OPINION: Supporting glamour European giants at the expense of your local team is just wrong

What is the point in ‘supporting’ Barcelona or Real Madrid?

Thursday, 12th November 2020, 6:23 am
Updated Thursday, 12th November 2020, 7:50 am
Lionel Messi celebrates with teammates after scoring for Barcelona against Real Betis. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Maybe if you live in one of those two fine Spanish cities, then fair enough. But if you live in a small town or village in England, then I just don’t get it.

In fact, the more I think about it the more it annoys me.

Being obsessed with Premier League football has always been the way of the world, I have to hold my hands up and admit that as a young boy back in junior school I was a Liverpool fan.

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Christopher Schindler scores the winning penalty as Huddersfield win promotion to the Premier League.(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

I proudly wore my red shirt, with it’s Candy sponsor, day in and day out - had I ever been to Liverpool? Of course not.

The modern globalised world now means that games are beamed into your home from the elite European leagues, opening up a new world of ‘glamour football’ to the armchair fan.

And for me, that is the big problem.

Too many people nowadays seem to prefer watching Barcelona or Bayern Munich on the box.

Samuel Coombes of Maldon & Tiptree FC is challenged by Morecambe's Ryan Cooney in the FA Cup first round. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

Too many people seem to prefer a Saturday afternoon, or Tuesday night, laid out on the settee watching Jeff Stelling and the crew and seeing if their accas come in.

It’s all done at the expense of getting out to a real game and backing their local side (back when we could actually go to games of course) and I find that very sad.

I find it so frustrating when I walk around my local park and see kids dressed (and too many adults as well) in the shirts of the glamour European giants. If I’m honest it makes me shout abuse at them inside my own irritated mind.

Perhaps there’s a lot of Italians where I live, but somehow I think not and that most of these kids have never been to Turin and probably couldn’t even place it on the map.

Ian Henderson celebrates in front of the Rochdale fans after scoring against Barrow. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

It genuinely fills me with great excitement when a youngster has a top on from the local side. It makes me think ‘proper fan’ and want to go up to them and give them a high five.

Your local side may not be the best team, in fact they might be really rubbish and never really do anything.

Yeah, they’re not going to win the Premier League. They’re not gonna grace the Champions League - and having a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi playing for your side will only ever be a Football Manager ‘reality.’

But it’s not about that, it’s about pride, it’s about identity, it’s about a connection to your club. Your local team is where you’re from. It’s your town, it’s your community and they should be YOUR team.

Since you ask, I’m a Huddersfeld fan. I’ve watched them go from struggling on and off the pitch at the bottom of League Two all the way up the Premier League.

I remember the iconic games, goals and moments from that rise up the ladder - and especially the lower league games.

Every time I return home to the stadium, I sit there looking at the stands and the pitch and reliving the magic moments down the years in my own special dreamland - and let me tell you, it feels great..

The Championship play-off final against Reading that unlocked the door to the ‘big-time’ is, and probably will forever be, the greatest non-family day of my life.

I still remember screaming the house down and waking up my infant child after Huddersfield won the semi-final via penalties.

I still relive (and watch it on youtube) the penalty shoot-out win at Wembley and never forget the feeling of despair as we trailed badly, before the moment of pure ecstasy when Christopher Schindler slotted home to penalty to the Promised Land.

I remember the anticipation all week, running all the scenarios of the match through my head like a computer and experiences the tears of victory and defeat before I even got to Wembley.

I remember the train journey down, getting off at the tube station and thinking ‘wow, this thing just got real.’ Somehow I can’t imagine someone picking up a tv remote three minutes before a game and living the ‘real fan’ experience.

It was a day I always dreamed of. It was a day I watched other fans experience and thought ‘well it’s never going to happen to me,’ - and I went nuts.

How can you possibly experience that dream come true moment and that moment of sheer unbridled passion and emotion watching Barcelona wrap up a La Liga title or some bog-standard win over Getafe.

Supporting teams from places you’ve never been to, and have only ever seen play on tv, will always be pointless to me.

Football is about passion, joy, hope and despair - it’s about living the dream. Trying to do that through a side based 1100 miles away just because they’ve got some iconic players seems meaningless to me.

Buying a shirt and getting ‘Messi’ printed on the back doesn’t really mean much to Barcelona I’m sure.

But doing that for the likes of Rochdale, Mansfield and Morecambe and actually going down to watch them for real makes the world of difference.

Your local team needs you more than ever these days and deserves your support.

So when fans are finally allowed back into football, why not pop down to your local side - no matter what division they are in - and give them a try.

You never know, you might just like it.