• Vaishnavi Pandey

call yourself a football fan? | sports

Updated: Apr 2

'What’s your ultimate dream team?'

A question I'm sure every football fan has heard before and has gone on to eagerly list out a banging starting eleven. And like most, the first sets of players that stick into my head are usually male, mostly white and belong to a massive million-dollar club.


All and everything I knew about football as a 9-year-old Indian girl living in big city, Bombay came from my older brother and even older father (sorry pops). So if the sibling deemed Bayern Munich the best team in the world, the best team in the world they were. To summarise, that's how the remaining years went about until I reached the appropriate age to explore the World Wide Web myself. What I like to call, my age of enlightenment.


Most of that age of enlightenment went into looking up everything that was being spoken about to prove to people that I really was a true football fan. So, yes sorry, I don't have a great story of how I fell in love with football because my father was a hardcore fan who went to every single game in the season, collected scarves and framed them on our walls. Mine was a little bit more unconventional. It mostly consisted of pretending I was asleep at 11:00pm but really was waiting till it got to midnight so I could sneak into the TV room and watch that sick final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Yes, we both know how it ends. No need to rub it in.


'You support Bayern Munich? Right, name five players then. And no, Neur, Lahm, Götze, Robben or Kroos don't count because they're famous.'


photographed by Viktoria Bielawa


Another classic. The proper test to be then regarded as a 'true' football fan and only applicable to girls of course. Yet the real question to be addressed here is, why did I, a girl born and raised in Bombay find my way towards supporting Bavaria's prized possession, Bayern Munich? Most importantly, how did I go about doing this?


Here comes the breakdown. Let's take the UK as an example.


You've got a pretty simple choice here. You get to choose between status or hometown pride.


1. You can be part of the big boy leagues and bask in glory more than once

2. You support the local side and grow accustomed to the modest ambitions of a mid-table Premier League finish

3. Or really, you just witness some rough lower league football


Pick the first option, and you're branded as a glory supporter for the rest of your life. Not so classy but not so uncommon. Dare I say, you are fortunate enough to be invariably moulded into one club at a young age. For the rest of us, quite rudely, it's been a different process.


You know the saying 'football is a universal language?' The Premier League is the rite of passage. 25 years ago, football dominated British newspapers with the sports section laid out on the front page more commonly than the news. Most times, not even sports. Just football.


25 years later, what's changed?


It's media coverage. It's because no matter what goes on, the Premier League still stands for pure entertainment. It may be incredibly overhyped, overly stated and most probably corrupt, but nothing beats it. The pitch, the crowd, and its capacity – all of it just makes it so much easier to walk over other rival European leagues. The Premier League was the rest of the world's one-way ticket into this alternative universe that is football. And for that, we thank you, Britain.


Over time, what made it better was the import of talented players from various foreign nations. Might I say, what a delight it has been since then. We've had the honour of obsessing over some real beauties over time some notable ones being Henry, Drogba, Van Der Sar, Torres, Tevez, Silva and my guy Ballack.


Some would say our journey towards supporting a club is unorthodox and mostly just not right, but how else did you expect us to get here? It wasn't uncommon to know about one player and then go about supporting that team, in fact, that was sort of the only way to learn about the game and be part of all the commotion.


For you, it was the journey from the tubes chanting and marching on collectively towards the stadium, for us it was a little laptop set up in the living room. For you, it was the chance to be able to get your jerseys signed, for us it was waiting for our Dads to return from a business trip so that they could cop us some sick footy shit. Now, this isn't a cry for sympathy. Our journeys may be very different from each other, but we still gather around for the same thing. And it is that we really just fucking enjoy seeing some lads and gals kick a ball about.




Credits

photography. Viktoria Bielawa

designer. Hayley Elliott

model. Elyse Jones

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