This football malarkey, it gets a bit passionate doesn't it? Layla Carlsson looks at passionate fans and the appropriate unit of measurement.
How much influence does the love for football have on the lives of the fans?
How far do we go in our love for a club, its colours and its badge?
While the answers to these questions vary from person to person, there is a common factor. Emotion; from euphoria to heartbreak, disappointment to rage, and everything in between.
I once spoke to a Manchester United fan who followed United everywhere, attending each and every match; home, away, European. He had a wife and a young child, and he had told his wife up front that United always came first. If she could handle that, and the fact that he would be away on the road a lot, then the relationship was on. If not, cheerio. It might have sounded harsh, but on the other hand, it was very honest. This guy will not be guilted into going shopping on matchdays, unlike so many poor sods I see sauntering around Amsterdam with their missus every weekend; their club scarves wrapped around their necks as a pledge of allegiance in a silent rebellion, while they’re being dragged from shop to shop. You just know where they would rather be.
Sometimes I see the humour in my own misery, after the worst gloom has subsided. Waking up the day after a painful defeat, the first thought being “Damn, it wasn’t a nightmare, it’s real”, I soon tell myself that “there are worse things in life, you silly woman.” Then I have a look at what’s going on in the world of football, while having the first of many coffees on my day off, and the whole cycle starts all over again in the build up to the next match. There are articles to be read and training session photos to be studied. Who is wearing a bib? Who’s injured? Who’s cranky?
When one of ‘my boys’ is injured, I discover I actually do have a nurturing gene – I can’t even keep a plant alive, I swear – and react as if they are my little brothers. In fact, I am as protective of them as I am of my own younger brother; like when we were kids, me storming out the door in a nightgown and on slippers to reclaim his ball when the bigger boys in the neighbourhood had taken it from him. Perhaps I am suffering from Big-Sister Syndrome, but whatever it is, it gets me into shouting matches with other fans from time to time. Is it an addiction, or does it sometimes border on obsession?
After watching the fascinating documentary ‘Football is God’ by Ole Bendtzen, it is comforting to know that there are fans out there that do ‘obsession’ much better than me. Thank goodness, even in my crazy ways, I’m close to normal. I think.
“Football is God; a film about Passion, Faith & Football. La Tia (The Auntie), Hernán and Pablo are all dedicated fans of the legendary football club Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires. The film explores how this eternal, almost divine passion influences their lives, their relationships and even extends beyond this life into the next.” [www.footballisgod.dk]
The documentary offers a peek into the lives of these three people. Each and every scene is a gem, and apart from the stunning photography and captivating editing, it is also a good am-I-just-as-loco-meter for any fan.
For there is Pablo, who decorates his Christmas tree with Diego Maradona ornaments; home-made from photos of El Diego. He is a member of The Church of Maradona, where people get married with their hands on a football as they say their vows.
Hernán works for the club’s website, and the poor man is constantly overwhelmed with emotion when he speaks about Boca. As Hernán reminisces about the very first goal he ever witnessed at La Bombonera at age eleven, bang! there come the tears. This guy must have a very understanding wife. He goes into therapy to find out if his obsession is having a destructive effect on his life, and compares his love for Boca to the feeling of being madly in love.
The one who had my full attention however was La Tía, a seventy-five year old lady and Mother of all Xeneizes, if you wish. Supporting Boca is her day job; she visits the training ground regularly, keeps track of all the news and monitors the health of the players like a mother hen. “They are like my children,” La Tía declares. She approaches the players after training, leaning into their cars with a small plastic bag full of sweets in her hand.
La Tía attends home matches – she even faints from tension and heart palpitations during one – and watches away games in a café. She swears like a docker, sitting front row before the TV in her blue and yellow shirt. There is a kiss for her pendant of baby Jesus during half time. Boca is entwined with her religion, and in a touching scene, she visits her priest to ask if God would allow her ashes to be scattered behind the home goal at La Bombonera. Luckily for her, the priest assures her God won’t mind.
On the cheeky side, she bought Martín Palermo a pair of boxer shorts for his birthday, and as he hands him her gift – in a shiny bag – she makes him promise her she gets to see him wearing them. Not knowing what’s in the bag, El Loco agrees. La Tía is a sweet little old lady, how bad can it be?
As I watched her undertaking her Boca adventures, I began to feel slightly awkward. It was like looking into a mirror that reflected a satiric version of my older self; La Tía’s bleached blonde hair, the swearing – oh God, the swearing – and the dedication.
If no one stops me, I will end up like her, I know I will. Because, as I have stated before, what guy in his right mind would put up with me? Ajax lost; woman slams door. Dinner? There is no dinner, Real Madrid are on, there might be a half-time snack though. No, I am not going to bed, Boca are playing at 1:10 AM. And yes, that is a picture of half-naked Pocho Lavezzi on my desktop.
Emo-Hernán has a point. It is like being in love; the all ration flies out the window kind of love. Perhaps becoming a slightly toned down version of La Tía is not such a bad future after all. And so if a couple of decades from now, you happen to see a sweet little old lady with blonde hair handing a shiny gift to some unsuspecting player old enough to be her son and telling him to put it on and model it for her, that lady might just be me. The am-I-just-as-loco-meter just spiked, didn’t it?
Layla writes regularly for In Bed with Maradona. You can follow her on Twitter @LaylaCarlsson.
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