Tuesday, March 11, 2014

First football

For years, my son and husband would  drive me from the sitting room by putting football on the TV.  But that was OK – all I needed to do was put on Monkey Business, and they left me alone too!

It’s not that I don’t like sport – I actively engage in squash, swimming, used to do karate and am a regular gym goer (OK maybe that doesn't count as ‘sport’ in the same way football does, but just so you can see I am not a couch potato). But I never really got ‘football’.

When I was a child, my father complained bitterly about football. ‘A bunch of men chasing a ball round a field, waste of time’. However, my father’s idea of a useful afternoon was watching eleven men throw a leather ball at some sticks, so it was perhaps not the most logical of arguments. Especially as he did the pools every week.

Fast forward – beyond my childhood and cricket-loving father, past my little boy and his dad hogging the TV on a Saturday – and here we are with me grown up, my son grown up, and the only football team I ever showed any vague affinity to being Norwich City.

Why? My son supports Manchester United. My ex-husband supports Tottenham Hotspur. What made me pin my rather limp flag to Norwich? Well, it’s a long story, that starts in the 1980’s with a lovely young man from Grantham, but I won’t use this post to tell that story. Because long as it is, it is rather boring.

In March 2014 Norwich City are playing Stoke.I finally get to Carrow Road. I am not here to see the football match but to collect money for the charity I work for, who are dedicating the day’s match to a past player who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

20 volunteers with 20 buckets, and a very generous public. We raised more money on that collection day than the club had ever heard of from any charity. A sign of how well-loved the football player was, and how widely dementia touches people.

At the end of the afternoon we had 20 heavy buckets to bank, and smiles all round. But… we also had three match tickets that the club had donated. Surely, now was my chance! Not only could I go to my very first football match, but I could see my ‘own team’.

I’m not that fond of large crowds, but the supporters were so excited, so poised on the brink of shouting success or distress at each turn of the ball, I couldn't help but enjoy myself. Especially when Norwich scored. My friend, a fellow volunteer, was up in her seat, cheering and shouting like a seasoned fan, though this was her first match too.

The most significant thing to me was how different football is live, compared to on the TV. I have been to schoolboy matches, of course (where some of the screaming and language would have put the most profane to shame), but this was live, grown-up, Premiership football.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as did my friends, and was carefully taken through the finesse of the moves in the match through a helpful fellow volunteer that I sat next to.

Shall I go again? Probably not, but at least I can cross it off my list of things that I haven’t done, but might quite enjoy.  I think I'll try blo-karting next.
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