International break ramblings

Hello all.  I’m not dead.  It may appear so from the lack of activity on the site, but instead I’ve entered a kind of stasis,  cryogenically freezing the Arsenal-obsessed part of my brain to protect it from the onslaught of boredom provided by the international break.  Now I’ve temporarily awakened it, and the ennui is already flooding through the window.

In the past few days I’ve taken time to reflect on the events of the weekend.  I certainly feel more positive about it now than I did on Monday morning – even though I am mercifully spared the gloom of trudging in to an office job to be faced with gloating colleagues.  Losing to your local rivals is always painful, but the Spurs and Arsenal squads are about on a level pegging at the moment.  Losing to a team who are about as good as you, at their stadium, is no great shame.  Objectively, it doesn’t appear a disaster on par with Old Trafford, Ewood Park, or the home defeat to Liverpool.

Of course, it will matter more, because it’s Spurs.  I had a fascinating and at times terse conversation with a good friend of mine last night, who is not a football fan.  That is to say: he doesn’t mind playing, he’ll even watch as a neutral, but he doesn’t support a team.  He described a scenario where he walked through Kensal Rise, and saw a crowd of Fulham fans singing about their hatred for Chelsea.  He simply doesn’t understand the tribalism, and asked me to explain or justify it.  Why, he asked, do I say “we” won when I had almost nothing to do with it?  And why ‘hate’ other teams?

I have to say I didn’t find his questions easy to answer.  Explaining it away as a geographical loyalty to your local area becomes impossible with the number of fans who have no history or heritage in the city where their team is based.  Let’s not forget a fan in Africa recently committed suicide on the back of an Arsenal defeat.

I think it’s certainly tied to some sort of tribal instinct – an inherent “us against them” mentality.  We live in a world with a decreasing number of foot-soldiers.  Football provides an outlet for that aggressive instinct, and occasionally I’m glad that the vitriol I witness inside a football ground is contained within that relatively controlled environment, rather than being unleashed out on the streets somewhere.  When it spills over, however, as with the unacceptable chanting from both fans on Sunday, it’s a very ugly sight and sound indeed.

I suspect one of the main reason people invest in the fortunes of their team is as a form of vicarious living.  As lovers of sport, we are imbued with a competitive spirit, though not necessarily the ability to actually compete on the great stages of the world game.  Pinning our colours to a club’s mast allows us to share in the glory of victory and the catharsis of defeat.

Above all else, I suspect that in an increasingly blurred, globalised world, people are more willing than ever to ‘belong’ or cling to whatever they can use to construct an identity.  In this relatively secular country, football is the obvious way to do so.

This is a real ramble, straight from my brain to the page via a pounded and punished keyboard – a stream of consciousness splashing all over your unsuspecting face.  If you have more considered opinions, I’d love to hear them.  We need to fill the time somehow.

Right.  Back in to the stasis tank.