“i do watch all the overseas leagues i never watch the A league which is a pity, but im not going to watch crap”
The above comment (as you can probably tell by the grammar) was made on the ITBOTN Facebook page, following my rant about the poor turnout for the Phoenix game at Mount Smart in mid-December. I’m not naming and shaming the person who wrote it because that wouldn’t be fair – it’s not like he’s a lone voice. A lot of people feel this way.
By in large, the demographic for this kind of attitude is male, 40-60 years old with strong ties to auld blighty. They love their clubs they supported ‘as a wee lad’. Birmingham, Barnsley, Sunderland, Sheffield, Tranmere and Tottenham… and they won’t lower themselves to watch anything they perceive as below that standard. And in England, they invented football so nothing in the colonies could possibly compete for their affections!
You choose a team, and it becomes yours for life. You never waver, never sway, through thick and thin, even when you might be a second or third generation New Zealander who has never set foot in London, Liverpool, Newcastle or Manchester where your club is based.
And that’s ok! Each to their own I suppose. But I do think it’s a little bit sad. They are choosing to deprive themselves of some great experiences for no good reason, really, apart from their own stubbornness.
I have literally zero connection to England. I’m Italian on my dad’s side, my mother’s family have been in New Zealand since the land wars, and before that they hailed from Ireland mostly. I wouldn’t have a clue if Kerry has a decent football team. I know Roma does, and they are my favourite team in the world hands down, but that doesn’t mean I won’t deign to get my shoes a little muddy on a New Zealand sideline every so often…
I do run into an issue with my obsession a couple of times per year though. Between Christmas and New Year, just about every brand of football in the world takes a break. Even the otherwise perpetual New Zealand round ball calendar has a gaping hole where there is almost nothing on save the odd Phoenix game…
So I’m at a loose end. I’m off work with plenty of time on my hands and I can even watch fixtures at crazy times of the night – safe in the knowledge that I can sleep all day if I want to. It seems a waste to not ingest any football at all during this period! So I turn to the only big European league that doesn’t take a Christmas break – the English Premier League.
I want to like the EPL. It seems so easy. Most of my friends follow it in some way, shape or form. They all have a team, there’s lots of banter, and the games are all easily accessible with commentary in English. How cruisy! Compared to my weekly struggles trying to watch Serie A, it’s a total breeze.
I don’t have a team though. I’ve tried many many times to pick one, but I tend to follow them for a while before getting bored out of my tree.
This year I decided to go back to a previous cast-off. Back in the 1990’s when Middlesbrough had Fabrizio Ravanelli and Gianluca Festa I caught the bug for them a little bit before losing interest when the Italians departed and were replaced by Australians – a poor trade indeed. And being a sixth generation New Zealander on my mother’s side, Boro is probably the closest English fit to my ancestry being the home city of Captain Cook!
So I watched three Middlesbrough games this holiday season to see if I would feel anything whatsoever resembling affection either for Boro, the other three teams, or the EPL in general.
And at the end of that three game stretch, the verdict is in. The closest thing to real emotion that came from the experience is a deep sense of injustice of there being six hours of my life that the Premier League owes me back…
Match 1 v Burnley
Turf Moor looks idyllic on TV but I am reliably informed (by a Derby fan…) that it’s a bit of a dump. Boro was the better team but lacked any real bite up front. It had 0-0 written all over it up until the point they conceded a dumb goal with ten minutes left on the clock. I sure know how to pick ‘em… Result: Burnley 1, Boro 0.
Match 2 v Manchester United
Up against a glamour club, the result of which was insomnia curing football. And they say Italian calcio is defensive… Boro looked to frustrate and did it well – for all concerned. Nevertheless, despite only managing two shots on target over the course of the whole match, the plan worked and they nicked a goal that should have been the match winner. But then, infuriatingly, they tried to park a second bus… With five minutes left on the clock, they got what they deserved and Aitor Karanka got a relieved hug from his mate José Mourinho – and rightly so. Result: Manchester United 2, Boro 1. Sigh.
Match 3 v Leicester
Easily the most compelling of the three fixtures, it was open and attacking but both sides lacked precision – especially Boro who enjoyed 75% of possession in the second half but if they were still playing this time next week it would still be: Boro 0, Leicester 0.
Three games. Two losses and a 0-0 but I’m not complaining. Since when has this kind of thing ever put me off? *Cough* WaiBOP *cough*. I’ve always been a sucker for a hopeless case. Misery and drudgery is part of what makes football great. And as the Chinese proverb that Harry Pearson quotes in the Middlesbrough chapter of ‘My Favourite Year’ goes – “may you never live in interesting times” – a perfect catch cry for any fan of a mid-table plodder if ever there was one. I get it. I really do…
Still… it’s nothing to get all snobby about, is it?
The standard might be high but that’s no guarantee of entertainment.
I don’t begrudge anyone for whom the EPL is their thing. They feel that connection and the football appeals to them – fair enough. But how they can poo-poo the A-League because it’s inferior to that porridge is beyond me. And how anyone with a closer connection to Wellington than Ramsbottom Rovers or whoever, but still prefers to sit at home in front of BeIN with their noses in the air rather than getting out and supporting the local game – I just feel sorry for them. They don’t know what they’re missing!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I might go online and get me a Boro away shirt…
Tasty! Much more tasty than the football, eh?
Categories: English/UK Football
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/