I can’t finish this dad – he says thrusting a half eaten pie towards my face. The crust has been nibbled with perfect symmetry and its watery filling virtually gone, congealed fat lines the pastry. The excitement, the wall of noise, the music, the pageantry, the anticipation of a major upset has disappeared. A very large and excitable beach ball with a slow puncture has just had knife thrust into its heart and it lies deflated and quiet.3-0, 15 min to go.
He sits there quiet and distracted, less interested in the happenings on the pitch. A balloon floats down from the upper tier and he follows its slow progress down to the touchline, 2 goals could be scored to setup a frenzied final few minutes and he wouldn’t notice. I watch his gaze moving around, anywhere but the pitch. The fans across the stadium make conversation difficult and I find myself thinking if we leave now we can beat the queue for the train.
A normal day in the life of an underdog supporter.
The pattern never changes, always the same, the build up to the game, the excitement, the conversations, hushed at first – don’t tempt fate. Later, after a few pints, the conversation is much more confident – we can do this, on a good day we are a match for anyone, their star player is injured. Enter the stadium, well oiled, 50,000 fans singing, the music, the perfect green, the lights, it’s a heady cocktail and you join in, singing yourself quickly hoarse.
To suitably stirring music the teams stride onto the pitch and the noise goes up a few notches, handshakes all around and the children leave the pitch. Its quiet for a few seconds as the referee checks the nets and then kick off.
From that moment on we have reached the zenith and its downhill all the way. Sometimes they manage to hold their own for a time delaying the inevitable, the shouting, the foul language continues. The referee, the opposition player, the opposing fans, the linesman, anyone for that matter save the 11 players, are all wankers. It’s a conspiracy against the underdog threatening to upset the normal order of things.
Pretty soon though the first goal goes in and the shouting for a while increases – don’t drop your heads – but inevitably it dies down. The pints are wearing off, a foul taste is present in your mouth and thoughts start turning back to the real world, the one you put on ice a few hours and pints ago.
Come on son, let’s get off eh? Get the train before the rest – we might make it home for Dr Who if were lucky. He takes little persuasion and very soon we are trudging up towards Mount Florida kicking the multi-coloured flotsam and jetsum filling the streets. The noise behind you is muffled but you still keep one ear open for a telling roar – it doesn’t come.
A Jurassic sized police horse takes his attention and the game is a distant memory, easily forgotten, one to be replaced with all the future upsets he will definitely witness. Tomorrows headlines will be the usual regurgitated shite – brave hearts and worthy contenders.
Am hungry dad, can we get something to eat – he looks expectantly up at me, face blushed from the cold.
Life is tough, life isn’t fair.
If it was I would have stayed to 90mins and celebrated long into the night. I look forward to the day a man with sunglasses stuck to his nose offers me a blue or green pill. I will take the suspend reality pill, I don’t want to know that the world is a barren nuclear wasteland with machines milking us for energy. No, I want to stand and cheer as yet another famous upset unfolds on the pitch in front of me. I will take a cheating, diving, sneaky, underhand, Uruguayan-esq win over a brave valiant loss any day. I don’t even care if it’s a computer generated one, implanted in my brain to keep me a docile energy source.I smile looking down at his expectant face, crisps, juice, chocolate are running though his childish mind. I ruffle his hair and produce the cold, half eaten pie from my pocket – here you go.