The real-life tales of a football writer
I was fortunate to witness probably the most complete football performance I’ve ever seen last Monday night as Barca beat Real Madrid 5-0 at Camp Nou.
I can’t recall a side so flawless and so dominant against such quality opposition. Every Barca player was exceptional and worthy of the superlatives lavished on them. Lionel Messi, David Villa, Xavi and Andres Iniesta won most of the plaudits, but their defence was peerless, while Sergio Busquets had his best game in a Barca shirt. I used to consider Busquets a bit of a tool, then I interviewed him and changed my opinion.
I watched El Clasico from the press box, where I was covering the game for various publications. The man from The Telegraph was on my left, a man who probably wasn’t a journalist on my right. He smoked roll-ups throughout and celebrated each Barca goal. He was absolutely buzzing and I was pleased for him, if not by his smoke.
It also made me realise the difference between being a fan and a journalist. I could appreciate that Barca were brilliant, but I felt nothing like the Barca fan when they scored. I love the football Barca play and was happy for their players and my Barca supporting friends, but they’re not my team. They could have won 50-0 and I wouldn’t have felt like I did in 1992 seeing Dion Dublin score a last minute winner from the old caged away end at Southampton’s Dell in the rain.
I’m extremely fortunate to be paid to attend games like El Clasico. Mates came over from Manchester with €300 to buy tickets on the black market and struggled to get in, but watching another team simply doesn’t compare with the team you support. I saw FC United’s magnificent victory at Rochdale in the FA Cup last month. I was standing in the away end surrounded by friends who have worked hard to make FC a success. The atmosphere was brilliant and they were naturally delighted. I applauded when FC scored and smiled at the barmy antics around me, yet felt the same indifference as watching Barca.
It’s not like that with Manchester United. I was distraught when United lost the league in ’92 and Barca beat United 4-0 in ’94 (below). I was elated when United came from 2-0 down to beat Juventus 3-2 in 1999 and enjoyed that more than the famous final itself. You can’t help the way you feel.
I buzzed off the 2008 Champions League final, but was down following defeat in Rome a year later.
Why? What was I supporting? I loathe the Glazers owning Manchester United. Most of the players don’t really care too much about the fans either, so what is it that you support? The history and tradition of the club? The future aspirations? The football? The community and fellow fans?
The only other time I get so involved is if I watch one of my brothers play, my flesh and blood. Because I know the sacrifices they and the family have made, the training and the work. I once went to see my brother play at Barrow away on a Tuesday night. We drove up together, following his team coach and uncertain whether the game would go ahead because of the rain. My brother’s team mates took the piss out of the groundsman who’d worked his backside off to get the pitch sorted and considered the 25 other travelling fans as odd balls. Which, if I’m honest, most were.
I stood alone surrounded by Barrow fans under a big covered terrace. They were not happy, more so when my brother scored an equaliser for a 1-1 draw. I ran down to the front of the terrace like a loon and he came over and celebrated and fans behind me told me to “f*** off”. It was a life affirming moment. Better than Barca 5 Madrid 0? Yes, it was.
LATEST FOOTBALL NEWS
Spain seal major tournament treble
UEFA dishes out dosh to clubs for Euro 2012
Russia win appeal against Euro 2012 sanction
Nasri banned over behaviour at Euro 2012
Van der Wiel critical of compatriot Robben
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010