There has been quite a brouhaha about some Liverpool fans leaving Anfield early last Sunday as their team were a goal down in the dying minutes. The manager himself stated in the post-match press conference that it made him ‘feel alone’. Liverpool Football Club, being the bastion of decency and standards that it is (if you’re not a Liverpool fan, feel free to laugh or vomit here. You’ll be wrong, but I’m an equal opportunities blogger), expects more from its ‘fans’. The question is, should they?
As a devout Liverpool fan who was born and raised as a Roman Catholic (no, that’s not the wrong way around), I see many similarities between attending Anfield and attending mass. As a child, you are undoubtedly ‘brought’ to each. You don’t choose to attend; your parents choose to indoctrinate you into the ‘faith’. Start them young and keep them for life is the widespread belief among parents. I should know, I’ve been brainwashing my children about Liverpool from the day they were born. Catholicism? Not so much.
Both venues are of course a place of worship. They can be a place that can lift your spirits and make you feel alive. I’d compare a 5-0 home romp for Liverpool over a close rival to the marriage of good friends or the christening of a young family member. Conversely, both can be horribly depressing venues that eat at your soul, your morale and your hope for the future.
For the most part however, attending each venue is a mostly humdrum, standard affair. Not every match brings ecstasy or despair – most are just standard league games with not very much at stake. The same goes for mass – not every event in a Church is a wedding or a funeral, they are mostly just your weekly service. The main ‘players’ at each venue can also have an effect on you; That dreary and/or cranky priest (for the non-Catholics reading this, not all priests are like they appear to be in Fr. Ted, believe me) can make each weekly service feel like torture and it can drag on interminably as a result. Liverpool fans who attended regularly during the ‘Hodgson Era’ *shudder* will probably sympathise. It’s dull, it’s depressing, and it goes on forever and ever and ever and…you get my point. However, should your local parish priest have a penchant for public speaking, then mass on a Sunday can be the highlight of the week. A rousing, amusing sermon with a decent point to it can create a harmony among the worshippers, and will often lead to spontaneous applause. Those devoted Liverpool fans attending Anfield during the early days of the Klopp reign appear to be excited, as the new man brings renewed optimism and fervour. Herr Klopp is like the leader of the Gospel Choir, causing us all to rejoice and shout ‘Halleluia!’ Or ‘Coutinho!’, to be more precise.
I believe one of the reasons that ‘leaving early’ has become such a focus recently (and more noticeable) is down to the design of modern stadia. Back in the days of terracing, with thousands of people all huddled together, the option of leaving early was quite simply removed. If you wanted to leave the Kop early back in those days, you had to start leaving before you had arrived. There was no way you’d make your way through the heaving masses once everyone was packed in. That’s why the Kop faithful had to ‘improvise’ on simple things such as bathroom breaks. If you noticed the guy behind you had rolled up his programme and lowered it below waist height, a quick tug behind would probably confirm your suspicions. Mind you, if you were wrong, it would also lead to a smack on the back of the head…or a date that night.
You had similar issues when going to mass as a youngster. The church was normally jammed, with standing room only at the back, and to escape before receiving communion (this was the most common time that escapees would try to make a break for it – you’d be first to the shops, first home, and first to the favourite spot on the couch for the Sunday snooze) would mean walking down the aisle in full view of everyone and fighting your way past those standing at the back before escaping to the outside world. This was very much frowned upon, and in this we may have a solution to this modern football issue – should those who choose to leave a match early be exposed to the same disapproval? A loud grumble, a few hundred heads shaking in disapproval, and a feeling of having to ‘run the gauntlet’ of this disapproval may well make a few think twice before evacuating their seats.
This also brings me to another suggestion – clubs could introduce a ‘leave early’ option to
customers, sorry, fans, attending their games. If you are one of ‘them’, you can state so when purchasing tickets, and you can be seated right at the back of the main stands, so when you do choose to feck off early, nobody will bloody notice. Yet being seated there will tell everyone what kind of human being you really are. Ponder on that for a moment: An ‘Early Leavers’ row. That’s right, I’m a genius.
In all seriousness though, what kind of oddballs leave football early? I can’t understand it personally. It’s like buying the lady of your dreams a nice dinner, taking her dancing, wooing her over, and then at the precise moment when she invites you in for coffee, you decide that you need to go home early to iron your pyjamas. You could be missing the best bit. You know you could be missing the best bit, yet you voluntarily choose to do so. Inexplicable.
I hear the argument too that these people are ‘paying consumers’ and that they’re entitled to leave the match, the same way they are entitled to leave a movie theatre or restaurant, were they unhappy with what they were receiving. To that, I say Bite Me. Football should be attended by ‘fans’. ‘Fans’ is a term shortened from ‘Fanatics’. ‘Fanatics’ don’t leave the place/event that they are ‘fanatical’ about early. Do you really think the fanatical Star Wars geek is going to leave the new Star Wars movie early? Are they feck. They could be sat next to Jar Jar Binks himself and they’d still stick it out, desperately craving to see more and more of what they worship.
However, football has become ridiculously expensive to attend, and therefore real fans simply cannot afford to go to matches anymore. These bloody ‘consumers’ can though. They’re the type that can afford to walk out of a Michelin Star Restaurant due to the foie gras being a bit salty, or because the maitre d’ has a crooked dicky bow. They’ll certainly walk out of a cracking football game early so as they can get to the heated seats of their Mercedes quickly and get back to their mansions before they have to mingle with the hoi polloi. I blame Posh Spice for this – before she shacked up with Beckham, the only thing posh at football was John Motson’s sheepskin jacket, and even that was a necessity. Those that leave football early are not ‘fans’ and they are taking the seats of real ‘fans’ who are desperate to see their heroes and attend their place of worship. Therefore, real fans should stand outside football grounds on match days, to discuss this with those ‘consumers’ who leave the ground early. I’m sure an understanding could be reached in about, oooh, 10 seconds or so?
So in summary, those that leave matches early should not be derided as being terrible fans – they’re simply not fans at all. We should however judge them. I implore you the next time you are at a match, any match, at any ground, to loudly ‘tut’ those who leave early as they depart. Loud audible sighs and a ‘fecking waste of a good seat’ muttered loudly would also be splendid. It’s time to shame these people into not wanting to come to football anymore. If they stop coming, prices will drop (I studied economics so you’ll have to take my word on this), and the ‘real’ football fans will be able to afford to come to matches again. The atmosphere will improve, your team will play better, and the world will be a happier place. World peace will soon follow along with prosperity for all. You’re welcome. Now get ‘tutting’.