Tuesday 1st February 2005

Defeat. Of all the human emotions we must feel, taste and wallow in, this has to be worst. Losing face against your fiercest rival, then having to face not just defeat on the pitch, but the days, even months of ridicule in the media. That is why, if such an event does occur, I avoid all newspaper headlines, talk radio, news websites and even some television shows. This is not to shut myself away from the reality, or the criticism, (be it fair or otherwise unjustified). I strongly believe there is a time for talk, hype and discussion, but there should be a limit. The moment the players cross the white line, it is just eleven mere mortals against another eleven mere mortals. Expect, you and me both know it is much more important that. Heroes are born within a split second, and villains brought to book. This game had everything, expect the right final result. Am I a sore loser? When we lost to Manchester United, in October, there was little discussion even jeering in my work place. Sure we had football fans, pure football fans in fact (season ticket holder at West Ham) but due to the very nature of my job , it meant I did not have daily banter that must occur in every other offices. Something I missed, from my school days. At college, as everyone grew slightly more mature, the football talk only ever took place on the weekend. While I think of it, there was a classic story, from when my love for football had only just started. England was enjoying the lovely summer, with football coming home. In our final group match, we played Holland, one of the pre-tournament favourites. Chris Brian, summaries the feeling in a few lines of a result that was to send shock waves across the football world. A shame that England were unable to deliver the final product. Although I digress, the victory was so sweet. I remember my class mate, Kevin arriving into our classroom, HU7 in complete silence. All eyes turned to him, as we quickly saw both his hands held out. On his right all four fingers were up, and on the left, a solitary single finger. Mouthing the score, with a gleam in his eye, he rushed towards Richard and shouted out the score. Richard had the unfortunate luck of Dutch heredity and had been supporting the Orange country throughout the first few weeks of the tournament. How he must have regretted this decision. He was ridiculed, mocked and we all laughed. At fourteen years old, (or there abouts) this must have been highly demoralizing. Yet, like a sport he took defeat on the chin, knowing that this was part and parcel of the game. Some days you win, some days you lose, that is the roller coaster ride of football.

So tomorrow morning, like my classmate Richard, nine years ago, I face the prospect of many fellow football enjoying the delight of watching Arsenal lose. How will I take it? Who knows? At these times, when defeat has again appeared as kryptonite to these supermen as human beings, my Dad turns to me. He gives me the stand line, which is little comfort. “It’s only a game, son…”. True fans, whom have felt the full spectrum of emotion over the past ninety minutes will beg to differ. It is much more important than that.

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