Survival Guide: When Your Partner Is Not Into Football

My mother always asked me what I would do if I fell in love with someone who was not interested in football. I always waved her off, “pfft, it’s not possible”, yet here we are 10 years later and I’ve been happily coupled up with my non-football-fan for three years now. It’s funny how that works sometimes, as I’m sure I was not the only football-mad teenager who saw myself in a relationship looking a bit like this, having worshipped the likes of Bend It Like Beckham (watched on the plane the other week and cried like a baby, it’s still such a good movie) and She’s The Man. Unfortunately, all the examples used are picturing heterosexual romantic relationships which is far from actual reality, but that’s what was available in the 2000s.

There are both positives and negatives when it comes to the partner (or another close person in your life, like a best friend) not sharing your biggest passion and, for some of us, work. In the list below you can find a wee potpourri of different advice that can be good to keep close on days when you feel misunderstood or things are getting messed up and you’re frustrated – “uuugh, they should’ve known not to book XYZ for the same night as that important game.” We’ve all been there, and sometimes it can be hard to remember that not everyone’s world revolves around game days, silly season and everything in between that you choose to include in your football fandom.

  • Look at it from the bright side: you are relieved of any bickering with your significant other about which team is the best, instead, you can just force your team upon them.
  • Take charge of all holiday booking from now on. Otherwise, you might end up with catastrophes like your other half having booked your flight to Barcelona on the NIGHT OF THE MEN’S WORLD CUP FINAL.
Watching the World Cup final 2018 at the airport
We managed quite a sweet set-up after all …
  • In fact, this gives you another upper hand, as you can sneakily suggest vacation places that coincide with a big game/stadium you want to visit …
  • To make life easier, you should keep a shared calendar, or print out a match schedule that will cover all of the must-see games for the next few months. That way they can’t book in dinners/pub rounds/trips if they haven’t consulted the schedule – and if they still do, it is actually their fault.
  • Communication is key, a cornerstone in any relationship but still worth mentioning, as sometimes it’s easy to forget about something as simple as putting words to your feelings. Let them in on what your feeling after that player transferred to the rival club or your team suffered a really terrible loss. Your person has passions too and can understand what it feels like to really care about something. Which leads us onto the next point …
  • Find their football-equivalent. For example, my partner plays the guitar and performs occasionally, and guess who’s always on the first row? Just because there’s a whole culture around football, and it tends to take up a lot of space/interest, doesn’t mean that people cannot be equally passionate about other things. This is important to remember, and if you want your partner to occasionally engage with/understand your football fandom, you need to show them the same courtesy regarding what they’re really into.
  • It’s easier to engage people during the World Cups, Euros and Copa America, simply because a lot more people find it more tangible to relate to a country rather than a club.
Strike a pose!
For carnival, we were dressed as the qualifying game between Sweden – Italy
  • Write a little guideline book that summarises things such as rules, a short history of the game, which team to cheer for (yours, obviously) as a way to invite them in. In many cases the people who claim that they “don’t get it” are not really disinterested, it’s just that they have never been allowed a “safe” entryway into the game (for example an environment where they feel safe to ask questions without fear of being ridiculed #ReleaseYourInnerBadFootballFan)
  • Remember – it’s all about balance. It can actually be very healthy to be with someone that is not invested in football, as they can offer much-needed switch-off time, something that is vital in today’s ever-faster spinning world. As frustrating as it can be when others can be all in and you’re feeling I want to as well, it many times also makes you really good at appreciating everything, and it gives you different perspectives.
Me and my boyfriend celebrating Tottenham's Champions League win over Ajax
In the midst of realising what just happened and celebrating the hardest I ever have

I hope that this wee survival guide is able to offer you some perspective on sharing life together with someone that is not necessarily that into football. In fact, I would go against my younger self, who couldn’t believe that there was anything other than a day-to-day life with someone who’s as mad about football like me, and say that life is BETTER together with someone that is not a mad hatter about people kicking a ball around. It allows me a place and a pair of arms to come home to, that is not going to ask me about how the London derby went.

Image featured at the top is by Moazzam Brohi.

Issues Of a Minimalist: Keeping Up With Consumerism In Football

In the football world, we’re constantly reminded of how much everyone wants us to spend. The clubs themselves spend obscene amounts of money to buy top players, that they then pay crazy wages in order for them to play. The players themselves oftentimes have very luxurious, spending lifestyles that are impossible to avoid if you happen to follow them on social media. Clubs also need to invest to build new stadiums, or expand their stadiums, for their teams to play in, (taking on sponsors that they plaster everywhere in an often not so good looking way in order to be able to finance it), and it’s all a hamster wheel, in order to keep up clubs need to spend more and more each year, and the spending charts and transfer records break each year (except for at Tottenham #Minimalists).

The excessive spending doesn’t stop with the multi-million-pound companies/clubs on the football market though, as the football world puts increasing pressure on the everyday football fan to spend more and more as the years go by. To keep up, if you’re a local of your club you should really have a season ticket (which are outrageously priced in the men’s game in England, somewhat better in the likes of Germany but still a big cost) and if you can’t, you should at least be able to go to as many games as possible, which holds true even if you’re not a local – the ‘real’ fans take the time and the costs to travel to see their team. If it’s really too far to travel to see the team often, there is the expectation that you should still watch all of the games, which would require a subscription to a broadcast service, something that does not come by cheap. Even if you’re only watching it at the pub, you’ll need to consume something there in order to be allowed to stay and watch the game.

Football shirt collection
My football shirt collection is not that extensive …

There’s also the expectation that you keep up with the latest match kit, shirts that range from £70-90. No matter if you’re a kid or an adult, something that can seem quite trivial, like having a match shirt from your team, becomes painfully vital in the exercising of one’s fandom. It’s a rite of passage of sorts. Then comes things like scarves, t-shirts, key rings, phone cases, books, and other quirky things that can further emphasise what a fan you are. And it’s not as if you can get away with having only one shirt either, most football fans have a minor collection of different shirts, both past and present.

Everything in football is geared towards consumption. This whole consumerism focus feeds into the idea of ‘true fans’ and only being able to uphold this image if you can commit financially. That also means that it’s easy to buy yourself into perceived ‘fandom’ if all it requires is that you look like a fan from the outside. Which, in turn, takes away the whole beauty of fandom.

Instead, I became a minimalist.

It’s important to note that minimalism is not only a less materialistic lifestyle but a way of life that seeps into everything you do. Consumption does not only concern material things but also energy and focus, and it’s very important to be intentional with where your focus and energy goes.

I’ve not only started to consume way less in terms of material football things, like acquiring fewer shirts and read fewer football books, but I’ve also become more intentional with how much energy I put into football. Before I would spend a whole weekend watching game after game, Premier League, Bundesliga, throw in the occasional La Liga game too. I would keep myself updated on Twitter at the same time, and write to friends that were fans of the teams playing and we would exchange reactions of the game. Sometimes I would make a night of it, go out (with my Tottenham shirt on, of course) to the pub with a friend and interact with other fans. All of this, for an introvert like me, takes a lot of energy, but I think it would be draining for anyone in the long run.

Now, what I do is simply choose. I choose which games to invest myself in, I choose to limit my time on social media, I choose not to vent with my friends about every single game and the pub nights are few and far between. I forgive myself for not being a devoted “enough” football fan that watches all games, keeps track of the whole transfer market and can recite what tactics the coach should use for XYZ. When I was in Paris and Lyon for the Women’s World Cup, for example, there were many temptations. Everyone knows how many beautiful football shirts were released ahead of this World Cup, and I allowed myself to get one – of course, I got the France shirt with the hexagon dots (drool!) but made sure to get it online, so as not to get stuck in the Nike shop and come back out with a full bag.

France 2019 Away shirt
Outside of the France – USA game with the famous France shirt on

I also frequented the Copa90 Clubhouse quite a bit and they had a lot of beautiful merch that I wanted to get, as well as things for free like totes and stickers. Again, I restrained myself (well, I got a tote and a few stickers, okay!). This is just my personal situation: if you love Copa90, by all means, go crazy and get it all, but I knew that no matter how cool these t-shirts, shirts and caps looked, I wouldn’t use them enough for me to justify keeping them in my wardrobe. No matter if things are for free or you have to pay for them, it can be helpful to have a mental process, a checklist to go through. Retail therapy is very real and it can be good to know if you’re buying something because it will add value to your life, or because it looks cute and you’re in a funk. It’s also good to remind yourself that you are not valued as more or less of a fan because of what you have or don’t have.

Football is so much more than just a sport, for many of us it’s an integral part of our identity, and we all choose to practice and display our fandom in different ways. Some fans are like collectors, and what they have to show for their fandom is of the highest importance, and I get that. But the culture around consumption in football, the brands constantly pushing out more things for us to buy at higher and higher prices and the clubs that charge more and more for a game of football – it’s unsustainable and pushes a lot of people, that can’t afford to keep up this mad cycle, away from the game that ultimately originated amongst the working class. When you can’t afford to go to the games and can barely afford to watch them, then what are we left with?

I think that overcrowding our wardrobes, bedrooms, apartments, lives, putting ourselves in debt for a season ticket and feeding this consumption frenzy that is so ingrained in society, is a big contributor to why we never feel satisfied. I mean, look at all the money that Arsenal spends and they’re still playing Europa League on a regular basis.