I’m going to write about something that I have put off for most of the 2017-18 football season. It’s not about the club’s hierarchy, or the largely disappointing results. Others have blogged about this throughout the campaign and have analysed it much better than I could. The season is over. The club is in a confused state (or at least, the supporters are) but we won a trophy and it’s something that eluded Tottenham. Again. So it wasn’t all bad!
Last season, some of my favourite football moments came outside of watching the games. I’m by no means the only supporter to have met their favourite footballer, to get to know him and his family a little, and to enjoy socialising with them. (All, I might add, by invitation, not by being pushy.) Maybe not everyone gets invited to their favourite footballer’s birthday party though, and I admit that it was a delightful surprise to me when I was invited to David’s birthday bash in April.
I had already been on the receiving end of sarcastic, bitter, and sometimes downright nasty comments after socialising with David’s family. Some comments were posted directly to me on social media underneath the photos I’d shared. Other remarks got back to me via friends. After I’d attended the birthday party, the meltdown started big time. Some of it is to be expected. David has many fans world wide, not least because of his charming and infectious personality, and the way that he engages with everyone he meets. Plenty of these worldwide fans can only ever dream of meeting him. Therefore, I fully anticipated the flood of messages asking me ‘can you please tell David I love him’ and ‘how can I get to meet him’ etc etc. Some of these fans are very young. I wanted to marry Peter Bonetti. But I was only twelve and you know, you grow up.
What I hadn’t bargained for was the bitterness and jealousy of some adults old enough to know better. A few of them have also had photographs taken with players, David included. But a section of them were put out that I should be invited to a private party when surely, they believed, they were more entitled. I was sent a childish rant by one fan who was incensed that I was at the party. He had been to PSG to see David during his time there, he said. And because I hadn’t done so, he declared himself more worthy of an invite. And, I was told, he had been a fan of the player for longer than me. Really? Why is that important anyway? Besides which, I was a massive fan of David in his first spell at Chelsea, but I had a great deal going on in my personal life during that time. Such as working, studying for a full time Master’s Degree, and undergoing a major abdominal operation. All of this necessitated me missing some matches. I was also in a great deal of pain prior to the operation, so I couldn’t hang around to ‘catch a glimpse of David’ after the games I did manage to attend.
In addition to the negative comments, I’ve experienced copy-cat behaviour. The copy cats have wrongly assumed that if they try to write, dress and behave identically to me, they’ll get noticed. Another person who attended David’s party has also been on the receiving end of it. It’s called trying too hard. It’s called attention-seeking. It’s called being needy. It’s called not having a personality of your own. We are all inspired by other people, other things, but simply emulating someone else’s life and posting photos of it on Instagram, that’s a little desperate, no? Exaggerating your experiences, and even lying about things to make others jealous, surely points towards undiagnosed mental health issues. I’m no expert, but I think it’s fair to say some people use social media as an emotional crutch. Maybe they are unable to seek appropriate help, or simply don’t recognise that they have a problem. I am sorry for people in such positions, but I’m not going to let them bully me. Just because they have had bad experiences – and they’re not alone – does not give them the right to use and abuse others.
I am an open person. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I just don’t follow the crowd, and I never have. Because of this, I tend to stick out a bit, especially for the way I dress. But I have always believed everyone should be as creative as they like, and not conform to socially constructed narratives. In other words, if it isn’t hurting anyone else, then it’s largely okay. And I would hope that my presence on social media is a true and fair representation of my actual life. I do silly things, I have hair-brained moments, and I share them. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, just different.
Many of the Instagram accounts belonging to wannabes only display perfect photos and status updates. Look at me, look at me, they scream, I want attention. If they have no perfect things happening, they sometimes exaggerate or invent them in order to get that attention. Often with a cryptic post. If they’re ignored, they’ll try again. And so-on. A friend remarked the other day on how, if she doesn’t immediately respond to a follower’s 1-1 message, they will send another message with a row of question marks. How dare she have a life outside social media!
None of these negative experiences, however, have put me off doing what I enjoy, nor will they stop me from being myself. That’s not to say that it doesn’t hurt, but I’ve been through much worse. I have nothing to feel bad or guilty about. I am happy for other supporters if they meet their favourite players, and if they go to organised events where they get a chance to socialise with them, that’s great. But I am not up for competition, jealousy, spitefulness or lies. That’s for the wannabes to fight about amongst themselves. Include me out.
© Carol Ann Wood
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