There’s a great deal to hate about football these days. The dirty money, the flagrant corruption, the aggressive promotion of gambling companies that facilitate addiction and suicide.
And then there are the persistent elements of racism, homophobia and whatever other ugly intolerances that coked-up fans can conjure a chant about. Urgh. What a cesspit the beautiful game has become.
And yet I just can’t quit my football habit. A man like me has nowhere else to go. I love watching football, playing football, talking, thinking and dreaming about football and I won’t ever be able to stop.
I like it because it is simple and exciting and, yes, sometimes beautiful. But more than the stuff on the pitch, I love what football has given me personally: a lifetime of memories and experiences that would not otherwise have existed but for my hopeless, romantic devotion to what is, essentially, a daft child’s game.
More than anything, football gave me friendship. Growing up in west London while supporting West Ham, a team from the other side of the city, wasn’t easy. There were Chelsea and QPR fans. There were even a few who followed Spurs and Liverpool.
But supporting an unsuccessful club that lived 26 stops away on the District Line just provoked playground bemusement and ridicule.