Around this time every year I do the same dance. It’s the end of another season of football, and so I look back on countless hours spent locked away watching a bunch of millionaires kicking around a piece of inflated plastic to little discernible positive impact on myself and wonder – just what in the hell am I doing?
I’ve been an Arsenal fan for over twenty years now. Sure, I’m the kind of fan that most ‘real’ fans despise – I’ve never been to the Emirates, for one thing, but my love and passion for following my team has meant that for another season I’ve watched all but a tiny handful of matches on the TV. I’ve screamed, I’ve wailed, I’ve moaned. I’ve listened to countless further hours of Arseblog podcasts, dissected matches at length with work colleagues, friends, and family. I even paid for BT Sport. And yet…
Football is an increasingly unpleasant form of entertainment. Every ounce of money that can be wrung from it is being wrung, with no thought as to the consequences. Every advert break is crammed with adverts for gambling companies who seem to think a tiny disclaimer absolves them of the growing gambling addiction crisis in this country. Clubs have gone from being owned by asset stripping billionaires to being owned by entire nation states with human rights records that read like Margaret Atwood novels. Oh, and racism on the terraces and on social media have become epidemic to the sport once again, just for good measure. In fact, there’s not much you can say about football that’s particularly positive these days. I’m sure there are towns and cities for whom their club remains an integral part of the community and a force for good, but I doubt there’s many of them in the Premier League. The stench of greed and consumerist pornography cling too thick to all of them, my own Arsenal included. And don’t get me started on the plans for European Super Leagues and all that nonsense.
Of course, I’m bound to feel this way. Arsenal have had an abysmal season, crowned with an even more dismal performance in our first European final in over a decade. Our new manager is not much cop, our squad is no better, and we’re owned by a foreign billionaire who couldn’t even be arsed to get on a jet and come and see his prized asset compete in a final. There are systemic problems at my club so in-built that I can’t see anything other than a gradual drift into mid-table obscurity in our immediate future, followed by some good old asset stripping and total collapse once our owner gets bored and cashes out.
So, as per usual, I’m looking back on another season where I wonder what exactly the point of it all is. I can barely find the time on top of writing, work, family, and everything else to watch an entire season of TV, so why am I wasting so much time on a sport from which I get very little joy, and quite a bit of self-loathing? Except, I know what happens now, too. I’ll feel this way for most of the summer, and wonder if I will even bother next year. Then we’ll make a few signings, let a bit of dead wood go, and before I know it I’m there again, believing. Like a mug. Buying a new club shirt. Investing my time. Investing my money. Getting ready to do it all again next year.
Once a gooner, always a goner.
Paul Stephenson is a writer of horror and science fiction novels. Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores. You can get the first book free by joining the mailing list or reading along at Wattpad. Oh, and he’s got a Patreon. Sign up for free books, a free weekly short story, and much more.