What does football mean to me?
It’s ‘you like football?’ in a surprised voice
Because I’m a girl, right? – it’s not normal
But ‘yeah, I do,’ I say with pride.
Football is an identity that I proudly wear on my sleeve
My badge of honour, my captains armband.
It is being dragged to games, one after another
Hiding under a blanket, reading a book
Crying when your team scores, the shouting too loud
But being grateful
That you were introduced to the sport you’ve grown to love.
Football is forgetting to bring an extra layer
Almost freezing to death
It is the excitement of a new month
Turning over the calendar page to see a new player.
Football is anxiously watching scores come in on the concourse TV
Another game waiting to begin.
It is travelling for hours in the car to Stranraer or Inverness
All for the love of the game.
Football is supporting the underdogs
Suffering hundreds of loses for that one win.
Football is supporting a team no one’s ever heard of
‘Raith Rovers, they’re from Kirkcaldy.’
Bumping into a classmate at a motorway service station with our Dads
Me going to Raith, him going to St. Johnstone
It is singing Geordie Munro at the top of your lungs, packed in the stairs
Leaving the stadium after winning 2-0
Waking up the next morning with a sore throat.
Football is sitting next to a wee old woman
Muttering under her breath – ‘C’mon Kieran,’
Whilst everyone around her is shouting loudly
We may support differently but we’re supporting all the same.
Football is a boy you’ve never met before stopping you at school
‘You were the mascot at the Raith game at the weekend, weren’t you?’
‘You couldn’t have picked a worse team’
But football is being proud of it
Being able to stand up and say you’re different.
It’s debates with the boys at school on whether Hearts will win the Premiership
Football is knowing they won’t.
It is watching highlights on your phone at school
The game you missed last night
It is the ‘wow’ or ‘let’s rewind that’
It’s re-watching old games, over and over
But never being able to watch others again
The despair and regret too much to relive.
Football is sharing memories and experiences.
Hearing your parents’ stories of France ‘98
Making your own, 20 years later.
That you too will pass down one day.
Football is travelling to Paris
Being 3-0 up in the seventieth minute
Then drawing 3-3
Missing out on getting past the group stage
Football is the world stopping
Waiting for the player to take the penalty
The words ‘retake’ flashing around you
It is VAR
The anger and the disappointment.
Football is bumping into a fellow fan under the Eiffel Tower
The only things similar – the colour of your strip and your love for the game
Football is having amazing role models
Fighting for what you believe in
Chanting ‘equal play, equal pay’ with 57,000 others
People with the same passion, the same identity.
Some say football is a beautiful game
I think it’s more than that – it’s a lifestyle
It can mean everything to some, but nothing to others.
‘It’s just a bunch of sweaty people chasing a ball,’ a friend once said
Football is an identity that brings us together
It might mean nothing to you, but it means the world to me.