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Football. What does it mean to you?

The beautiful game is much more than just the sum of its parts – twenty-two players, four posts, two nets, and a sphere of leather. It is far more than a statistics sheet or a position in a league table. Football has the power to shape your identity. It can provide you with an all-too-necessary escape, a cathartic release, or an exhilarating rush in equal measure. Football can define your mood; even a small win can fuel a long-lasting sense of ecstasy. Filled with anticipation, anxious days can pass until the next time you hear that special adrenaline-inducing roar of the crowd as your side bulges the onion bag in the dying minutes – the tension inside the stadium releasing in a cacophony of cheers.

Yet, what goes up, must come down. As high as football can let you fly, it can drag you down just as far. Down into the dirt, muddied with despair – when will it end? Frustrations blaze and sparks ignite on social media. Endless rants fill our online feeds for the weekend, tainting the spirit of the game by ending with ridicule and abuse all too often. But still, the crowds flock across the globe, week-after-deflating-week, to support their team. Why you ask? Hope.

Football is a love affair that spans generations.

Football boils down to hope; hope that is fuelled by the stories our friends and family tell us – stories of the glory days that have been passed down for generations. How else could you possibly justify the money spent and the emotional torture for ten months of every year? It is the belief that your team might achieve something it has never done before or retaining something it already has. This is what keeps us following the sport week-in-week-out.

Do you recall your first trip to the sacred turf? Noise swirling around the belly of the stadium, scarfs and shirts of similar colours, the very same colours that you wear, packed in like sardines. You make the climb up the beer-soaked concrete steps for the first time, mingling into the stands, the noise crescendos around the emerald carpet that stretches as far as the eye can see and your heroes are there, almost close enough to reach out and touch (depending on your seat, that is). You have never been here before, but it certainly feels like home.

Football is a love affair that spans generations, transcends beliefs, inspires and excites. For ninety minutes every week, your family expands to numbers you could never imagine. Thousands of brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, all connected from the first whistle to the very last. It is about community and pulling together. As the commercial side of the game gets carried away with viewing figures, television revenue and sponsorship deals, we ought to try to remember what football really means to the everyday fans, those who were there before the big money deals and the very same ones that will continue to be there long into the future.

What does it mean to you?

To me, it means everything.

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