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A Different League


By Matty LongPublished 5 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - January 2024

I am a Newcastle United fan, through and through. I’ve never supported any other team, but there was a period in my life when I didn’t support any team, to be honest. I think as a kid the older I got I just lost interest when I realised I wasn’t actually very good at football (or any team sports, to be honest), and this just led to me to move away from watching it as well. I didn’t get back into it until about 2011/12ish, so you can’t accuse me of being a fan who suddenly regained interest post-takeover (mind I do remember some of those Pardew days quite fondly). No, I just started going to games again and it made me realise what football is really all about, especially in this city of Newcastle, which I also identify with very strongly despite not being your stereotypical Geordie. On the day my grandad offered me a spare ticket to my first game for years, it took about 5 seconds to remember everything beautiful about this game.

The noise of the fans is an inspiration. It's impossible to fathom such a level of dedication and passion without witnessing it first-hand. And this is just the beginning. It gets better when the anthems play and the players come onto the pitch. And this was a cup tie. I mean, I can't stress how unimportant a game it was. The stadium was nowhere near full. We were playing Leeds who were never going to beat us at the time. But it didn't matter. I got it again. Football is so much more than just … football. It's the investment, the stories, the culture, the journeys, the colours, the music and the entire phenomenon that comes from supporting your team.

All the meaning that I had sought in life in as I had moved away from football, that I had looked for in art and literature, in language and in movies, suddenly found their biggest platform in St James’ Park.

Newcastle were not the team they are now back then, as we all know. It isn't a need to have a constantly-winning team that fuels my passion, it's the passion itself.

In Italian, they have a word for it, 'Tifo’ (which incidentally also refers to the displays in such countries, that Wor Flags have recently been doing a decent Geordie version of recently). We don't have such a word in English it would seem, though, but we do have the below quote from football manager Sir Bobby Robson:

I wish I could tell my younger self this. And I am thankful of my Grandad for re-opening my eyes to that change in my own life. He passed away long before I thought he would, and though I will certainly never be able to score a winning goal to honour him, I might be caught on TV at Wembley one day cheering the loudest when we win a cup.

But that’s just my story, one of millions of football fans in the UK. From all different backgrounds, abilities and walks of life. Like I say, what makes football isn’t the sport itself, or the owners, or the business of the sport, it’s the fans. And both the big clubs in the football-rich North East, Sunderland and Newcastle, have faced both financial success and hardship in recent years, but their fans have remained strong. And I wanted to explore that. So, in many ways this is a project that tries to get under the skin of the changing face of football, but it’s one that does so from the face of football that never changes, the fans. More to come.

Part 1Nonfiction

About the Creator

Matty Long

Jack of all trades, master of watching movies. Also particularly fond of pizza, country music, watching football, travelling, and tea.

X: @eardstapa_

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Comments (7)

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  • Esala Gunathilake15 days ago

    Congrats on your top story.

  • Hi we are featuring your excellent Top Story in our Community Adventure Thread in The Vocal Social Society on Facebook and would love for you to join us there

  • Rachel Deeming5 months ago

    There's nothing like the atmosphere of a football game. And I love Bobby Robson. My brother supports Ipswich and I remember the golden days when he was manager there. A wonderful man and a bit of a poet by the sounds of the quote.

  • Toby Heward5 months ago

    Great story. A lot of us can relate to those kinds of situations.

  • Excellent story, I am a Preston Nort End supporter but an adopted Novocastrian since 1990

  • In high school I was the geek, focused on speech/debate, orchestra, chorus & theatre (especially musical). The only sport where I was really good (American football), mom wouldn't allow me to play. People have often complained to me that academics & the arts get short shrift in our schools because there is so much focus on sports. I remind them that it's because sports serves a different, larger function within the community. Football games (American or actual), basketball, baseball, volleyball all draw the community together on a regular basis the happen in fairly large venues. You can't get that kind of crowd in a classroom (or janitor's closet--yes, I've been a judge for a round in just such a locale) for debate or speech events. Theater, concerts & art shows don't have the regularity, though the venue may be larger. Sports tends to get more money because it's not nearly so much about the students as it is the larger community & the bonds they continue to forge & strengthen. Not that that's what schools should be about, but it doesn't help to ignore the fact that large venue sporting events tend to bring a community together in ways other things can't (or at least more efficiently). Yes, I grieve the tendency of school boards to target the fine arts (music, theater & speech) first for budget cuts. But I also recognize the importance of team sports for creating stronger bonds within the wider community, just as you have so aptly described above.

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