying) but to tell you the truth I just find EPL creepy. I cant watch it without thinking of everything I hate about England. Crazy hey – I was in London last year and it was really nice, but in my heart I cant let go of the fact that I just hate the joint.

    I digress – I do love the game, I love Barca, I love Roma – have to – they play in Subi colours and I have been to a handful of games at Stadio Olympico, I like Inter, I hate the Fascists – Real Madrid, Lazio, and I like Wolfsberg for no good reason other than their shirt.

    But the comps are seriously flawed – really the only Euro soccer I can watch is the Bundesliga or the UCL. The rest are all just too stupidly one sided.

  6. love world soccer and particularly the Aussies and Leeds United. I started following them because of their Australian connection (Kewell, Viduka), and still track their progress in the english championship.

  7. Alovesupreme says:

    Ridgey,
    I support Sunderland (it’s a long and complicated story), and they have spent far more years out of the top level rather than in it, in the past half-century. I’m at an age where the 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. kick-offs are a bit too much for me now, so I watch sometimes rather than regularly Occasionally, I’ll try to catch the daytime replay before I look up the scores, so I can pretend I’m watching it live.

    Btw, it’s only Sunday nights (Monday mornings) that the usual choice is 1 or 3 a.m. Saturday matches standard kick-off is 3 p.m. in the U.K. which is either Midnight or 2 a.m. here depending on whether we are on daylight saving or they are (the cross-over is usually the same week-end, so that the time difference is either 9 or 11 hours) .

    One of my greatest sporting moments as a fan was watching the 1973 FA Cup Final when Sunderland fluked a first-half goal and hung on against “dorty Leeds” thanks to an amazing performance by goal-keeper Jim Montgomery. That’s the equivalent of a middle ranking SANFL side beating a top flight AFL team in a one-off knock out competition, after surviving a series of matches against others in the AFL (say imagine North Adelaide in successive matches beating Geelong, West Coast and Collingwood and then facing Hawthorn in the Final).

    Like all supporters of struggling clubs, I hate the fact that the handful of big teams have the system so tilted in their favour – revenues, publicity,effectively closed access to titles, Euro competition etc. – which is perpetually reinforcing. In effect the EPL and Italy, Spain and France are multi-tiered (Germany less so, as Neil Belford observes above). Two, three or four teams effectively compete for the title, another three or four might be in contention for the lesser European places, a handful aspire to mid-table mediocrity, and the balance are scrapping to avoid relegation virtually from the opening day of the season.

    I do support the local game as well, as a member at Heart; I want soccer to flourish in Australia, up to the point where it doesn’t threaten the game of our own.

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