The globalisation of football has led to many clubs having a great number of fans worldwide. South Africa has a large contingent of supporters for the so-called ‘Big Four’ of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, with signs of a recently growing contingent of Tottenham Hostpur and Manchester City supporters.
Newcastle United is probably just behind the ‘Big Four’ in terms of numbers of supporters here – I have seen people walking around in Black and White stripes since I was a kid. We have had our fair share of ribbing over the years – but we still proudly wear our shirts, regardless of the weekend’s results.
Meeting a man called Bob Polkinghorn changed my life in 1998 (aged 8); I was transformed into a Newcastle United supporter. My dad supports Leeds United, so naturally I was groomed from a young age to support them. After seeing Mr. Polkinghorn’s passion, however, I realised that he must be onto a good thing, and I immediately changed my allegiance – I still regard this as one of my greatest decisions in my life.
With a large number of matches being shown both live and delayed on television here, it is quite easy to watch the team, accompanied by punditry from the likes of Gary Bailey, John Barnes and Terry Paine.
Very few supporters I have spoken to, though, have made the trip to St. James’ Park on matchday. I, for one, have managed a tour of SJP, but couldn’t quite get the logistics right to see a match in my time in England.
Relegation and the subsequent season in the Championship was tough but I am pretty sure that feeling is unanimous amongst Toon supporters anywhere in the world. The most surprising thing for me during that period was the number of times I was asked if I still supported Newcastle United now that they were relegated. I hardly started supporting them because of the trophies they were winning, yet people assumed I was a glory hunting supporter – that maybe goes to show the fickle support generally for overseas clubs here in South Africa.
Walking around in a Newcastle United top soon leads to an acknowledgement of some description, often from ex-pats or people with family or friends currently in Newcastle. This sometimes leads to good, long conversations between fans about the latest news and results from Tyneside. I wear my shirt often in the hope of having a conversation with an ex-pat – hearing the accent and discussing the events surrounding the club leads to a bout of nostalgia with regards to my brief visit to the City.
My passion for the club led me to look for a supporters club here in South Africa – indeed at the time Mr.Polkinghorn introduced himself to me as being an integral part of the ‘Official Supporters Club of Newcastle United in South Africa’ but I think it ceased a while ago. So I decided to start my own Newcastle United fansite for fans in South Africa – Toon Fans South Africa – everybody welcome!
The initial response has been great – fans from all over the country have joined, commented and asked to be involved. This proves, I believe, that Newcastle United has a large contingent of fans here, with the general consensus that good times are ahead for the club – the upcoming season alone has us challenging on four fronts, while the European expedition is one to be savoured by fans all over the world.
Here’s to hoping we finally break the trophy drought this season and maybe the pre-season tour to South Africa will come to fruition next year. Howay the Lads!
To join up with Clifton and other Newcastle fans in South Africa click here