Thursday, August 26, 2010

The club I supported as a boy

During an interview with Young Boys of Berne footballer Scott Sutter I gasped at the lack of awareness of many sports news journalists about how footballers think. Sutter, to recap, is a Londoner with a Swiss father who now lives in Switzerland and plays in Berne. He has been said to have uttered the dreaded seven words spoken with such disingenuous opportunism by so many players - "the club I supported as a boy".

The interviewer asked him who his "heroes" were and this gave the game away. He didn't have them, he said, but mentioned that Klinsmann and Ginola were playing at the time. That's it, you see, professional footballers just don't support teams the way you and I do. Their loyalty has to be transferable. Sometimes they get the dream move and the cliches come out - but how many clubs did Robbie Keane and Craig Bellamy support as kids? Sometimes they'll kiss the badge and look ridiculous when six months later they're playing for another team (HMHB reference alert).

But as the question goes deep into childhood, there's something else at work here. A professional footballer will have been playing lots of football from a young age. They are unlikely therefore to have been a regular attender of matches. There are kids who play and kids who watch. I was always a kid who watched. Even those who do get to matches have a different way of watching and appreciating football. If you aspire to play to a serious level you have a more respectful, less partisan outlook. So no, I don't buy the loyalty thing at all.

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