Been mulling over these words in my head since returning from Wembley on Sunday after seeing Manchester City knocked out of the FA Cup Semi-Final by a second rate Arsenal team. There is something strange and appealing on a deep human level about tribal team sports like football and I am trying to explain it to myself and convey something of it to anyone reading this.
Golf has been described by others as a “good walk ruined” and for me our trip to Wembley on Sunday could be summarised as “a great family day out ruined” by the on pitch action. That would miss the point in so many ways, it’s actually impossible to experience the collective dismay felt by 30000+ City fans if you hadn’t gone through the collective euphoria only a few minutes earlier when Sergio put us 1-0 up. It does leave me linking football support to a form of drug addiction, the highs are just so good that they make up for the more familiar lows, you have to keep suffering in the hope of one more high! Frankly being a City fan since the mid 1970’s has consisted almost entirely of lows until this second decade of the 21st century and we have collectively found our highs in the merest glimmer of success or in the collective self deprecating humour of our supporters en masse.
So I guess what interests me about my own feelings during and after the match is on a human level, the small margins between success and failure on the field of play hardly matter once away from the crowd and the event. At the time though, surrounded by the hysteria of 30000+ similarly minded fans I went from elated to despairing within half an hour. When Sergio scored there was an explosion of joy, hugs and singing and I was genuinely bouncing with unbridled joy, nothing fake or staged, just joy from every bit of me. Sharing this with my son and those around me was just amazing and I want to hold onto that feeling. Can it really have only lasted 9 minutes? The stats don’t lie so I guess it did, Arsenal equalised and the atmosphere went flat and nervous and neither the fans or the team ever quite recovered.
When we conceded the losing goal in extra time I sat with my head in my hands, in utter despair. No matter how many times you see your team lose it still hurts like hell, I cant explain why and can only relate it to the extreme contrast from the earlier high. The rational me walking away from Wembley had already normalised the emotions, perhaps we all need these extremes alongside our fellow human beings just to appreciate the good times and frankly the relative highs of just being alive and with the ones we love.
As we trudged away, the humour returned for most of us and refrains of one of my favourite City songs could be heard in the crowds, much to the amusement of the bemused Arsenal supporters.
We never win at home and we never win away
We lost last week and we lost today
We don’t give a fuck cos we’re all pissed up
Well its not really true that we don’t give a F but we have certainly learned the ability to rise above sporting defeat and just revel in being a part of something bigger. Football as an addiction? Maybe football as a religion or a cult is closer to the mark since we don’t need the booze and drugs to enjoy the camaraderie of being in a big crowd, but a pint or two certainly helps. So the 4 Coe boys will continue to enjoy these big days out whenever opportunity arises and many much smaller days out in between.
All this said, in anything other than a football ground I cannot stand being in a crowd and will more likely be found out in fields and hills with dogs and sheep for company. Its easier to explain happiness in those fields but could it ever reach the highs of that Sergio moment?