I’ve been thinking a bit lately about football, as one could expect. The difference between this time and the previous twenty-odd years of my interest in the beautiful game is that recently it’s a bit less positive.
As anyone who’s read my book - and if you haven’t, why not? Buy the bloody thing, eh - may remember, I credit Genoa (the football team) or the stadium at least with having made my settling in in Genoa (the city) much easier. This is still the case, and the thought of missing the rest of the season while I’m away is a sad one, not really at all for the football, but more for the friends that I’ve been meeting every two weeks in the pub beforehand for the past seven years. Some people have drifted away from our bacchanalian boozing, others have been drawn to us like we were specially modified beer magnets. With the exception of a couple of folk, it’s always been a pleasure, even if I can’t quite remember everything that we’ve spoken about or done in that time. No idea why.
So no, it’s not the pub/stadium connection that I’m growing disillusioned with. Rather, the energy in the stadium come game time has been getting me down. It was only in the dog days of last season that I was able to put my finger on it: gathering thousands of people with one goal - a goal that they absolutely can’t have any tangible effect on - and then leaving them to watch as the team that they associate with and in many cases considers to be ‘theirs’ doesn’t perform quite as well as they’d like, or feel has been cheated by the opposition. The result is a lot of cursing, grumbling and for want of a more technical expression, bad vibes.
I’m no prude when it comes to language and can often be heard shouting: “I SAY, THAT FELLOW’S A ROTTER AND A SCOUNDREL!” Nor am I a touchy-feely hippy, but I am quite interested in the power, or existence even, of negative and positive energy. Even after games we win, I sometimes find myself going home in an irascible mood. It might be the booze in my system, but of late I’ve come to the conclusion that alcohol just makes me feel glum, not short-tempered. The only thing I can think of which might explain this feeling of irritability is the thousands of other people around me who exist for ninety minutes every other Sunday in a near permanent state of nerves and unrealistically high standards. They get outraged so quickly and over so little it’s like they read British tabloids.
After having come to this conclusion at the end of last season I did consider not renewing my season ticket for this year. As life would have it, I’m not going to be using it anymore anyway, but I did come close to jacking it in. I would have still gone to the pub beforehand for some jars, but would have just headed off home at kick-off. I might have been over-thinking it all a wee bit, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been guilty of that. This conclusion, while being a little unpalatable, wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing though.
Another time I was guilty of wildly over-thinking things was on the multitude of trains I had to sit on as I chugged around Italy in doing the ‘research’ for the book. While the over-thinking had precious little to do with what went into the book, that, and all the travelling and watching teams that I didn’t really care about, took a lot out of me. Whereas before, football had been a twice-monthly treat, in the 2013/14 season it became a weekly chore. There were very few Sundays when I wasn’t able to have a lie in and a lazy morning with her indoors, and very often the matches and my away trips ate into Saturdays too as logistically it’s quite difficult to get to Udine, Cagliari, Catania or Naples in a morning. Christ, it took long enough to get to Bologna, and that’s in the neighbouring region.
All that football-watching was quite exciting at first, as I got to see all the stadia in Serie A and spoke to lots of different folk. After a few months though, as winter blew its way into the stands, my enthusiasm retreated like a snail’s head faced with a perceived predator. The novelty of watching different teams wore off like a Henna tattoo, but despite starting to go through the motions, I kept my head down and finished the year having visited every team.
I’d reached the point that I’d never imagined existed, never mind was possible. I had OD’d on football. Now, as mentioned, the pleasure of watching a match has become as diluted as supermarket lager and leaves the same slightly unpleasant aftertaste.
It’s not just watching football now either, really. At the weekend I was listening to the Everton v Liverpool match, and a twat had tweeted the commentators to say he hoped that Liverpool would lose so Brendan Rodgers would get the sack. And he tweeted that as a Liverpool fan. Of course, as it transpired The Glorious Reds didn’t need to lose for Rodgers to get his P45, but hearing that guy’s tweet was more galling than Everton’s goal. Is that what people think supporting their team is now? Hoping to lose so the manager gets the heave ho? I understand why people wanted him to go, but crossing your fingers so as to lose a derby and then maybe also the manager is, for me at least, an indication of the kind of pillocks who phone in talk radio and post their drivel below the lineon websites. They don’t support the team - I don’t want to be associated with them. Supporting the team seems more and more to entail having watched an endless stream of Youtube videos and knowing the corporate structure of your club. I couldn’t care less who the PR person or the MD is - they don’t play for my team, they just work for the company. Players basically fall into that category too, but as astronomically overpaid as they are, at least they do something on the pitch.
I think I’m just sick of modern football and almost everything that’s jumped on its bandwagon. This, in terms of realisations, is a low. Uffa. The good news is that soon I’ll be off to a country with a low level of football culture. And no, I don't mean Scotland.