Editor’s note: This is Alexa Ball’s first article since departing Charleston for Scotland, where she is attending college. dc
BY ALEXA BALL
SCOTLAND — A few things that are true – I am 3,849 miles away from you. I have entered a new world, both in accent and sport, though I understand the latter much better. It is raining and 50 degrees. The Battery is going to the playoffs and I will be listening to the games in the wee hours of the morning.
All of these truths mean that I am no longer in E1 relishing in #oatmealpower, but instead must find a new home somewhere in the crowd of Scottish football supporters.
Before I do that, however, let’s reminisce on the past and speculate on the future.
This is my nostalgic compilation of how being a Battery fan in Charleston compares to being a fan in the UK, although the nuances of local fandom in Scotland are still to be explored. I make no judgments about which is better or worse, since they both satisfy me as a soccer fanatic in their own ways.
You don’t have to be a soccer guru to enjoy
The rules of soccer are simple. Two teams of 11 players kick a ball around a field, and the side that puts said ball into the back of the other guys net more times, wins. The intricacies, however, have been the subject of a thousand books and a million arguments. The pros and cons of 4-4-2’s and 5-3-1’s are often lost on those new to the pitch, and are still undecided on by those who get paid millions to exploit them.
When in Scotland, I find myself drawn into arguments about whether or not David Luiz is suitable as a center back (he’s not), or if Mourinho is daft to continue the 4-5-1 with Torres as the lone target man (he is, 4-3-3 is much better).When at the Battery, I find myself in similar conversations, but they are equally split with those about the enticingly sweaty condition in which the Charleston heat leaves the players. No matter the topic, when the Battery does something good (apparent even to the novice eye), each and every attendee goes wild, including my friend to whom I have just finished explaining the purpose of the 18-yard box. In the UK – local fan or Chelsea fanatic – everybody is assumed to have a profound understanding of the sport.
At the Battery, everyone is only assumed to have a profound understanding of how to have a stupid good time.
Remember, we can’t clap because we’re drinking our beers.
Players are friends, not food
In the UK, and most of Europe, soccer players are practically Gods. For good reason – they are the running force (literally) behind the greatest sport in the world in the country most renowned for this sport. They deserve it. However, what I already miss most about the Battery is the intimacy of the players and the fans.
When Frank Lampard’s contract with Chelsea wasn’t renewed, I spent days in depression not because I’d personally lost something, but because as a Chelsea fan, one of the greatest players of the club was gone and I loved him for all the times he made me love my club even more.
At the Battery, this season is John Wilson’s last season, and Colin Falvey has recently left us. This feels personal. Wilson is no national A-list celebrity, but he has personally impacted youth soccer in the low-country. I am on a nod-and-hello,-how-are-you, basis with Falvey. The Three Lions Pub exemplifies these relationships, where Jose Cuevas comes over for a handshake and hug from his biggest fans, not because he has to but because they are friends.
I can’t speak for local Scottish football yet, but fingers crossed it’s no different here.
It is not a death sentence to be a Battery fan
Twenty bucks says you’ve never received a death threat for being a Battery fan. If you have, it’s probably due to some serious character flaw in either you or the threatener, and you should sort that out elsewhere.
Twenty pounds says you’ve been threatened if you have a Rangers tattoo in Scotland (I have a living reference for this). I’m not trying to spin this as a necessarily bad thing, it shows the passion for British sports, a quality I greatly admire and occasionally partake in.
However, it’s nice to have the option of being a casual fan. Not that I love the Battery less than I love Chelsea, but I feel less obligated to defend my right to wear black and yellow.
Okay, I know the soccer system in America is far from perfect, but man, I love the playoffs. There, I said it. Call it blasphemy, call it traitorous, call it whatever you like but there is no better feeling than beating the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 4-0 on a Dane Kelly hat-trick and getting that warm tingling feeling after Odisnel Cooper tells statistics to go where the sun don’t shine and saves two penalties in a row, and knowing that odds be darned, WE’RE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS.
The thing about playoffs is that once you’re in, it’s anybody’s game. The season doesn’t matter, table standings forgotten, all there is now is to win. It doesn’t matter what other teams do – tie, goal differential is moot. There is only winning.
Granted, British football has its fair share of playoffs what with the almost absurd number of Cups the teams participate in, although the big Kahoona is decided by points. You can play the last game knowing you’ve already won the league regardless of the outcome. I get warm tingly feelings with this format as well, since it means that everything you’ve worked for up until this point has mattered, and every single tie mattered and every single goal went towards goal differential. Its a different kind of tingly feeling that garners no less love, only for different reasons.
Now, on to the next one…
A conclusion seems arbitrary for this blog post, because although I’ve left Charleston, the adventure is far from over. These are all of the things I miss about my home and the Battery – but it’s time to discover all of the things I love about being a Scottish fan.
Time to break out the wellies.