‘Support’ in the most obvious form of the term is given shape by the Nick Hornby we read about in ‘Fever Pitch’ – allowing the fortunes of ones club to froth into the nether regions of personal life, allowing result to dictate mood and the mind to wander to the palaces of football at any given moment. Despite my remove from Cumbria, and noting a recent mellowing as the Blues remain upwardly mobile, I’d consider myself to be a Carlisle supporter very much in the ‘Hornby’ mould.
But I’ve seen a few attempts to re-square the definition that I’ve seen in recent weeks; notions of fandom which provide, in my view, a fitting contrast, which illustrate some of the ills of that term and some of its inherent grace.
I’ll pick on two examples of the former – one close to home and one more distant but burned on the national consciousness.
The first is the actions of those Carlisle fans at Hartlepool who have placed the club hierarchy with the FA once more. The latest coup de grace came in letting off a flare in the away end and grappling with stewards and police – neither big, nor clever one would think.
And yet, I found myself taken aback by the reaction of some Blues fans on social networking platforms – a small bloc of young followers seemingly hell bent on defending the right to carry out such actions (as well as offensive chanting in the presence of minors) whilst denying any personal responsibility. Attempts to inject common sense both from fellow fans and the club fell on deaf ears – any call for courtesy was an argument with ‘loyal supporters’. Paying ‘good money’ seemingly an excuse to abuse.
This behaviour has reached a frightening zenith in Liverpool fans’ reactions to the Luis Suarez affair. Whatever your take on the pre-Christmas shenanigans there is little denying that Suarez’ actions this Saturday showed him to be, at very least, a crass, charmless individual. But Liverpool fans stepped up to support him on that evening’s football phone-ins. What exactly was there to support? Nothing – only actions to condemn. These were, no doubt, the utterings of those who’d mixed the meanings of ‘support’ with those of ‘dogma’ and ‘propaganda’.
So where’s the antidote to all this one-track pig-headedness?
Step forward the Carlisle United Supporters Club London Branch. Their name may be a mouthful, but their actions are an inspiration. When the club approached with an unglamorous request – to help raise funds for improved floodlights – they’ve grasped the nettle. Their ‘Shine the Light’ campaign – which will take in eBay auctions of ‘unique’ CUFC prizes including the prototype shirt for this year’s away kit and matchday experiences – is being carried off with the type of unfussy aplomb for which they’ve become renowned.
Despite their distance the group go the extra mile to help the club in any way possible – it’s in our interests to help them help ourselves. By buying a t-shirt, a raffle ticket or bidding in an auction we’re not only helping the club but helping recognise real support – seems a noble endeavour to me.
You can find out more about ‘Shine the Light’ at http://www.carlislelondonbranch.org
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