It's more than just a game

“It’s only a game” was a phrase my mam would announce whenever I arrived back in the house aged 19 at god knows what time in a foul mood, after being on 3 trains, with a stomach full of warm Carlsberg after getting hammered 3-0 in the pouring rain.

Football tribes & falling in love with Doncaster Rovers

Supporting a football club is tribal, a rollercoaster of emotion, you dedicate years of your life to it. Weekends and evenings travelling the length and breadth of the country to watch 90 minutes of 22 blokes kicking a ball around. 

But it’s much more than that. I fell in love with Doncaster Rovers standing with my grandad on the terraces of Belle Vue in the late 90s/early 00s. Freezing cold Saturdays, the smell of caramelised onions from a burger van on the terrace, watching Michael McIndoe dart up and down the hallowed immaculate Belle Vue turf and absorbing the roar from the Pop Stand whenever we scored.

As a young lad, it was exciting seeing the players in the flesh every week, seeing kids you knew from school at the ground, getting a greasy burger at half-time, my grandad making sure we got a programme as soon as we got in and squeezing onto a rickety old bus to the stadium to talk about tactics and formation with other fans from my village.

It's more than just a game

But football became something so much more as I started to get older. It was never about supporting a successful team 80 miles away that I had no affiliation with and sitting in front of the tele every Saturday. 

Football is a prime example of communities coming together. People from similar backgrounds, with similar experiences, the same accent, all gathering for a mutual love for football. 90 minutes on the pitch can define your day.

Football, fashion, and music are the holy triangle for me. They intertwine in many ways and the three concepts have had the single biggest influence on how I live my life almost every day. 

Away days & football fashion

It’s getting dropped off at the train station at 6:30 am to travel to some god-awful away end on the South-Coast. 

A football day is wading through the mountains of Adidas boxes to pick out the right pair of trainers and flicking through the wardrobe for the perfect jacket the night before. 

It’s running into the bookies 15 minutes before your train is due to get your accumulator on. 

It’s getting together with friends and talking about nothing but football for 12 hours.

Football tribes, fashion & music

Football, fashion, and music are the holy triangle for me. They intertwine in many ways and the three concepts have had the single biggest influence on how I live my life almost every day. 

You can tell a lot about a person by what is on their feet. Trainers for me a huge factor of identity. A particular line of 3 stripes on someone’s feet gives you a clue as to what CDs they’ve got in their glovebox and what they might get up to at 3 pm on a Saturday. 

You can be at a Liam Gallagher gig in Hamburg and befriend a Rangers fan because you are both wearing the same Adidas jacket. The next thing you know you’re planning a trip to Ibrox. It’s a beautiful thing. It creates memories and long-lasting friendships.

The love for your club never fades

Football is as much about the social aspect as it is about the sport. I wrote my dissertation at university about how your sense of attachment grows stronger as you become more physically separated from a place. 

That is certainly the case for me. I am detached from the town I grew up in and I have now settled over 100 miles away on the beautiful Roker coast. But the love for your club never fades. 

I have witnessed some of the most incredible and devastating moments watching my club, from winning the league in the final second to relegation to the fourth tier. Football is a hereditary fascination passed down through generations of families. Now it’s the excitement of seeing my daughters face the first time when she walks out into the stadium in the future.

Football can affect people in so many ways. Some people walk away because they can’t stand to be involved and the toxicity in the club has forced them to vote with their feet.

Some people will stay when things get so unbearable but cling onto the hope that things will get better, one day. 

So, unfortunately, mam, it’s far more than just a game. 

My football tribe

It’s about family, friends, rivalry, elation and heartache. It’s about the walk on a freezing November night towards blinding floodlights with the plume of your warm breath against a cup of Bovril. It’s about the last-minute winners and the first-minute losers. It’s about the bore draws and the high scores. 

After a long slog of a working week, football is the light at the end of the tunnel for many of us.


Article by Adam Emberton

Featured image attribution: “adidas trainers” flickr photo by autumn_bliss shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

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