Various people have been asking me curiously why I have a keen interest in more than one football club side. Some even go to the extent of questioning my commitment to my ‘purported’ teams.
Well, I’ve been thinking too and maybe they have a point. I mean, in my twitter bio there are at least six different clubs listed, obviously implying that I’m a fan of all of them. The general debate is whether it is actually realistic to support so many teams concurrently. My take on it? Pretty much yes, so long as it’s only one team per league.
So I sought to set the record straight on the matter. Basically I’m trying to analyze what kind of a fan I am, and by extension, what kind of fans we are.
We all have that one football club that we are synonymous with, one that we like to talk about and watch their games more than the others. For me it is this English side based in North London. I’ve already shed light in another forum about my relationship with Arsenal, but it doesn’t hurt go over it again. Well in 1998 at the age of 7, football really got into me. At the time, my uncle Pat, who was a professional footballer in the local league, gifted me with a football and some Liverpool jerseys. Up to now, I’m not sure whether he wanted me to become a Liverpool fan, because funny enough; he never talked about the team. I remember looking at the club’s crest and seeing the bird (which bird is it, anyway?) on it and well, it failed to appeal to me.
Yes, I would put on the jerseys and play in them, but that was just it; there wasn’t any more attachment.
Then one day I was just indoors, with nothing much to do. I switched on the TV and there was a match on. Since I didn’t know the identity of the teams playing, I decided to wait until the score prompt appeared on the screen. It was Manchester United v Arsenal. Actually I didn’t read the ‘Manchester’ part; I guess the name was too long. Basically I wanted to pick a side to support for the match. Now during those days I had this particular liking, addiction even, for bread. Where we lived there were two dominant brands of bread in the market, Sunblest and United. I really hated the taste of United, so when I saw the name ‘United’ on the screen, I inadvertently associated them to the bread. I desperately wanted Arsenal to beat them, just to feel good. And yes, Arsenal won the match 1-0. They had come good for me and for that I instantly loved them.
From then on I would go on to follow Arsenal intently, like nothing else matters. On average every 5 minutes I think about something Arsenal-related. It’s just an amazing feeling seating in front of the screen, watching Arsenal line out before a match and during the 90 minutes, the range of emotions I go through makes it just the best life experience. Yes, I’m more than just a fan. Admittedly, this ‘madness’ on more than one occasion has cost me relationships with my girlfriends, numerous hours of study and even more tellingly, unimaginable amounts of sleep. Almost on a daily basis I read a lot of Arsenal literature from, tweets, emails, blogs, newsletters to my personal favourite, Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. For now what I really want is for the club to win the Premier League trophy, nothing more. That day would undoubtedly be the best day of my life.
This is the club of my grandfather, my father, my uncles, my departed aunt and my mother. I was born into that heritage and growing up I’ve learned that it’s just a way of life that I’ve had to embrace without much of a choice.
K'ogalo, as we fondly refer to it, is based in Nairobi, but draws a huge chunk of its support from Western Kenya, where I have my roots. It’s a club with a rich tradition and the followers (we don’t say ‘fans’) take great pride in their team.
Nothing beats the feeling of being at a K'ogalo match with other fans and taking part in the singing of the club anthem before kick-off. The atmosphere usually is charged and electrifying to the point that it feels like it’s unreal. For a long time, the club has been starved of glory, but there’s renewed optimism that the glory days are coming back.
Thanks to the fact that my uncle played for Gor for quite a long time before retiring, I’m always going to have a special bond with the club.
This one surprises many people. Now generally when you follow the Serie A here, you’re expected to either lean towards AC Milan or Juventus, but then I’ve gone against the norm. Growing up I admired and adored the great Brazilian legend, Ronaldo. For me he was the model striker, the one who set the standard. When he moved to Inter from Barcelona, I was curious to know what he saw in Inter so I resolved to follow him. In so doing, I learned to love the club.
Reading through their history and rivalry with city rivals, AC Milan, I got to loathe the Rossoneri even more. This reached crescendo when in the 2002-03 Champions League tie between the two sides, after a 1-1 aggregate score line, Milan proceeded to the finals on the away goals rule. Now we share the San Siro or Giuseppe Meazza Stadium with Milan, so to lose on ‘away’ goals rule when we played both legs at home really hurt me to the core.
Other factors have also come into play to strengthen my love for Inter or the Nerazzurri. For instance, the period of dominance post-Calciopoli which saw the club win 5 straight Scudettos (Italian league titles) and the overall improvement in the team’s quality gave me much satisfaction. The signing of Kenya’s MacDonald Mariga from Parma gave me even more reason to be proud of Inter and of course, license to yap and blabber unending about the club when with my peers.
That said, the clincher has to be Jose Mourinho.
I’m a huge fan of the Special One and his ascent to the Inter hot-seat was a godsend, topped by the Treble of 2010, which in my books is up there with Arsenal’s Invincibles’ feat. That night at the Bernabeu in May, 2010 when Captain Javier Zanetti lifted the Champions League trophy remains one of my best football nights ever. Currently the team is in transition, but I’m optimistic manager Andrea Stramaccioni will be up to the task of making Inter an Italian and European force once more. And yes, I watch the English Premier League mostly, but I try not to miss any Inter game that doesn’t coincide with an Arsenal match.
Again growing up, I was exposed to many things German on TV through our national broadcaster, KBC. They aired German features, music shows and programs including news by Deutsche Welle TV (DW). In the course of this I got to know of Bayern Munich which is the biggest and most successful side in Germany.
Once in a while too, I would watch Bundesliga matches and just loved the way Bayern played under then coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. One of the best Champions League finals I’ve watched was between Bayern and Valencia in 2001. It had non-stop drama and tension and for me, by then, it was quite a new but exhilarating experience. The joy when Stefan Effenberg lifted the trophy that night, well, was just awesome.
Over the years I’ve endured ridicule from my friends for preaching the Bundesliga and Bayern Munich gospel. Well, currently the German league is the best managed in Europe and growing at an amazing rate. I feel very much a part of that too. Even though Borussia Dortmund are currently the force to reckon with, I know it’s just a matter of time before the Big Red Machine returns to the summit of German football. The hurt I experienced for a whole month when Bayern lost this year’s Champions League final to Chelsea at home just further showed that I love this club so much.
Once again Jose Mourinho was the main catalyst. I’m madly in love with Jose’s style of coaching and of course he always seems to win things. There’s also Cristiano Ronaldo. I heaved a sigh of relief when he left Manchester United for the Bernabeu, because I know he’s ridiculously good at what he does and Arsenal was often a victim of his brilliance unfortunately. So when he and Mourinho teamed up at Madrid, it was a match made in heaven that I just had to be a part of.
In retrospect though, what made me join the Madrid juggernaut was the apathy I feel for Barcelona. Barca’s ploy to rid Arsenal of our star players hasn't gone down well with me. The bloody capture of my idol Cesc Fabregas last year was the straw that broke my back. What better way to counter that than to support their sworn enemies? I’m relatively new in the Madrid fold, but this is a bond that is going to grow stronger with time.
That’s my story. It’s true you can love more than one club, just like you love your children. Of course inevitably you’re going to be attached more to one or some, but the satisfaction you get from supporting them is totally worth it. I don’t know what a perfect weekend is to you, but for me when Arsenal, Gor Mahia, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid win, that’s a perfect weekend that lays the platform for a perfect week.