How good is being a football fan?

Full disclosure up front, and this will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever glanced at my twitter feed, I am a Melbourne Victory fan. I’ve been a foundation member since day one. I have navy and white coursing through my veins.

As much as I have loved delving deeper and deeper into the media world over the last few years, nothing quite beats the rush of being a fan in the stands.

I’ve covered some big moments in my role in the media over the last few years – the AFC Asian Cup on home soil, and the Socceroos qualification for this year’s FIFA World Cup against Honduras the two standout moments.

The common convention is neutrality in the press box, although let me tell you the press box at ANZ Stadium exploded with cheers when each of Mile Jedinak’s three goals went in against Honduras. Deep down we’re all still fans, especially of our national team. 

I remember stepping out from behind the glassed cocoon of the press box for the last few minutes of the match against Honduras, to just be in amongst the fans and soak up the atmosphere. You don’t get moments like that very often and I wanted to experience it in its purest form, not from behind a glass window.

A friend and fellow member of the media had done likewise. We shared a hug and rejoiced at the fact ourteam was going to the World Cup.

But that is our national team, it’s kind of accepted that the press, as neutral as they are, support the national team. It’s a different matter when it comes to the club game.

We (and be ‘we’ I mean fans in general) demand neutrality of our press, especially those in the mainstream, and even a hint of bias is pounced upon as proof of some kind of conspiracy. We’re an irrational lot us football fans.

At the end of the day, the press are fans too. They were fans long before they were media. Personally, I couldn't care less who they support, either domestically or internationally. I know all are professional enough to keep their personal and professional thoughts separate.

But not everyone in this age of social media is so understanding, so I can understand why they keep any allegiances a closely guarded secret.

I like knowing fellow media personnel share the same passion for the game as I do. At the end of the day, football is a game of passion. It’s what fuels us, whether that is as fans or media.

I remember spotting one prominent member of the media (and no, I won’t them them) in amongst the active fans at an A-League game a few years ago, joining in the chants and shouting at the top of their lungs.

I loved that. I loved that after years working in the media they still had that burning passion for the game and for their club. I can connect with that.

Conversely, I’ve had discussions with others in the industry who bemoan the lack of junkets in the modern day and who proudly boast they wouldn’t watch a game if they weren’t being paid to do so. For them this is a job, plain and simple. And that’s fine, but I can’t connect with that jaded view.

And so it was that after last week’s epic semi-final win over Sydney FC, a match that was an emotional rollercoaster, the type of which makes us love this game even more, that I frantically organised to travel to Newcastle.

Not as media. As a fan.

And nothing can quite beat that experience. The anticipation leading up to the match, the arrival into the stadium and into the away bay with 4000 of your fellow brothers and sisters. On a night like that, you’re all one big family.

When goals are scored and the game is won, you’re hugging and celebrating with complete strangers you’ve never met, and will likely never see again once the night is done. But you’re wearing the same colours, so you’re family. It’s a powerful feeling.

Anyone who has been in the stands to see their team win a major trophy knows what that feeling of euphoria is like. Those 30 minutes of celebration in the stands after the game (and the hours of celebrating after) are memories that will last a lifetime.

There is a rush and energy that comes with covering a match as a member of the media, and it’s something I love experiencing, but nothing, absolutely nothing, compares with the experience of being a fan in the stands.

Categories: Opinion | Football Life

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