I read Fever Pitch. I disagreed with a family full of United fans (presumably out of awkwardness, but I’m not changing now). I watched major football matches from the comfort of a pub. I enjoyed the progress of the Republic of Ireland team and the limitations of the England team. As a student I’d shared a house with football mad friends. I had football mad colleagues. I met Spurs Fan first at a series of football parties thrown by mutual friends during the World Cup of 1998.
None of this prepared me for a life of living with a football fan. Culture shock.
I went to a premier league game and discovered that I was the only person not wearing some form of tribal marking. I also discovered the remarkable sound of the silence of tens of thousands of defeated home fans. I was contented enough- I had a seat and had got to watch David Ginola, but overall it wasn’t a great experience. Apart from the match, Spurs Fan is a dedicated shopper. Hours he spent looking at team branded items. Hours.
Well, of course, it was Ginola’s footballing skill that kept me entertained …
The wardrobe is full of football shirts. These are not reserved for match day. Blue, white, purple, long sleeved, short sleeved, vintage, limited editions… Whatever the Spurs shop doesn’t have, ebay has. There are flags, garden gnomes, signed shirts and pics, teddy bears and brain washed daughters.
There are always matches to be watched, and premium sports channels to be paid for. The noise of match time is added to by the cacophany of texts- rallying support, passing on bad news, teasing friends. When a match is on, only about 5% of brain power is available to the rest of us- just enough to react if the house is burning down.
Then there’s the tension. The team doing badly is nearly easier to cope with than the team with a chance of doing well (just as well, I hear you shout). When they may do well, there’s the anxiety that they’ll do something daft and throw it all away.
One of the most amazing things is the level of detail the football fan retains about matches played in or watched, from decades ago. It’s not just the result, but the pass from X to the right of Y who did something that got him sent off and gave a penalty to the opposition which Z took with his left foot and scored in the 88th minute.
Every 2 years there’s a major international football competition, and Spurs fan gets to call this ‘maths’ and ‘geography’ and inflict it on his class. Regular tv programming builds up on the recorder while first round matches between far away countries are watched. (Conforming to type at this point I have been known to text kileen and suggest she watch the match, as some of the players are easy on the eye.)
The newly assembled book shelves have glossy football books and trivia collections amongst the poetry, politics, and photography. Much battered fiction trumps them all. Yes, indeed. Spurs Fan had just as big a culture shock moving in with me.