Where do I even begin? Football breaks down boundaries, crosses borders, has a language of its own and the power to bring people together, and if the non-avid fan of the beautiful game thinks I'm being a little "OTT," then… you're probably right. But to me, every word is true.
Football (or soccer, as most of my North American counterparts would call it) isn't perfect. It is one one the only topics I've had "handbags" over; my unparalleled devotion to Arsenal Football Club has caused me immense pain… repeatedly, and let's not even dive into the diving and clear ridiculousness of the finances (especially in Europe).
But when I say that it has the power to bring people together, I genuinely mean it.
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.”-Bill Shankly
I grew up playing both football and rugby in Luton, a city just north of London. I loved playing both sports, but I was a footballer in the playground, both as a player and as a fan. We, of course, all supported "The Hatters," but as any fan of any lower league side will tell you, especially at a younger age, you have your Premier League team too.
The first year I started to pay attention to the Premier League was in 2001. The logical choices for any kid were the best teams. My cousins mostly supported West Ham United. To this day, my cousin Jack will still call me a glory supporter for following the trend of admiring Arsène Wenger's Arsenal (he claims that I supported the Hammers until I was 7).
I was hooked on the Gunners, though from the first moment, playing on the wing and sporting a spiky hairdo, a kid in school compared me to Freddie Ljungberg (a haircut I would take a step further by dying my hair - and my scalp - pink a year later).
There was the added factor that the bulk of Arsenal's squad was French, and my parents had dropped the slightly incomprehensible bombshell that we were uprooting our lives in England and moving down to the Mediterranean coast of France, a mere 3 hours from Barcelona (I would love the Catalan side until a famous night in 2006).
Having moved to a new country, where I couldn't speak the language, football became a universal communication method, and I would find myself taking a ball wherever I went. More so than any other sport could have at that age, it kept me social in what could have been a very isolating period of my childhood.
Whether it be a different language or culture, football has been a bridge wherever I moved to in my life. I uprooted my life post-university and moved to the Falkland Islands (to pursue a career in broadcasting), 8000 miles from home, where I knew no-one.
Other than football, how many activities can you rock up to once, meet 10-15 people with whom you have at least one common interest, and that will invite you straight out for a beer?
“Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football.”-Albert Camus
Fast forward three years, and here I am, repeating my process of moving across the globe to a place where I know very few people, and once again, football has flexed its ability to bring people together.
In a country where "soccer" doesn't receive much funding or coverage, there was a gap in the market as the Canadian Premier League's 2020 Island Games got underway. I never bothered blogging about football in the UK as it has to be one of the most written about sporting competitions in the world, with an abundance of keen sports fans, both professional and amateur, writing endless words about each week's clashes.
But here in the Canadian Capital, things were a little different. The previous club, the Ottawa Fury, had recently folded under a bit of a dark cloud but, through the gap came a silver lining in the form of Spanish money. Atletico Madrid, the 2016 Champions league finalists and 2014 La Liga winners, decided to expand their footballing empire to Ottawa.
You can imagine how keen I was to have ANY involvement with this club.
As the Island Games got underway, I started writing about any game I could watch (being unemployed due to the global pandemic allowed me to watch a lot of them), but I soon narrowed my focus to Ottleti.
As restrictions in the Capital loosened, I made my way to the Senate Tavern on Bank St. to catch the games in the presence of other local fans. It was at my first watch party, taking notes, that I met three people who have been instrumental in keeping me motivated to create content, one of whom is Daniel Duff, founder of Capital City SG. Again, football forcing the hand of friendship to extend itself.
Daniel's passion for football and supporters' culture meant that conversation was anything but hard (with the added gloss that he had been keeping up with my blog posts and was a fan of my writing). He told me about his vision for local supporters' culture, creating a space to unite the football fans in the Capital and offering a platform for said fans' artistic expression.
Whether I'm writing, filming, photographing, or presenting, Capital City has not only a place for where I've been able to come together with fans to cheer on our local team but also a platform for artistic expression that I would never have otherwise had. Creating the kind of excitement around the team that not only those affiliated with the club (from the owners to the fans) deserve, but the sport deserves.
And, the best bit is that there is more to come. With the 2021 season round the corner and the prospect of sitting in bars, travelling to away games or bouncing, sitting and/or yelling from your seat at Lansdowne, there is one place where you can be the fan you want to be. Capital City SG.
I could ramble on about the beauty of this sport, as a player and as a spectator, for hours and for thousands of words, but this article is just my personal love affair (so far) with this most beautiful of games.