Monday, January 08, 2007

The Curious Case Of The Peripatetic Football Supporters

A rare visit to watch a live football match yesterday brought back memories of the days - in the early 1960s - when my father and I turned out regularly to watch Halifax Town at the Shay. Football was a less professional affair then and stadiums were far removed from the complex entertainment complexes they are today. Back in the 60s, the pitch was ringed by a somewhat crumbling concrete wall. My father and I would take up position, leaning against the wall, at a point somewhere near the halfway line. Now my father and I were both deaf in our left ears. There was no link between these conditions: it was not hereditary or anything like that. It was just bad luck. If you are deaf in one ear, you soon learn to always position yourself so that the person you might be talking to is "in your good ear". Nowadays this is known as a "coping strategy", back then it was just something you did. So when we got to the fence, I would take up a position to the left of my father, so that he was next to my functioning ear. But - you will have worked it out by now - this meant that I was next to my fathers' non-functioning ear and therefore changes were necessary. For some reason there was always an unwritten and an unspoken rule that you would not just move in these circumstances. After all to make things better for one of us would automatically make things worse for the other. Such conflicts were always thoroughly veiled in our family. Subtlety was the order of the day. So after a few minutes my father would go and buy a match programme and then come back taking up a position to my left. 15 all. I would go and buy a bag of crisps and a bottle of pop and on my return take up a position of his left. 30 - 15. He would buy a pork pie. 30 all. I would go to the loo. 40 - 30. And so it would go on for the full ninety minutes. The result of all this was, of course, that we would slowly but surely move around the perimeter fence in a strange worm-like movement. Where there were other fans in the way they would move aside to let us pass. We had become a regular feature of matches, they knew us and our strange ways. We would normally finish up at the end of the match behind the goalposts. We were the peripatetic supporters.

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