Being a Fan About More Than Winning Championships

Why can’t people support smaller clubs abroad?

I don’t want anyone to be annoyed by this article. Don’t be annoyed. But why does everyone who watches any football automatically choose a team from the top six of the Premier League or, less so, the top four in Italy, Bayern Munich/Borussia Dortmund or Barca/Madrid. I understand that they get to compete for the title at home and abroad. I understand that they make bigger signings and have more money, larger crowds, and more merchandising power across the globe. But don’t you ever get bored asking someone “who do you support?” and hearing the same 5 teams over and over again?

I could rant on about this for ages until the little voice in my head becomes hoarse so can I just focus on the question that bugs me more than anything, how is supporting Arsenal meant to be hipster? I have heard both sides of the argument: people who support Arsenal and people questioning why those people support Arsenal. It seems to come back to the same thing: Arsenal is a hipster team. But they aren’t. What is hipster about them? Just because they haven’t won anything since 2005 does not make them hipster. That they may play like a less effective Barcelona does not make them hipster; both Fulham and Swansea play passing football too. They have a stadium that can fit 60,000 people so plainly that they have a substantial fan base in London; and they can get a match day crowd larger than Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham or Chelsea.

So are they more hipster teams to support because fewer people attend their matches? Why are Arsenal and only Arsenal considered to be hipster? If you want a team that is hipster and will play in the Premier League for the foreseeable future there are plenty of teams to choose between: Everton have never been relegated, Aston Villa are one of the oldest clubs in the country and Fulham have the oldest ground in the league. There are other teams that have rich histories but these three have been in the top division for at least the past 12 years–surely, that provides you with enough security to support them.

One great advantage of supporting a smaller club is that you set your sights much lower for the season and you begin to enjoy the smaller things in football. So many football followers spend their time complaining that Arsenal could only draw with a team or win 1-0 against QPR. They fear that Arsenal won’t qualify for the Champions League directly and will have to go through qualification or that they will never win a trophy until there is a management change.

But surely those are smaller issues. As a Fulham fan I focus more on the good points of the season than the bad. We may have been knocked out of the League Cup in the second round by Sheffield last Wednesday, but that isn’t a huge worry. The main focus is to get into the top half of the table and to play nice attacking football, two things that are possible this season. Though Fulham haven’t played in many finals (two in total: FA Cup final 1975 and the Europa League Final 2010), this makes the average Fulham supporter really appreciate any cup run or venture into Europe. Rather than being spoiled by constant European football, it is something to be treasured and enjoyed while it lasts.  When you don’t have very much, you begin to appreciate what you have even more. Plus, we now have Dimitar Berbatov so life is very good, he may be lazy but he is forever forgiven at Fulham because he is “our precious”.

Supporting a team should be about identifying with it either through their history, location or style of play. Just because they win a lot of trophies is not a reason to support them.  That is simply jumping on the bandwagon rather than partaking in the building of the wagon in the first place. The amount of Manchester City fans that have emerged in the past two or three years is phenomenal. They could just be emerging into the light from the darkness of their shame and lost hopes or they could be attracted to the rising of the blue moon. Either way, there are a lot more City supporters since the money started flowing out of the coffers.

So instead of being magpies, look for a team that attracts you for other reasons than its shiny. For a college that believes in diversity, there is a shocking lack of diversity in the teams that are supported. I don’t care who you support (as long as you give me a good answer that involves historical facts and statistics), but I would like to see more teams represented by the student body. Let’s have a Southampton supporters group or a Stoke section of the school. Just please, look at teams other than the ones that flash money in your faces in exchange for your support.

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