Sports! A kid’s salvation. His reward for being stuffed inside a concrete jungle and having to cram stuff, he really doesn’t want to. For me, sports were the time when I was allowed to shout and be the cheerful, bubbly and the fat kid that I was. I was allowed to make mistakes and was not yelled at. 😛 When you suck for too long, you tend to lose interest, so I tried to enjoy the game in the other way, I became a fan, Wikipedia defines a ‘fan’ as, “A fan, or fanatic, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something or somebody, such as a band, a sports team, a genre, a book, a movie or an entertainer. Collectively, the fans of a particular object or person constitute its fanbase or fandom.”
So, we took a turn at Idiot Box Central and was welcome to this world of amazement, into the lap of Sports Television. I used to follow Cricket, (Being an Indian, you have to give in to societal pressure). People of my age, then were in love with Spiderman, Superman, Captain Planet and Shaktimann, but I was in love with the young, calm, and the real man of steel “Rahul Dravid”. This man oozed class and brilliance with every stroke he played and upheld the spirit of the game as long as he played. This was the best stuff to happen to Television, since the time they started the cooking shows and I had to coax my mom into making me all those delicious treats which I would munch while watching the great battle of patience, perseverance, skill, talent and passion.
But then, I switched to Football in the 2012-13 season, and the most popular game of the planet took me by storm. All those hours spent watching YouTube videos, all those hours on the field trying to ape Cristiano Ronaldo, but failing horribly, then was my first Euro where Spain were the winners. I was brought into this world by the Los Galacticos who boasted of the great names, then like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Ozil, Di Maria, Ramos and Casillas. I was greatly influenced by the crazy skills of Ronaldo and as a child, I always had a fascination towards Manchester United, which made me like Ronaldo, a little more. The first match day was Real Madrid vs Valencia and Barcelona vs Villareal. I watched both the games, and Barcelona’s domination on the pitch mingled with the magic of the little man, while Real Madrid were at their sloppy best, turned me into a Cule within a matter of hours. I agree that my decision might have been a little immature, but this is one of the best rash decision of my life. I fell in love with the fluid passing of Barcelona, and was in the awe of the “Incredible Little Man”. I had spent a life, adoring and worshipping the second best, but this was something different, Messi was not only the best player of the generation, but many also cited him as the best of all times. That mingled with the “Tiki Taka” philosophy, made me love the simple game of theirs with the real maestros of the generation like, Puyol, Valdes, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Cesc, Dani and believe it or not, Pedro. The Galacticos might have brought me into the game, but the Blaugranas have kept me hooked like a snort of cocaine.
Fandom is not just sitting with a cold beer in your hands and yelling when your team scores, for me it has always been the sense of belongingness. We support the club we do and protect it from rival fans because we feel we belong. We may not be “world class athletes or sports persons”, but in our heart, we feel the same joy as Messi does after dribbling past 4 players of Real Madrid and scoring a goal, we mourn the loss as much as Iniesta does, we moan while Neymar is tackled and is down in the ground, we celebrate the trophy with infinite chest bumps and high fives with our shirtless buddies, we support the team in numerous Facebook clubs and Twitter handles. We may not physically play for the club, but in our heart we do.
Now when I see several teenagers and young adults idolising popstars, rappers and movie stars, I cannot help but feel a little sorry because if you love a single person, you get loved by a single person, but if you love a team, you get a family, the family you chose.
Now season after season, after Barcelona’s loss to Bayern in UCL in 2012-13 season, Messi’s 91 goals in the calendar year, the last matchday loss to Atletico Madrid in Camp Nou, a trophy-less season, the historic second treble, departure of the greats, the arrival of the replacements, I am still stuck with them, I may not be physically connected to them, but emotionally, Camp Nou is my home and fellow Cules, my family.
Being a fan, you get to know so much about the other country, you are well versed with the time zones, you plan future foreign trips with your friends in Spain, England, Germany or Italy and plan out which matches to watch while you are there, creates memes to troll the fans of other clubs, welcome a new player or celebrate the win to piss others off. 😛
Being a fan, is not just supporting a club through thick or thin but being the part of this fraternity and to the religion that we call, Football (Soccer for the Americans). As Patrick Stewart would say,
“Football, it hurts and humbles,” …
The game we love, the game we live for, every challenge, every cheer, every minute, every second, the best game, our game.”