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An environment bereft of the beautiful game

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Most of us are probably used to having a number of football supporting friends to chat to, if not necessarily Reading fans. However, what is it like in a place without those fellow companions?

Richard Sellers

Last November, I wrote an article about the trials and tribulations of being a Reading FC fan at university in another town. Since then, I’ve been a student for a more substantial period of time. Consequently, I have noticed another aspect of my new surroundings.  I would hazard a guess that it is a pretty unusual one – though I may be relying on preconceptions. Perhaps the situation I am about to describe is, in reality, fairly common. Regardless, this feature of my new town has made my social life very different from what it was like back in the golden lands of The Oracle and Huntley and Palmers.

It took me a while to notice, but now it is painfully obvious: up here, very few people follow football. At all.

That fact may seem inconsequential. However, it is an utterly alien experience to what I am used to. When I was in school, nearly all my friends had a team they supported, and possessed at least a passing knowledge of the world of soccer. Even those who, in relative terms, were not avid football fans often had a team they would intermittently keep an eye on. At the very least, they would have some idea of who was currently top of the Premier League, or even who figures like Danny Welbeck are.

Yet here a large proportion of my fellow students are profoundly ignorant of the beautiful game. There are exceptions. One of my friends is a pretty clued in Derby County fan, and another is a manic Arsenal supporter. However, these people are noticeably in the minority. The consequence of this is a lack of fellow enthusiasts of the sport. I don’t just have the problem of a dearth of fellow Reading FC fans: I am deprived of football talk almost 24/7.

In some ways, this may be a good thing. If you are able to go to University (and I am very aware not everybody wants to, needs to or can do such a thing), one of the advantages that is often cited is a broadening of your experience. Essentially, you get to meet people from a variety of backgrounds. Therefore, I may be gaining a more diverse outlook on life. Also, I have other interests and can talk about alternative topics – it’s not as if I can’t speak to my friends. Maybe, then, I should embrace this new environment?

So far, so very History Boys. Still, when only one other person was willing to watch the final hour of Transfer Deadline Day in the TV room with me, I felt somewhat deflated. When my excitement at a comprehensive 3-0 away victory found a stony, uninterested audience, my joy fizzled out. When my floundering attempts to get people to join me in the pub and watch a big Premier League derby ran into the sand, I felt a prick of disappointment. Sometimes, uninformed blather about 22 men kicking a piece of leather around a field makes the world a slightly better place to live in.

Nevertheless, it should be said I love life at my university overall, and this is a relatively minor bugbear. Perhaps I should just suck it up? Probably, but I still think this is an exceedingly odd environment to be in. Or is it not weird at all? Have I grown up in unrepresentative surroundings, and football is not as pervasive as I thought? Do some of you also find yourselves outnumbered, and surrounded by heathens and rugby fans? Or am I genuinely in a unique position? I’d be interested in finding out...