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  • Writer's pictureRichard Tester

From Far And Wide | Fan Experiences

Supporting a team other than your local is considered a cardinal sin to many. It goes against the foundations upon which football came about. Originally, mill towns across the north played for local pride, battling it out against the neighbours a matter of miles away. And from this local rivalry the concept of a ‘Derby’ emerged.

As the game's popularity grew, and the population became more mobile and transient, so did fan culture. Throw in the rise of television and then the world wide web and you've got a receipt for cross-fan contamination.

Boarders no longer exist in the global game and the digital age has made following a team from Australia to Aberdeen fairly straight forward. Recent research claims that Man Utd have over a billion fans worldwide, despite the cities population being only half a million. The ever-increasing coverage of games on TV means you barely have to lift a finger (the remote aside). It's just all too easy.

Fans will rightly question that there's a difference between a fan and a follower. The debate rages on online, with match-attending supporters quick to claim that only by physically attending games you claim to be a true supporter, and a local one at that. To some degree I get it, but I think as a sport we've moved past that. Distance, work, family and, of course, finances, might make it hard to attend in person, but as long you actively follow them, and make the effort where possible, then you're fine in my book.

As someone who supports their local side (even if they have since moved six miles west to effectively a different town), I also don't hide the fact I'm a supporter of a large club. To add an extra layer to this, they're not even in this country. Donning the strips lent to them from the famous Notts Country, Juventus is my other team. 

Fascinated with Italian Serie A as a kid, the next step was to pick a team. With a Juventus supporting Italian uncle on side, a yearly supply of fake Juve tops from the local mercato in Florence in the draw, and seeing highlights of Del Piero eating defenders for breakfast on Channel Four's Football Italia, I was sold.

Scudetto celebrations against Cagliari in 2013. Edgar Davids also played for Barnet oddly enough.

Growing up in North London, I was certainly the odd one out. Everyone was mainly an Arsenal or Spurs fan. I didn't mind that, I liked being different. There was a lot of banter and I'm still reminded of Arsenal's quarter final victory over Juve in 2006 by mates to this day. 

I got plenty of stick and bewildered looks when explaining my love for the bianconeri but when you find the right club you just know it. Accusations of glory hunting arose, but I was just as engaged with the club in the post-Calciopoli years finishing 7th in Serie A and losing to blooming Catania than I am now in the mainstream pop Ronaldo era. 

Following the team was hard initially with Channel 4, Channel 5 and even Bravo passing on the TV rights mantelpiece. Juve's game weren't always shown so it was really the luck of the draw. Then through other means (Premier Sports & Eleven Sports), it became child's play.

I aim to see the side in the flesh once a year, and have mostly stuck to it. I've been fortunate enough to watch them in Sydney, London, Florence and of course in Turin on a couple of occasions. It's a beautiful and criminally underrated city that I always enjoy returning to. With the majority of Juve's fan base being from outside Turin, you don't feel like an outsider on match days but rather one of many in the same boat. 

On my last visit I met up with the man behind AroundTurin, a social media account for Juve's global community boasting millions of followers. From Scandinavians to Greeks, English to of course a few Italians, there was a vibrant mix of fans mingling together enjoying a beer on a cold but sunny day out (we beat Fiorentina 3-0 if anyone is asking).

Pre-match meet up outside the Allianz Stadium.

Knowing I'm not the only one to support a club from afar, I turned to some good friends who are in a similar position to me to get their experience. So I sent out a few messages, made a few calls and pestered them for photos. I'm proud to share with you their first-hand accounts. I'll now hand over the baton...

Ash | Man Utd fan from North London

Ash with his daughter on her first trip to Old Trafford. The first of many to come.

How did you come about supporting team Man Utd?

My first memories of watching football was with my dad and he's a Liverpool supporter, I watched a lot of games and I enjoyed football but just didn’t feel the love for Liverpool and then one man changed everything...Eric...Cantona! I loved watching him his arrogance, skill, enjoyment for the game and more! So the more I watched him the more I fell in love with Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson and then the class of 92 and so on and so on ... but Cantona is where it all started. (Sorry dad!)

Why didn’t you support your local team?

For me it’s not about where the team is, it’s who I fell in love with and that was Manchester United for me, distance isn’t an issue I will travel to see my team.

How best do you support them?

I was a season ticket holder for three seasons a few years back and through that, I've made some very good friends to join me on my travels up north. I would say at least every of couple months I go to Old Trafford and make local games in London too, not to mention  I never miss a game on TV.

Stadium tour at the theatre of dreams

Has your relationship with them changed over the years?

Going digital has definitely provided more access which I like and dislike. Certain things should definitely be kept in the dressing room where as other things such as back-end of transfers and more interaction with players is great.

Do you ever get criticised for supporting team?

Of course but that’s only because they're bitter of our success! I support Manchester United and nothing someone says will change that. And let's be fair, who can doesn’t get criticised in some sort of way for supporting their team? It's all part of the banter!

Gianluca | AC Milan fan from South London

Giancluca forcing his girlfriend to watch Milan, the poor lass!

How did you come about supporting Milan?

The Italian national team always had a special place in my heart from such a young age, but club football quite hadn’t gripped me as much as watching the Azzurri. I was more interested in scoring goals of my own on a freezing cold Sunday morning, than celebrating those of others on the television.

My love for goals could only be matched by my favourite player’s. Known to some as “Super Pippo”, Filippo Inzaghi didn’t feature in the Euro 2000 final against France, but his career path was somehow influenced by the protagonist of that heart-breaking night in Rotterdam. A day before that game, David Trezeguet officially signed for Juventus from Monaco, leading to Inzaghi’s transfer to Milan the following summer. My idol now playing for my Dad’s childhood team, exactly a year after Trezeguet’s golden goal in extra-time. Perhaps it was a sign?

On one hand, you could say David Trezeguet single-handedly ruined the early days of my football experience. But I’m a glass half-full kind of guy and instead, I choose to look at the Frenchman’s move to the Bianconeri as the moment that led to me to the team that helped me fall in love with the sport, even without a ball between my feet. Thanks David.

Why didn’t you support your local team?

As a young kid growing up in an Italian household, James Richardson clutching a pink Gazzetta Dello Sport newspaper was a regular sight on our living room TV. Watching the likes of Christian Vieri, Ronaldo (the real one), and Paolo Maldini, among many others, most definitely trumped the next-best alternative going.

I always had a soft spot for Chelsea though, and their strong Italian contingent was one of the key reasons they were the first team I went to see play live. The opponent however was Lazio, and purely based on that fact alone, you could say that even as a nine-year-old kid, I never strayed too far away from calcio.

Inside the iconic San Siro

How best do you support them?

I try my best to fly out to Milan at least once a season, but with a little more cash under my belt in recent times, I’ve managed to go and support them around two to three times a year. After eleven attempts, I’m yet to see them win a game in front of my very eyes.

However, I’ll go as far to say that a Milan win from the comfort of my living room sofa doesn’t come remotely close to any of the numerous 1-1 results I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing under the San Siro floodlights – I’ve even built a fully-floodlit scale model of the stadium for my living room, in an effort to fill the void when I can’t be there in person…

Has your relationship with them changed over the years?

Milan haven’t seen much success since they lifted the Scudetto in 2011, but my relationship with them hasn’t changed at all.

I still find myself sat in my pants on a Sunday morning tuning into the early kick-off, fingers crossed that the boys in red and black can lift my mood for what little weekend I have left to enjoy, before another long week at work.

Do you ever get criticised for supporting team Milan? If so, what’s your response.

After eight successive failed attempts at having the better of our cross-city rivals, I’d say I was fortunate enough to live in a country where I’m able to avoid the seemingly-inevitable post-match banter that comes with supporting this team. In this digital age, however, you’re only ever 280 characters away from a gloating nerazzurri fan.

Charlie | Liverpool fan from Plymouth

It's red, it'll do!

How did you come about supporting Liverpool?

I was a relative late comer to football in all honesty and my earliest memories of actually sitting down and watching a match was during the 1998 World Cup in France. My dad had tried a couple of times during that tournament to get me to watch a couple of games but I wasn’t interested. That was until the second round match between England and Argentina. As an impressionable 9 year old I couldn’t help but be amazed by THAT Michael Owen goal. It’s a cliché but I just wanted to be him. I went to the hairdressers and asked for my hair cut to be like Michael Owen, I booted a ball around in the garden shouting Michael Owen’s name. I was in love…but I still wasn’t THAT interested in football. It was another couple of years before I found out that Owen played for Liverpool and then that was pretty much that – I was a Liverpool fan

Why didn’t you support your local team? 

Well – I do! Long before I was ever ‘properly’ interested in football, as mentioned above my dad did try a couple of times to see whether I would have an interest in football. With Plymouth Argyle being my closest team he took me a long to Home Park to watch them play and I did love it! I suppose when I was younger the only football I watched regularly would have been on television and the only matches or highlights of matches I could see would be from the Premier League. But as time went on I started to get more of an interest in Plymouth Argyle and would end up going to matches with mates. I follow Argyle far more vehemently than I do Liverpool nowadays!

A young Charlie donning Liverpool's away kit

How best do you support them? 

It would have to be television or Twitter to be honest. Even though my love or support of Liverpool has waned over the years I do still look out for their results and do get that sense of joy when they win. Unfortunately I don’t get to watch as much LIVE top flight football as a lot of other people, I am a sports journalist in the South West of England and provide commentary for BBC Radio Devon. Therefore watching live 3pm matches is limited as I am always at one…sounds weird I know but I’m so caught up and invested in the match I am covering I cant really follow any other matches. So Twitter and online news is the best way for me to keep up to date with Liverpool results.

Has your relationship with them changed over the years? 

Yes! Definitely. As I have become more emotionally involved with my hometown club (Plymouth Argyle) my love, passion and support for Liverpool has slackened off quite a lot. I cant really say why, other than the fact I prefer Argyle – I watch them more often and have more of a tie with them through the hours and hours of support I have given them. 

Do you ever get criticised for supporting team X? If so, what’s your response.

No not really. At school when growing up no one I knew supported their local club, it was always Liverpool Man Utd or Arsenal and then as I progressed into secondary school I started following Argyle more and Liverpool less…so the criticism wasn’t there. Written by Richard Tester with contributions from Ash, Gianluca and Charlie. Thank you for your support. Follow The Football Trimmings on Twitter and Instagram for more content


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