Why do I spend so much time following football? It’s a question that I hadn’t even considered until very recently to be honest. Why do I like football so much that I’m willing to spend thousands of pounds and hours travelling across Wales and England to watch 22 grown men kick a ball around?
When it’s put quite like that, you begin to wonder yourself!
All the bad experiences come flooding to mind and I wonder what else I might have done with the time and money spent supporting Swansea City over the past two decades. I started with a seemingly simple question that gave me a surprising problem – Do I like football?
From an early age, like for many, football was a part of my daily life. It runs through my father’s family particularly strongly, with generations going to watch matches at the Vetch Field and I was introduced to the live match day experience at the age of 6. If had to be blunt, the game of football itself really bores me at times. I’ve never experienced any real satisfaction from playing but this is probably due to a lack of any real skill!
When watching even the most over-hyped matches on television, I find certain aspects interesting but when I think about it, I get distracted very easily. I’m even typing this with a “Super Sunday” match on TV in the background. I even struggle to watch my own club on TV at times. In short, I find the TV experience and endless analysis that goes with it from every media source very tedious.
A live match is a very different thing. I remember my first visit to the Vetch Field very vividly, but not so much the football. I remember the wall of noise pouring from the stands as I approached the ground. I remember the movement and passion of the supporters on the terrace who I saw first-hand directly affect the players in front of them, both inspiring the Swansea players and intimidating the opposition.
From a personal point of view the game itself has never been why I watch football, although when the standard of football is not the highest you either find another reason to carry on going to games or you simply stop going.
Ever since that first taste, I’ve enjoyed everything that surrounded the game more than the game itself. Growing up supporting my local team, I felt that every time I turned up at a ground either home or away it was my duty to represent my city in a way that would make it proud. I felt proud to wear my team’s badge, to sing songs with a passion which mean something to those from the same upbringing that I had and to see my city achieve something tangible, even if it was only something like winning away from home.
That feeling of a passionate community and of a shared goal was crucial to me then and still is now. I’ve met so many people that otherwise I would never have found and travelled to places that I would never have otherwise dreamed of visiting.
Put simply when I watch a match on TV, I’m only watching a game. When I visit a ground, I’m experiencing a game and everything that comes with it. The noise, the colour, the community, all these things and so much more are unmatched in any other part of modern life. I worry that with the globalisation of the Premier League that Swansea and many other clubs that really represent their local community will struggle to keep in place the very reason for their existence.
When I pay hundreds of pounds for a season ticket I’m not paying to watch football matches, although others will and I mostly enjoy them. For me, it’s so much more than that and I’ll carry on investing my time and money in some way until I no longer find the same satisfaction from experiencing matches.
Nick Ahern is a Swansea City fan.
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