The Sweet and Tender Hooligan: My Reasons For Loving Football

by: Danielle Wordelman

I knew I had a problem when I came home one afternoon and all my roommates were seated at the kitchen table and said “Danielle, where have you been? We’ve seen pictures of you on Facebook with a bunch of men in soccer jerseys” and I said, “Football jerseys and I’m not talking about it.” It’s not that I am ashamed of watching the football, I just didn’t feel like deconstructing the sort of gender dynamics at play in bars especially when the overwhelming majority of the fan base is masculine or explaining my attraction to the sport because of its glorification of masculinity. I simply want an excuse to drink beer and sometimes that’s at 9AM so the only excuse I can give is “well, it’s 3PM in England.”

That’s not true, even though it is wittier than what is actually my relationship to the sport. I started seriously watching football in the 2006 FIFA World Cup (the one where Italy and France drew 1-1 and had World’s Longest Penalty Shootout and Italy ended up winning 5 goals to 3). My brother and I would wake up at 5AM to watch the first game, sleep for an hour, and wake up in time for the next match. Being the budding Anglophile that I was (it was the same summer I started watching Doctor Who) I was familiar with some of the teams in England and their respective cities and by extension rivalries but I had no real investment in any of them. (My apologies to Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland.) But this was the first series of football matches between national teams, so I could pick any country to support that were not my own! In any event, I’d rather see teams I really abhor (like Manchester United) lose than have my heart consistently broken by any one team. This is probably indicative of my inability to commit to anything or trust anyone but I do prioritize football above things like sleep.

I like football for reasons outside of personal sentimentality: the rivalries are more than just about football. For example, earlier this week, Poland and Russia played each other in Poland and riots broke out because Marxism has a bad history there. Every time England and France play, the French seek revenge for the 100 Years War and  it’s nearly always a draw because they can’t seem to resolve their differences. Even Germany has a national team too! It’s like a history lesson without the military but the same amount of blood.

Football also has the most accessible format: people are going to kick a ball to their goal at the end of the pitch. If the ball goes out, it’ll be handled back in to play. There are no intricate strategies or extraneous rules to keep up with, just talent. Except Wayne Rooney, his only talent is in acting like he’s a footballer. Anyway, the running clock means that it’s going to be all over in under 2 hours so play rarely stops.  If it does, that means someone’s getting punched. More importantly, no commercial breaks! (except when the Americans are playing because of the corporatization of television networks)

Everyone watches the football. Or at least they should. It hits the spot if you’re yearning for a normative bar experience but still want the safety of personal autonomy. If you’re watching in it a bar, everyone’s too immersed in the game to harass you which means that you can enjoy the game by yourself. Moreover, there is in an inherent community amongst fans because football comes first and they will help you if someone does make you feel unsafe.

That’s from my experience at least. Some clubs have fans that are total scum and you shouldn’t be a fan of that club anyway. So now that I’ve confessed my reasons for why I watch football, I am more proud of it. I do find it comforting that there will always be a bigger fool than myself and there are no shortages of fools in football.

Danielle Wordelman is a third-year dilettante studying books written by dead people and paintings of (mostly) naked women. You can usually find her on her gold bike when she is not at the Wolfram Manor Collective. When she is not at home or at school, she visits craft stores and dreams about her life as an old woman where no one will criticize her for being crotchety, crocheting or tumbling.


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