Loyalty is What Sets The Fan Apart from The Player

5 09 2010

He may have cheated on Abby but he belongs to us

Football/soccer (depending on which side of the pond you are) is a game that arouses deep passion and fierce loyalty. For fans.

Whilst there is no doubt that some players are proud to pull on the shirt of a particular team, there are others that see it as nothing more than a job -Benoit Assette-Ekotu who plays left-back for my beloved Spurs admitted as much in a recent interview.

But irrespective of who wears the shirt of your favorite team, fans will continue to support their club through thick and thin. The passion and devotion to the cause can even ensure that certain players of other clubs can become synomous with that team and will forever be associated with periods of deep despair.

Let me give you an example.

Thierry Henry is a French footballer of not inconsiderable talent. He is one of the best strikers in the world, has won numerous honors and would be a fine addition to any squad.

Except he played for Arsenal. It doesn’t matter that he then played for Barcelona; he will always be associated with the team from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road.

I lost count of the amount of goals he scored against Spurs. He was the one player that I always hoped would be injured when the time came for our game against the Gooners.

Then he was transferred to Barca, I breathed a sign of relief and imagined that we would not have to face him again.

Barcelona did not work as well for Thierry as he hoped and when, approaching the twilight of his career, the New York Red Bulls offered him the chance to have a less-than-strenuous workout in MLS every week he jumped at the chance to earn some dollars.

He arrived in New York just in time to play in the Barclays Football Challenge to celebrate the opening of the new Red Bull stadium which had been built in New Jersey and which would be the home of his new club. Taking part in the tournament would be NYRB, Sporting Lisbon, Manchester City and (you guessed it) Tottenham Hotspur.

Henry’s first game for NYRB? Against us. Time it took to score? 24 minutes.

Spurs won this game 2-1 despite the inevitable Henry goal

I didn’t attend that game but was in New Jersey for Spurs’ second game against Sporting Lisbon. Because I had bought tickets through the NYRB website, I was then contacted by their sales/marketing department who wanted to know what I thought of the facilities and would I consider becoming a member. The conversation went along these lines:

NYRB Hi, this is Jeremy from the New York Red Bulls.

LV (guardedly) Hello.

NYRB As you attended a game recently at Red Bull Stadium, I wondered what you thought of the stadium and the atmosphere.

LV Stadium is nice, reminds me of Pride Park (Derby, built in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by car-parking) and when it’s full I imagine that it will be a good place to watch soccer. I know that we enjoyed being there as Spurs fans.

NYRB That’s great to know, now as a privileged customer, we can offer you membership to New York Red Bulls at a discounted amount which will…

LV (interrupting) I’m sorry, I don’t want to become a NYRB member.

NYRB …..allow you to buy match day packages for 50% of the regular season price. What this entitles you to also is VIP parking on match days and complementary concessions such as hotdogs and beer. Is this something that you would be interested in?

LV No.

NYRB I am sorry to hear that, can I ask why?

LV Two very good reasons. Firstly, I live near Boston and if I am going to spend money on watching a MLS team, it will be New England Revolution. At Foxborough.

NYRB We play the Revolution in October, we have a special package available for fans that will allow…..

LV Secondly you have just signed Thierry Henry.

NYRB …you and your family to purchase 4 tickets for only $100. Would you be interested in purchasing tickets for that game?

LV (sighing) You weren’t listening were you.

NYRB I’m sorry?

LV I do not want to pay money to travel to New York to watch Thierry Henry.

NYRB But he is a great player. One of the best in the world. And he scored on his debut.

LV I am well aware of that. I also know that he is a great player, but he used to play for Arsenal and has caused me misery on many occasions. So thank you for your phone call but you may have better luck with someone who knows nothing about soccer.

NYRB (silent for 10 seconds) …so can we add you to our mailing list for future promotions and special offers?

LV (press End Call on phone).

Ok, it was not Jeremy’s fault that he managed to get through to someone as pedantic and blinkered as myself. He was just trying to sell the New York Red Bulls as a concept, as something for a football fan in the US to get behind and claim some ownership of.

The problem is that my allegiances are so set in stone, that even attempting to sway me from the path of righteousness is a wasted opportunity. I support Spurs, England, Barnet F.C (birthplace) and anyone who plays Arsenal (and since the Russian investment in West London, Chelsea).

I own a New England Revolution shirt but (as yet) haven’t managed to drag myself down to Foxborough for anything other than the New England Patriots and AC/DC – not on the same bill obviously!

Despite living in the USA, my loyalty is to a team in white who play in N17. And it will never change.

I am Spurs for life. Even criminals get the chance for parole.

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