Football may or may not be more important than life or death, but it is undeniable that there are few communal activities in modern life that rival the beautiful game in bringing us together. Football grounds the length of the country are where we assemble to share our faith in something bigger than ourselves.
Football occupies a place in our lives that is as important to many of us as religion is to others. We come together, greeting people we rarely see through the week; we sit in the same place, exchanging both small-talk and news of the biggest events in our lives with those around us until the action starts; then our attention is drawn to the focal point front and centre, and we follow the lead of those in front of us and around us, our voices joining as one to demonstrate our passion and belief. And sometimes, it feels like a higher power is guiding us to greatness.
When there’s no football it feels like something is missing from our lives – more than mere entertainment, we crave the sense of purpose and belonging that being a fan gives us. Usually this is just part of the rhythm of the year, and we can occupy our time with other pursuits. Now, it has been snatched away from us without warning. Title processions have been halted, promotion and relegation battles have been put on ice, and with them the weekly computations of how many points we’ll need to reach our goals. All of that has been replaced with speculation of how this impossible season will be resolved.
More viscerally, it is the loss of social gatherings that hurts most. We all have our matchday routines, whether that involves meeting friends and family before or after the game, or just exchanging a few words with familiar faces, and spending a couple of hours feeling part of something bigger than our own lives.
Things will eventually return to normal and we’ll re-establish the bonds with the people we’ve missed, and with the clubs we love. We’ll get through this, but it will be tough for many of us. So if there’s someone you only see at the football, and who you think may not have something to fill this gap, reach out to them. That goes whether they’re a close friend, or just someone you exchange a “brutal, eh?” with in the tough times or find yourself high-fiving, grinning at, or bundling into gleefully in the good times. Lift the phone, send them a message on social media, or – once we’re allowed out of our houses again – chap on their door to say ‘Hi’. We share a big part of our lives together, and we can all help each other through this.
Alan Russell is Chief Executive of Supporters’ Direct Scotland and on the board of Raith Supporters Trust