I am twenty-two, studying at uni down south.
One day when entering the main campus reception I am met by a peculiar site.
There are a large group of students changing into a set of red shirts they’ve just pulled from a Sports Direct bag.
That night Liverpool would face off v Chelsea in the champions league.
This was the game of the famous ghost goal?
Remember that one?
Don’t worry about it.
At the time I was half expecting to hear the prototypical Scouse accent.
Instead the tones of Southern England were immediately palpable.
It was obvious to all, that these Liverpool diehards had never set foot in Merseyside never mind Anfield.
They laughed amongst themselves as one of the group loudly declared ‘’I bought the Pool shirts as the Chelsea ones were a tenner more’’.
I was astounded.
Recently whilst taking in a live game, I remembered those boys.
It got me thinking about what makes a ‘’real’’ football fan.
Is there a certain criteria you need to fulfill?
Or can one follow whoever they like without having to apologize for it?
When it comes to supporting a football club, ”I’m old School Janice” (sorry for the Sopranos quote. I just had to squeeze that in there).
I am a great believer in following your local team.
Or as close to as possible.
If you’re Irish or have Irish roots and you can’t stomach the prospect of following Donegal then you’re in luck.
You can get away with supporting Liverpool or Celtic.
No one is going to judge you.
Those clubs were built by Irish immigrants.
I can consider myself a wee bit fortunate.
I was born and raised in Glasgow.
I had the pick of four professional clubs.
I plucked for Celtic.
As Mark Renton once said ”It’s easy tae be philosophical when some other cunt’s got shite fir blood.”
Perhaps it was easy for me to start following Celtic.
They are a club who have won more than a few trophies.
Hear me out though.
This was the early 1990s.
Rangers backed by the hubristic, David Murray were dominating the Scottish game.
They had won nine league titles on the bounce with a swagger and conviction that looked like it would never end.
Celtic were perennial runners up.
I guess we all love a no hoper.
It was more than their underdog status that drew me to the club though.
The Hoops are an inclusive club.
That sounds like some liberal whitewashed nonsense but it’s true.
Growing up of mixed decent in Scotland wasn’t that easy.
There weren’t many of us around in those days.
Casual & explicit racism was a common occurrence.
If I’d been given a pound for every time someone told me I didn’t look Scottish I would be minted by now.
Pals of mine who played for Rangers boys club were regularly racially abused at games & training sessions.
Sometimes by their own team mates & coaches.
Another black friend attended Ibrox when Rangers were famously mauled 4-1 by Ajax.
When the fourth Ajax goal went in a couple of Ger supporters turned to my friend and told him it was his fault.
And that he was a black bastard.
This helped to make up my mind.
Now, I am not claiming Celtic are lily white.
No one who grew up in that era will ever forget what happened to Mark Walters.
However Rangers & Ibrox just didn’t seem a right fit for me.
I plucked for Celtic and have stuck by them ever since.
Without sounding like a condescending arsehole, I think the fact I am Glasgow born gives me a right to follow Celtic.
Perhaps if I had been born ten years later, I would now be pretending to support Manchester City or Barcelona.
The Scottish Premier League does not have the appeal it once had.
I get that.
I don’t get being a fan of a team I have no links with.
Most of the kids in Scotland nowadays follow an EPL or La Liga side.
That bothers me more than perhaps it probably should.
Football has been a great obsession of mine for most of my life.
Yet, in the past year something strange has happened.
I’ve become slightly disillusioned by the sport.
A lot of that is down to The English Premier League and the obscene amount of money that filters through that particular competition.
The transformation of football as a true working class sport to the oligarch’s playground it has become is particularly vexatious.
The game, (Celtic and Scottish football a part) is just not that interesting to me these days.
There are only so many times you can watch a derby that means not very much because Sky have spent the last week talking it up.
I have even given the champion’s league a wide berth this season.
The only match outside of Celtic I have seen in Europe this year was Liverpool’s recent pumping of Roma.
It was an exhilarating match but it meant very little to me.
When I first arrived in Hungary there was a time when I would watch four games a day on Saturday.
I don’t make time for it.
Budapest is an interesting place when it comes to football and it brings me back to my derision for those I consider to be what I will call football tourists.
If there is such a thing as a genuine football supporter for me they have to tick a few more boxes.
You should have at least some kind of connection to your club.
Be that familial or locality.
Someone proclaiming to be a Manchester City fan from London who has no real links to The Citizens or Manchester isn’t really a proper supporter in my opinion.
London has countless clubs who they could get behind.
I’d have much more respect for that southern City fan if he was following Charlton Athletic.
Years ago, I remember comforting (mocking) an England fan in Champs after Croatia had knocked his team out of the World Cup.
To my horror this England supporter turned out to be Hungarian.
He droned on about how Steve McLaren needed to be sacked.
His own country were playing at the same time.
I couldn’t work out why he would be following another team.
His answer was stock book.
‘’Hungary aren’t very good’’.
It’s the same argument I hear time & time again.
Hungarian football is rotten.
I can’t say I have seen enough of it to know.
Instead of watching Fradi or Újpest FC these guys pull on the hollowed shirts of Liverpool or Manchester United and head to their nearest pub instead of the local stadium on match day.
I am sorry.
I am not having that.
If Celtic lose I am distraught for days on end, willing the next game to quickly materialize.
I would argue a football tourist doesn’t have the same emotional attachment to their team.
They get a nice day out at the pub if they win or lose.
They won’t lose much sleep over it either way.
Maybe I just take Celtic too seriously?
I spend hours on Celtic forums every day.
Chewing the fat with other liked minded supporters.
Still that doesn’t stop my heart from sinking whenever I see someone with no association to a club strutting around in the latest Epl, Barcelona, Munich or Madrid jersey.
These people aren’t going to stick around in the hard times.
A defeat to them is a mild nuisance.
Not the earth shattering event it should be.
They have an easy football life where trophies are plentiful and barren years don’t exist.
The worst supporter in these groups are the guys who have two teams.
That just isn’t possible.
You can look out for another teams results but devoting yourself to one club is time consuming as it is.
The guy who follows for example Real Madrid and Manchester United can’t really be taken seriously.
Especially if they aren’t from either of those places.
Or at the least the same bloody country.
Moreover, do not get me started on someone changing teams.
I knew a Thistle fan who miraculously became a Rangers ultra overnight. That was in 1994.
I have never spoken to them since.
My best mate, Mikey follows the latest Scottish football sensation no matter where the sensation plays. His latest conquest is Liverpool full back, Andy Robertson. He dutifully searches for live streams of Reds game just to catch a glimpse of Robbo. He will sing You’ll Never Walk alone or The Fields of Anfield Road just to wind me up.
That doesn’t bother me. I know he’s taking the piss.
However there are some people out there who claim they are die hard supporters of a club because their fellow countryman plays there.
I am sorry but that’s a complete nonsense. You are following a player not a club. When said player moves on so will you.
Now I am going to sound like a bit of a hypocrite here but the issue of glory hunting may get tricky when it comes to kids.
If I have children it is very, very likely that they will be born in Budapest.
When I force them to follow the mighty hoops what then do they become?
Are they the fabled glory hunters that I hold with such disdain?
Or are they genuine Celtic fans?
I’d go for the latter.
I would bring them up in the Celtic tradition.
They would know their history.
Remember what I said before about familial ties?
That might not wash with all of you.
There may be an even more hardcore version of myself out there who would happily consign my fake fucking Celtic supporting kids to the glory hunting dustbin. I salute you.
To all the football tourists & gloryhunters.
Wherever you are.
I am not trying to be deliberately bellicose.
I am sure you’ve got your reasons.
You might be waking up at 4am in California to cheer on your beloved PSG.
You might be running around Maryhill in a pink Real Madrid away shirt.
Who am I to tell you that you’re in the wrong?
Follow whoever you like.
Just don’t expect me to believe you.