Football doesn’t really matter and it’s silly to pretend that it does. “That seems like a good place to start,” I tell myself as I try to gather thoughts on what essentially amounts to an origin story behind my putting words on this page.
I suppose this is the first thing that comes to mind because it’s something of which I have to remind myself constantly, as grim disappointment threatens to cloud yet another weekend and my mood with it. It is fundamentally reckless to place so much emotional investment in an entity over which I have no material control.
And yet, as someone who wears their optimism on the inside, football is a constant, continuous source of hope in a world that seems increasingly hopeless as I move through adulthood. There is always the next game and, like the dangliest of carrots, each one teases a brighter future; each one connects to a childhood past. How on earth did we get here?
I am an Arsenal fan by accident and a football fan by what felt at the time like social necessity. Change at any age is not without challenge and, upon moving school during the summer term of Year Three, I was greeted by a classroom of strangers exchanging stickers for their Panini World Cup 2002 albums.
Craving acceptance (an addiction that can be treated but never truly cured) I decided to seize on the opportunity for reinvention that a new beginning gifts. Gone were the days of a quiet, polite, authority-fearing boy who did his homework on time; enter a quiet, polite, authority-fearing boy who did his homework on time and liked football.
Who did I support? Arsenal. Why? Because that’s who my childminder had told me were the best team. Of all the many, many wonderful things she did for me, it is this lie for which I am perhaps most grateful.
It is this lie that has committed me to some of the most exhilarating and painful moments of my life, and a worrying amount of brain space to remembering their insignificant details.
Most importantly, it is this lie that has formed the basis of introductions that have become conversations that have become arguments that have become bonds that have become friendships that have become podcasts. And here we are.
Football doesn’t really matter and it’s silly to pretend that it does. But the relationships and illusions of community, of belonging, of acceptance that it facilitates, do. If you’re reading this, there’s a chance you already knew that.