Football Crazy

The football season has well and truly begun and I am feeling a great sense of excitement. This might not seem surprising if you were to know that I was a football fan. Given the disappointment of last year’s World Cup I had thought that I would devote less time to the Nation’s favourite sport.

Yet, as soon as the first whistle blew on the Community Shield Cup back in August my interest returned in spades.

Part of the fun is the regular conversation I have with some of my closest friends; most of whom support different teams than me.

I was speaking with once such friend, who is a Liverpool fan, just a few days ago. After I reminded him that his team play in an orangey-red and therefore must be inferior to United, I asked him where they were in the league at the moment.

His answer made me laugh because it displayed the full partisan feeling experienced by most fans. ‘They are joint sixth’ he said with a decent sense of pride having seen them sitting just above the relegation zone only a few weeks earlier.

‘Don’t you mean ninth?’ I enquired seeing through his plan to spin the situation like a good politician. ‘It depends how you look at it’ he replied.

He confessed that had Everton been in the same position he would have definitely called it ninth place.

Another of my long time friends is a Newcastle fan with whom I have spent many happy hours talking about every aspect of football over the years. Several months ago I found out that he had sadly past on after battling several of the complications that life often throws at some of the world’s loveliest people.

When talking about Mark’s favourite team I would often quote to him a phrase from the funeral service ‘we sorrow but not as those without hope’.

He would usually reply with some humorous comment whilst acknowledging that being a Magpie fan was often a difficult experience. The humour was useful in deflecting from many of the other struggles he faced and I am glad to say that before he died he learned that his beloved team had beaten Arsenal away from home.

For Mark and me, football became our touch point, so that in the midst of the pain we could find some enjoyment talking about our common passion.

In years gone by we would often watch a match on TV; me in bold red and him in black and white stripes, to ensure that our rivalry, although friendly, would be apparent.

He used to regularly remind me that I couldn’t be a true Man United fan because I didn’t have a southern accent. I would respond by asking him whether the till beeped when he walked though the supermarket looking like a bar code.

In addition to this passion for football Mark also had a belief that there was a future after this life was over. He would tell me that this gave him a lot of strength to deal with his difficulties.

As I think of him now I remember my oft quoted phrase ‘we sorrow but not as those without hope’ and am hoping it might be helpful for the whole of life and not just for football.

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