Chelsea play Barcelona in the Champions League semi final tonight, and I, for one, will be cheering on the Spanish side.
I think that generally as a football fan you have dislikes of other teams. As a season ticket holder at West Ham ten years ago, I found that the more I watched other teams, the more cheating I saw, the more bad sportsmanship I witnessed and the more I grew to dislike different teams.
Even now it continues. Stoke City. And Hull. Two teams that play horrible defensive football. At the weekend Stoke lost to West Ham, and their entire gameplan seemed to be to try and get a throw in near our box so that they could launch the ball in with a long throw. It’s crap to watch and would make me resentful of paying so much for a ticket, especially if I had to watch that every week.
Maybe I’ve been spoilt. As a West Ham fan I’ve grown up watching a certain style of play. A passing game, played the right way and good to watch. If Stoke and Hull go down there’s plenty of people that won’t miss them, and their style of play will be better suited to the shit kicking league that is the Coca Cola. West Brom, however, are a team that play decent football and so see them relegated will be a crying shame.
Mind you, I’m also aware that teams will do anything they can to stay up, and if that means crap football, then that’s what they’ll do. Not that playing pretty football means success, as my own team shows.
Before I started disliking pretty much all other teams, my dislike of teams was limited to people that i knew.
As a West Ham fan, I was never going to escape the automatic dislike of Millwall and Tottenham that the club’s supporters have had for years, so despite my two best friends at school supporting those two teams, I never had sympathy when they lost as I did when, say QPR - who another friend supported - got spanked.
When I started work as an apprentice locksmith in London Bridge, my manager was a Millwall fan. We got on ok, but seeing as just about everyone in the company supported them, I took my fair share of stick. Despite being only seventeen and fairly shy, I was always fairly quick thinking, and generally the back and form banter was good fun.
The manager of our Pall Mall branch was a guy called Jason. To put it bluntly the guy was a pillock. Tall and built like a stick insect, he was a bully. In his mid twenties at the time, he was a coke head and exhibited all of the classic signs: loud, obnoxious and overly confident. He was the Alpha Male at Pall Mall and made life Hell for the apprentice working there.
Ross was the one that received all the stick. Not just verbal banter, or psychological games (although sending a Gillette razor gift pack to someone like Ross, who had alopecia still strikes me as genius in fairness), but physical beatings.
If the tea wasn’t made the right way, Ross got a punch on the arm. Not a light playful punch, but one delivered with enough force to numb the arm. If Ross dared to flinch, he got another.
You often hear about beatings in the army, especially as some kind of right of passage. In my view it’s not right, but if it’s expected, a one off and it happens to everyone, I could understand. In fact, I could probably have it happen to me and chalk it up as just one of those things, but the consistent abuse that Ross went through was obscene.
“Ross, I want to go surfing!” Jason would shout. Ross, in front of everyone, would lay face down on the floor and Jason would jump (literally jump) on his back, stick his arms out to the side and start singing along to the theme tune to Hawaii 5 0. Fuck knows how Ross put up with it.
The couple of occassions that Jason tried shit with me he was told in no uncertain terms to go fuck himself. I had no problem doing the shit jobs around the place - I expected that as an apprentice - but if he didn’t like his tea, he could make his own fucking cup, and if he really insisted on sending me back up two flights of stairs to add a quarter spoonful of sugar, he’d get pack a sweeter cup of tea that was topped up with piss. The only time I ever remember it coming to blows between us I gave as good as I got. Although never the most confident in a fight, I realised that by taking a punch and not giving one back, I’d leave myself open to it in the future, and even though giving a punch back led to an even exchange of blows and the pair of up being broken up, it was definitely the right thing to do.
Yet strangely Jason seemed to be well liked by almost everyone, including Ross and Mark, the other apprentice. In fact, when Jason got married, I was the only colleague not invited to the wedding (which suited me, but was indicative of our relationship)
Jason was also a staunch Chelsea fan, and his general attitude to me led to my dislike of the West London club. To this day, it’s still there, and although there are now other (footballing) reasons for my dislike, it stems back to Jason being a grade A prick.