We can all recall the route here. We were led to football by parents, friends, reading, computer games, shirts, subbuteo or sticker collections. A few others too. When you are a parent though, are you obliged to do some pushing? Welcome to IBWM Chris King.
I have a dilemma.
Since the Andy Gray and Richards Keys debacle, and the whole world defending the rights, knowledge and ability of women in football - I now have the dilemma of deciding if, and how to introduce the game to my 21 month old daughter.
Yet more important a dilemma than simply just introducing her to the game; which team should I lumber her with for the rest of her life? Should I subject her to the same woes I’ve been through for the best part of 30 years?
If I don’t agree with the concept of forcing religion on to a baby just to aid with a better school choice – why then force the ups and downs of an upper-middle table side on to her, just because it was the opiate pushed on me.
Clearly the dilemma is born of what some may suggest is my own, slightly sexist attitude. My wife shows no interest in the game; neither does my Mum or most of my wife’s female friends – so why should I assume my daughter would? Yes times and interests have changed with generations passing, but if it’s a struggle to get football on at peak hours in the main room of the house, why should I have to assume that this will change with a third voter in a democracy of three?
My argument is that I’ve always said I would not want to actively push something on to my children; boy or girl. I wouldn’t want to be one of those parents who dictated they played a certain sport, supported a certain team or gave up things they might prefer to do, just to keep me happy.
But now from fear of being tarred with the same Sky pundit sexist brush, I clearly have to make provisions; to develop a plan of action – is she automatically one of us, or do I let her become one of them?
My team is no longer my local team. Love, life and a continued reduction in my disposable income has meant the season ticket has gone; the trips down less frequent. We are currently in the midst of a brouhaha related to a new stadium move. I always said (read: hoped) that if we did grow, I would try to get my ticket back. But with one baby here, talk of possibly adding to the squad and the ever growing costs associated with going to a match – there’s every chance that’s just not going to happen. A few games home and away are the best I can hope for.
So does all that sway my decision? If I’m struggling to get to as many games as I want to, what makes me believe I can double the expenditure and actively involve my daughter as well? Then do I really want a child who is a fan, rather than a supporter? Who can only ever go when Daddy has saved enough cash to pay for both of us to travel down? A child whose education in all things football is reliant on the host broadcaster having a pundit who actually knows what they are talking about?
Do I therefore go local? Take out most of the costs by getting her Mum to drop us off; buying the kits in the cheaper local shops – eating before we get there and dashing home, via a child friendly pub, to avoid any unnecessary spending? Go local, to a club I’ve mocked for years – even when they were better than my own team. Where I will have to pretend to be enthused for daughter and safeties sake, should they one day beat my own beloved side? Can I really do that to myself?
Some may say go the non-league route; but what if that is only a gateway drug for my child. What do I then do if she falls in love with the whole Super Sunday format? How can I convince her that what we see live is better, just because we might one day get to touch a misplaced, cross field pass in the stands?
If she was a boy, chances are someone would have bought the baby something football related by now. Do I bite the bullet and buy something from the club shop tailored for girls – which is naturally all pink, irrespective of this season’s club colours. Do I leave it for someone else to make the first purchase, hoping they go with my preferred choice – or risk a mate buying her a rival top for a laugh? Or do I go local – even though it is against what I would want, when there is nothing in it for me, just because I feel it is my duty to involve her in something I love?
Thankfully I don’t have to make a decision right now. She’s more likely to want to watch a recorded episode of ‘Timmy Time’ or ‘Something Special’ than Jamie Redknapp’s analysis of Sunday’s action. Yet there could be a time in the future where we are the name of a football club away from spending our weekends in separate rooms.
I love football. I love my daughter very much – but do we have to love the same teams? Does she even have to love football? Were it not for Richard Keys I wouldn’t be pondering those two questions – but thanks to his sexist rant, I now have a dilemma I fear I cannot resolve on my own.
If you have lived through this, have an experience to share and can guide my hand – then I am open to all suggestions. Just don’t leave me with a glory hunting daughter, who thinks the modern way of having four teams in four countries is the only way to truly embrace football.
Chris King is a Tottenham Hotspur supporter living in Leeds. He writes about life, family and sometimes sport on his blog www.northernwrites.co.uk and can be found on twitter: @NorthernWrites