Strange as it seems in the age of BT Sports and Reddit Soccer Streams, many people continue to go to the trouble of actually attending a live football match.
No really, it’s true.
From the all-in zealots hiring themselves out for medical experimentation to finance their Arsenal season ticket, to the Bovril-sipping sheepskin-jacketers gurning forlornly on the crumbling terrace of a non-league ground, thousands of intrepid fans will show up each week to support teams that most people simply prefer to watch on TV or shitpost about on the internet.
Unfortunately, not all of these hardy souls are cut from the same cloth, and mild differences of opinion are inevitable.
So if, for whatever reason, you’re considering becoming part of this cosmopolitan nation of outdoor spectators, be sure to read the guide below on how to recognise the more commonly found breeds of match-going animal.
The ‘The Game’s Gone’ Man
Most likely, you’ll see this chap standing absolutely still for most of the ninety minutes, moving only in order to shake his head sadly.
He speaks, shouts or chants as infrequently as Vincent Janssen scores goals, but when he does open his mouth in order to pollute the air with his verbal form of liquid negativity, he expects people to listen. (Which they don’t)
Things you will hear him say include:
“Paul Pogba doesn’t work even nearly hard enough for the money he earns. The game’s gone.”
“More empty seats over in that section. Those lads only ever come for the big games. Where are they when we’re playing West Brom in December? At home on the Xbox, that’s where. The game’s gone.”
“I heard that Michael Cox talking about the importance of Expected Goals on the radio the other day. Apparently this manager’s big into it. The game’s gone.”
The ‘Just Here to Tweet About It’ Tactical Expert
This type of supporter is easy to identify, as they won’t bother at any stage to actually turn their eyes on the action.
Instead, they’ll simply stare intently downwards at their phone or tablet, fingers working overtime, muttering occasionally about “infrastructural naivete” or “strategic imbalance”.
How else are you going to be able to provide expert tactical analysis every Saturday on your iPad?? 😂😂 https://t.co/GWhXnnNCIZ
— Jake (@J4YK3Y) August 3, 2017
Once or twice, they may deem it worthy to raise their head, but only in order to aim their device’s camera briefly at the pitch before editing the resultant photo to include a series of seemingly random superimposed arrows.
Said image will then be Tweeted below a caption reading something like:
“Can’t believe this clown’s playing a 4-4-2 #TacticalPygmy”
If a goal is scored, they can momentarily lose sight of their screens as – briefly – human instinct kicks in. But don’t expect these self-absorbed specimens to offer much in the way of emotion.
No. Football is a serious business, and anyway, Retweets are far more important than enjoying the moment.
The Enthusiastic Tourist
Clad from head to toe in official club merchandise, most likely including the dreaded half-and-half scarf, this breed is more commonly found at elite-level games.
They will have arrived at the ground two hours before kickoff in a taxi in order to spend several hundred quid on club-branded underpants and key-chains.
As a result, they will emerge on the terrace weighed down by two or more huge plastic shopping bags.
Throughout the contest, they will attempt to join in with the songs, but will probably end up wordlessly mouthing along with their arms limply raised before screaming loudly the last five words of each verse.
They will take several thousand photographs of the “event” and leave the stadium beaming with happiness regardless of the result. After all, this football lark is just about the “experience”, not what actually happens on the pitch.
A young Liverpool fan rants about modern football & absolutely nails it.
— FanLeague (@fanleague) May 18, 2017
The Preening Teenage ‘Casual’
Sadly, there exists out there a legion of spotty, adolescent pseudo-hardmen who’ve grown up on a diet of Danny Dyer documentaries and large-print books about “real-life” hooligan stories.
Again, this battalion of frustrated young men is easy to recognise as a result of their attire and general demeanour. Stone Island jackets (bought with last month’s pocket-money) will feature heavily, as will dark hoodies and, for those who really buy into it, Timberland boots.
Often, those who favour a more “continental” style of hooliganism may opt to cover the lower portion of their face with a club scarf.
So as you know, that’s so they can’t be identified by the police – whom they may denote as “filth” – during the course of their weekly posturing on the streets outside the ground.
Alarmingly, these individuals will on occasion manoeuvre themselves close to the opposing fans in order to hurl abuse, pump their chests aggressively and invite their counterparts to “COME ON THEN, LET’S ‘AVE YOU”.
However, there’s no need to be worried. At the first suggestion of trouble, they’ll hare off into the bowels of the stadium to find a nice safe pillar behind which to cower.
Still, at least they have the excuse of youth to account for their stupidity. The real problem is the grown adults who act the same way.
The Angry Bellower of Wise Counsel
You won’t have to make any attempt to identify this type, as you’ll be able to hear them loud and clear from any part of the stadium and its immediate surrounds.
Generally, this group is utterly lacking in anything approaching genuine knowledge of football.
But that won’t stop them from bellowing advice about the game to anyone who will listen (ie, no-one).
The plaintive, imploring cries with which they will assault your ears will go something like this:
“You f*cking moron. You f*cking need to play Smith up front, he’s wasted back there, stick him up top you f*cking twat. Unbelievable!”
“Why doesn’t he f*cking switch to a 4-4-2 diamond? F*cking Mourinho did it at Arsenal last year. Unbelievable!”
“What’s all this tapping it about at the back? F*cking get rid of it. Play the game in their f*cking half. Unbelievable!”