In the week that the new English Premier League season gets underway it seemed appropriate to post an article about my experience of supporting an English football team at a distance. A version of this article first appeared in ‘Tigers Eye’ the journal of the Hull City Southern Supporters
Supporting Hull City is never easy. It’s bad enough having to struggle across the UK, battling against motorway road works, erratic railway timetables, unruly buses and temperamental pub landlords only to be rewarded with a disappointing game of football tennis on a pitch better suited to the World naked mud wrestling finals (reader: insert male or female competition depending on your gender / preference)
I’m thinking Doncaster Rovers, Boston United…you get the picture. Long trips, great fun, spoiled only by 90 minutes of the most shameful display by overpaid charletans since the last debate in the house of commons.
So if it’s so bad, so tortuous, so excruciatingly turgid, why do we insist on repeating the same painful exercise year after year. The answer is simple and twofold.
For the first answer we must leave the world of football and move into the world of archeology. Not the make believe world of Indiana Jones but the real world of archeology born in the unnatural dreads on the heads of middle class archeology students at Dorset Institute of Higher Education who then spend 99.9% of the rest of their careers wallowing around in mud filled pits in the vain hope of finding a bit of a broken plate that some careless twat dropped thousands of years earlier and couldn’t be bothered to dispose of properly.
Watching City is very much like this. We spending most of our time wallowing around in diabolical football because occasionally our team will supply a performance so inspiring, so dramatic, so exiting that the awful thousand games that preceded it are instantly forgotten. Hull City’s last game of the season against Cardiff at the KC stadium, the game that saw us promoted to the top flight of English football for only the second time in the history of the club was not one of these occasions.
Sure, getting promoted to the Premiership was a good thing but the 2-2 draw will not be remembered in the same way that we’ll remember Ian Asbee’s goal against Yeovil, Windass’ goal against Bristol, City’s plucky performance against Crystal Palace to see us through to the next round of the league cup or the 4-1 win against Sheffield United when half the crowd had gone home expecting a disappointing 1-1 draw after 85mins.
We’ll remember two penalties and we’ll remember the calamities which befell Watford which aided our process but mainly we’ll remember who we were with, how we felt and what we did to celebrate.
For being essentially tribal beings this is why we enjoy football in the first place. The second, and most important reason we put up with City is because of the people with whom we tolerate City. Our mates, our pals, those with whom we celebrate and commiserate. It is our camaraderie with these people that makes all the wallowing through shit bearable and the celebration of our rare successes all the more enjoyable.
I am very fortunate to have experienced both ends of the spectrum with friends who have helped to make those special city moments all the more magical. I have also been unfortunate to find myself exiled from those compatriots at City’s second most successful moment in their history.
Fortunately for me however, there are other football supporters in the same boat and even if we might not share the same team we do at least empathise with each other at a time when we would gladly give a little used internal organ to be able to share the moment with our friends.
In my case this translated into an 08:45 kick off, the solution being to go to the house of fellow exile who supports Watford and hook up two lap tops to Iraq goals so that we could watch both games simultaneously.
Unfortunately this meant I had to get up at 06:15 to get the bus and metro necessary to get across the sprawling metropolis of Sao Paulo to my friend’s house in time. The 1994 cheetah print on my ‘Needlers Sweets’ city shirt raised some eyebrows from Brazilians who are fine ones to talk considering the diabolic fashions paraded around during every carnaval.
The content of both games I needn’t repeat here only to recount the amusement of being able to watch the City players watch the last 15 minutes of the Watford game on TV because the channel which showed City’s game didn’t have rights to the other.
At the end of the day, to borrow a great football cliche, promotion is sweet no matter where you are and with whom you celebrate. My watford supporting friend was good enough to accompany me to the Brazilian equivalent of a greasy spoon, the boteco, where we drank cheap fizzy lager in sufficient quantity for me to celebrate and he to commiserate.
At least now the question “Who?” will be less frequent when I tell people which team I support but the pleasure of watching a game, no matter how bad your team is doing, with those with whom you share your passion can never be underestimated and it is with this in mind that I say to Hull City Southern Supporters Club a muito grande OBRIGADO!