by Danielle Croci
The close of the home-and-away season and the bye week before finals has made me take stock of what football means to me, otherwise known as ‘what do I do with my life now?’
People aren’t being melodramatic when they describe football as more than a game, particularly if you live in Victoria. It’s something that is passed on through generations, binds friendships and destroys them. You might be involved in your own football community, whether that be your local club or AFL team, your kid’s Auskick team or online.
I believe that this sense of community and the social elements of footy are truly special. You only have to take a look at Twitter to see the friendships (and frenemy-ships) formed based on a love of the game. As someone who has spent their youth involved in online communities, joining in the footy conversations online this year was the next logical step.
On a deeper level, there’s something that feels almost subversive when, as a young woman, I go to matches and talk footy with other women. Our love of something traditionally coded as masculine and exclusionary of women is strengthened by having our own space to talk footy away from men. It’s what makes these relationships, and podcasts like The Outer Sanctum and Follow Sports Like a Girl, so important.
Clearly, I find football to be a very social experience. I think that’s the reason why I couldn’t engage the one time I went alone with a free ticket, albeit to see two teams that I don’t support. At halftime, a friend rescued me and whisked me away to the Great Northern pub in Carlton to watch the second half on TV. To the comfort of social interaction and a very large bowl of wedges.
Of course, the game means something different to everyone. For some, football brings more pain and heartache than anything, and is best suffered alone. However, I had the recent epiphany that, while I love my team, I also just love the game. I’ll happily go to any game with my friends and pick a side to support (usually whoever is playing North Melbourne because I can’t possibly be neutral), and get involved.
Some of the best victories happen because of your circumstances, or the people you were with. Often, it’s these things that you remember the most. Like the last minute decision to go to Collingwood vs Richmond earlier this year, the day after a family funeral. What did that 1-point win mean in the grand scheme of Collingwood’s season? Very little, considering they immediately dropped games to St Kilda, Melbourne and Carlton, by which point the dream of finals already seemed kaput. To my best friend and I though, that game was priceless.
The emotion of the game is probably why the football makes a great initial date, if you’re lucky enough to meet around the time your teams will be playing each other. Many a heart has been broken upon discovering that their potential beloved abuses umpires or becomes downright sulky when they lose (or that they simply go for Hawthorn, I imagine). Personally, I’d say if they’re apologising profusely for their team slaughtering yours, you’re probably onto something. I mean, my parents aren’t huge football fans, and even they knew to stay out of each other’s way during the 1990 Grand Final.
It’s for all of these reasons that I’ll be spending September with my friends, soaking up the last few weeks of heartache and joy. Because it’s tough when you willingly pin your hopes and dreams on a football team, so why not share that with others?
Follow Danielle on Twitter: @theseventhfeel