Oi Magpie Army, it’s us against them not us against ourselves…

Being a proud and fanatical Collingwood supporter, I have liked every Collingwood fan page there is on Facebook. Can you blame me? Since all of my Facebook friends have liked pages such as Collingwood supporters, keeping the tooth fairy in business since 1892, Oh you go for Collingwood? That’s okay we all make mistakes and watching Collingwood cry, I have to retaliate somehow…

It means my news feed is full of everything Collingwood. I’m sure you can’t think of anything worse, but for me it has its benefits. I get updated on all the news, injury concerns and team changes regularly, I can easily follow the game when I’m unable to watch it and even when I can I still like to log on to Facebook and see how others are viewing the game – whether it be the excited comments when we are winning or the theories when we are losing. I like being connected. It is one of the perks of living in a multimedia world.

Over the years I have read a lot of comments. I agree with most of it, the stuff I don’t agree with I ignore and the simply ridiculous comments I read out loud to my brother and we have a laugh.  I don’t let myself get too caught up. After all, with hundreds of thousands of Collingwood supporters worldwide you will always get pessimists, cynics, realists, optimists and idealists, all with differing and colourful opinions

However, in recent weeks these pages have driven me a little bit crazy. My news feed has been full of comments to do with “real” and “true” Collingwood supporters. Let me explain. Compared to past seasons, Collingwood has been a bit on and off and a win isn’t as predictable as it once was. As we have fallen down the ladder (thankfully we are now climbing back up) the usual heated discussion and debate has intensified and caused divisions between “optimistic” and “pessimistic” supporters. (These terms I will use simply as a means of differentiation and not as something I really believe in.)

Basically, the “optimistic” supporters won’t question or challenge the players, the coaches, the board and the footy club in general. They are against any remark that could be considered a put down. They are in many ways “one-eyed” supporters in the truest form. They will blindly support Collingwood without any negativity, doubt or criticism.

There is nothing wrong with this. I’m not here to tell you how to and how not to support your footy team, you can support your team in whatever way you like. And since when has seeing the best in things been a bad thing?

What I don’t get though is this,

The “optimistic” supporters have labeled themselves as “true” and “real” supporters and slam those who express any sort of negative opinion or disappointment. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that “pessimistic” supporters “tear up their membership.” According to them, any show of disappointment is shameful, a disgrace even and not worthy of supporter status.

Wait on…

Seriously?

According to this theory I’m a “pessimistic” supporter, in other words not a “real” Collingwood supporter.

Why?

Because I find fault in the players and the coach, because at times I doubt the team and when they perform badly I am disappointed.

I don’t understand though why I can’t be conscious of the team’s faults and the coach’s faults? Of course they have them, every team does. The players are aware of them. The coach is aware of them. If they weren’t they would never progress. In fact, they spend the whole week focused on them. They analyse what they did wrong and tinker with game plan and structure because they know there is always room for improvement. So why is it so outrageous for me to point out the team’s areas of weakness?

Furthermore, why should I have to dismiss a poor performance or say they’ve done well or their best when they themselves admit they haven’t? Why can’t I be disappointed in the team’s performance when the players are, when the coach is, when the President is?

Another thing that annoys me is how these “optimistic” supporters won’t let anyone question Bucks. I’m allowed to disagree with the coach from time to time. Buckley isn’t always right with his tactics, match-ups and omissions. No coach is. There have been times this year when he has been out-coached and I shouldn’t have to be ignorant of it. Those who have been brave enough to point this out have been met with replies such as “well could you do any better?” No. It’s the same when the players have played poorly, “well could you do any better?” Again no.

But that’s not the point.

Just because we can’t coach and we can’t play doesn’t mean we don’t know the game. I can still tell when a player is having an off day or when a match up isn’t working. It isn’t rocket science. I’ve followed the game my whole life! Since when did playing or coaching become a pre-requisite anyway? There have been times this season I’ve wanted Swan or Goldsack up forward or Harry moved to the wing. Finally, late in the game, sometimes a little too late, Bucks has made the move and it has worked. Does that still mean I was wrong to question Bucks? To suggest such a thing despite it actually working?

To be completely honest, I don’t want to be content when we play poorly. It’s not what football is for me. Football is the outpouring of emotion, the frustration, the adrenalin rush, the excitement, the rollercoaster ride, the extreme highs and the bitter lows. I like being vocal when I watch us play. It is part of being passionate. And it is passion that makes you a supporter.  I’m not going to sit there with my legs crossed and my hands clasped in my lap and say “oh well better luck next time, they did their best.” Especially not when Heater is slamming his fist on the turf and Buckley is breaking the telephone.

Being upset, being disappointed means that I care. Do I really have to be content at just scraping in the eight simply because we are an injury-plagued team full of debutants with a tough draw? Why can’t I still yearn for a top 4 finish or heaven-forbid, a premiership?  Is that unsupportive of me to want and expect the best from my team?

Regardless of whether we win or lose, play well or poorly, I’m Collingwood through and through. I may be disappointed at times but I’m always proud of my club, I always love them no matter what and I will never stop watching until the final siren sounds no matter what the score. Those self-acclaimed “true” supporters can say they support unconditionally but so do I. I buy my membership every year regardless of ladder positioning or whether or not I’m even in the country to attend matches because I want to support my club. And although I like to see it as it is and I am not afraid to admit other teams are better than us, I will always defend my club. I have sacrificed a lot for football over the years. It has come first when maybe it shouldn’t have. I have gone years without missing a game. I live and breathe Collingwood. So when people question my support (even indirectly as on Facebook) especially when they themselves are Collingwood supporters, I can’t help but get a little offended.

A few weeks ago after a much needed win someone wrote: “If I see any of the haters from last week post on here about tonights game saying how good we are I will hunt you down.” This was in response to all the negative posts the week before. Just because we show a little disappointment when our team plays badly doesn’t make us “haters.” And why can’t we celebrate Collingwood playing well? That’s what we want! We don’t want to find fault in Collingwood or be disappointed. If we doubt the team, it is our desire to be proven wrong.

All I want to be is honest and fair in my view of Collingwood. Is that such a crime?

There are so many of us Collingwood supporters and that’s what makes our sporting club so great. Hey, if it weren’t for us, every single one of us – “optimists” and “pessimists” included, then we wouldn’t be the biggest sporting club in Australia. Can’t we be grateful for that? Why do we have to attack each other? Why can’t we respect other opinions or at least agree to disagree? There is no right or wrong opinion or way to support a club, no “real” or “fake” Collingwood supporter and as much as we want it all to be black and white, it simply isn’t.

What happened to “side by side?”

What happened to “its us against them?”

And who in their right mind would claim to be a Collingwood supporter anyway if they weren’t actually one? As the most hated sporting club in Australia, I believe any one who pulls on the black and white to be a “true” supporter. And so should you.

About Siobhan Calafiore

I'm a passionate Collingwood supporter with a love for writing and am currently studying journalism at RMIT University.

Comments

  1. Peter Fuller says:

    Siobhan,
    Congratulations on your thoughtful and considered analysis of this, an issue for supporters of any club or, for that matter, any organisation or institution. My criterion for loyalty is that you defend your team (or family or social club) in the company of “outsiders”, but you discuss strengths/weaknesses, good points/failings frankly and with goodwill and humility with those in the group. Of course that’s more complicated in the cyber world, where the concept of private discussions is problematic. That is a reason why this old codger usually lurks on my teams’ (including other sports and competitions), rather than actively engaging.
    Don’t be dissuaded by the naysayers.

  2. siobhan says:

    Thanks Peter for taking the time to read all of that – it is quite the essay! And thank you for sharing your own thoughts. I absolutely agree with your criterion, I can’t imagine not having discussion and debate in football. My favourite time of the week is walking from the MCG with my brother and discussing (rather than simply praising or defending) the game I’ve just watched. I like dissecting everything, analysing the game, being critical and throwing ideas around but at the same time I still appreciate and highly regard all the good things about my club.

  3. daniel flesch says:

    Great story ,siobhan . Footy does seem though to bring out the irrational as much as the passionate in a certain proportion of supporters ; and one is led to suspect there are more than the average at Collingwood. Something about the “culture” perhaps. “Side by side ” is a wonderful sentiment , but the “us against them ” theme – which is not in the club song – borders on victimhood , exclusivity and paranoia .Unecessary. Collingwood supporters seem more convinced than other clubs’ supporters that the umpires discriminate against them . Always. A Collingwood -supporting English teacher explained to me some years ago (apologies if everyone’s heard it before ) Collingwood is the Shakesperean team . Embodies all the Shakesperean elements : History , Drama , Romance , Comedy and Farce….Good luck with your course and career !

  4. Thanks Daniel for reading my article and sharing your own views. I see where your coming from with the “us against them” theme but I think the football club decided to play on the mentality there already is that if you don’t love Collingwood and aren’t for Collingwood then you hate them and are against them, rather than create such a mentality. I think its harmless, just a bit of fun and in general not taken too literally, after all I’ve never heard of a Collingwood supporter who isn’t friends with supporters of other clubs or who doesn’t appreciate football and footballers from other clubs. But of course my experiences and therefore my opinions will differ from yours. I also think there may be more irrational supporters at Collingwood simply because we have more supporters in general, if we have double the number of supporters then we will have double the number of irrational ones and we probably have double the number of rational ones too but they just aren’t as well noticed. I don’t believe in stereotypes – i can’t speak for past decades, but in this decade when you have close to a million people who say they barrack for Collingwood around the world they aren’t going to be a million of the same type. There will be many who discriminate against the umpire, many who are irrational but also many who don’t worry over umpiring decisions and many who are rational.

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