Rugby. What do you associate with rugby? An oval-shaped ball, big men, Twickenham Stadium, Guinness…? I associate it with my boyfriend. And his dad. I, am a football girl.
Sport, I believe, is like religion, politics, accent – the things you pick up from your close family and friends. I grew up with a dad who spent every Saturday watching the football, Final Score and then MOTD while I played with my Barbie dolls (oh, how I loved my Barbie dolls!). As a child, I couldn’t understand why you’d watch the “same programme” three times in one day! As I started to grow up, my dad shared with me that the city we lived in had its own football team and that’s who he was following every Saturday. This team was Sunderland (SAFC).
As I got a bit older, I started following SAFC as well. My dad was so into them, yelling at the TV in glee and despair (unfortunately, as most SAFC fans know, it was mostly in despair), that it was infectious to me. At my primary school, I got the chance to play in a school football tournament at Roker Park before it was torn down. This was a privilege I was not to fully understand for a good few years.
When the new stadium, the Stadium of Light, was built part of my dad’s job involved attending the matches so he bought tickets for my sister and I (my brother wasn’t interested in football – now he supports Everton!). Now, to anyone who is not a football fan, I have to say that you should experience a live football game at least once in your life. The charged atmosphere, the chanting, the singing, the open air, , the smell of Bovril… surrounded by fellow fans wanting the same outcome – to WIN – not only tightens your chest and makes you feel happy and sick simultaneously, it also makes you feel, well, it makes you feel like you’re home.
Now I am also part of a family for which football is a dirty word. Rugby is the only sport for them. I have now been to rugby matches at Twickenham and, man, it’s a totally different experience! Fans intermingle, you can drink alcohol at your seat, the physical display is incredibly impressive and the stadium itself is unbelievable. Regardless of who wins, there is a camaraderie. No one chants malicious songs and starts fights. No one pulls a knife or throws a punch. It is friendly, together and united.
I am not saying that all football matches end in violence but it too often occurs. It is said that rugby is a gentleman’s sport and I believe this is true (minus university rugby societies as I have heard many horror stories about their socials!). I am a football girl; always have been and always will be. Football is my husband. Rugby is my mistress.
And a damn good mistress at that!