Matchday! A gloriously habitual, familiar recipe for so many.
Pehaps less so these days in the current brokenly bonkers Newcastle United cosmos, but generally kicked off with lashings of hope and anticipation, often with an indecently early start and scramble to get yourself a seat in a local watering hole.
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Of course, you’ll need to toss in a few liveners and something greasy to line the old stomach, before charging off with a bunch of like-minded nutters in a sea of magnificent black and white, feeling like you and your team could take on the world.
Increasingly rowdy chants of local pride, heroes past and present and the obligatory defamation of wherever the opposition call home echo across oft-trodden streets. The excitement deepens and quickens, its flavour definitely intensifed by those 2 (OK, 4) pints you managed to neck in an hour. There’s definitely the unmistakable whiff of Greggs in the air, too.
Now, everyone has their own matchday rituals, and I’d hate to generalise what is a treasured and personal experience for thousands of fans and families. My point is, that – in my experience – there’s a certain comfort in the pattern and regularity of the day. The build up, the journey, the faces, the passion, the over-priced pints. Aside from whatever the hell we might be served up on the pitch, in general, there’s a sense of the expected, and of belonging.
Stay with me here, as I’m about to drop the F-bomb.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking about how to marry up the ingrained sort of behaviour I myself display on matchday, and just what my inner feminist would have to say about it.
Without getting all Germaine Greer on your ass, I definitely think of myself as a champion of gender equality and someone who calls out any misogynist bullsh*t whenever I come across it. You know: shouty builders, depiction of women in the media, representation in decision-making positions in business (actually, that’s a whole separate blog, isn’t it.) So, when I revert to a slightly different self whenever I watch my football team, there’s often a sort of embarrassed sense of….letting the side down, I suppose.
A lot of accepted football terminology – when really examined with a *seriousface* – does come off as inherently misogynist. Far be it for me to challenge whatever anyone wants to yell when they’ve paid good money to watch their team in the flesh, and nor would I ever want to do so.
Objectively, though, I do slightly cringe myself out when I catch myself hollering at ‘a load of big girls’ blouses’ or ‘f**king girls’. It’s not the sort of behaviour that will get me in there as Caitlin Moran’s bestie, is it?
Another traditional and to be honest, amusing, slice of matchday culture is the swearing. Oh, the words you learn. Let’s be honest, it gives all the best chants extra oomph and sometimes the raw rage that swells up at yet another appalling offside decision (watching back on Match Of The Day though, he was definitely a yard off, obviously) can only possibly be qualified with the most offensive array of expletives known to man. It’s standard, and in the heat of the moment, cathartic.
I myself will happily confess to having a right potty mouth. Not just on matchday – pretty much in most arenas. Sometimes, they’re just the only words that will do and my opinion has always been: as long as you have a reasonably rich vocabulary in play the majority of the time, no one can accuse you of being ignorant when turning the airwaves blue on occasion.
So why are my impulsively sweary rants often met with disapproval and even outrage in the match-going environment? I can think of countless examples of amused raised eyebrows to full on disgusted looks from blokes situated within my profanity radius. Surely I’m just as entitled to yell at that punch of pricks to get behind the effing line as them? Technically, but it always makes me feel a little bit silly, like an awkward 7 year-old being cut down to size by the teenagers whose game I’ve just tried to join.
Perhaps this is me being over-sensitive; I wouldn’t try to pigeon hole or slight our fan base for the world. I’m just trying to point out that it’s always a slightly different experience from an XX point of view, and not something the majority of punters have to concern themselves with.
The classic female fans truism is the frequently encountered ‘oh right..you ACTUALLY know what you’re on about?’ look. Sometimes it’s more than a look, and it’s a patronising comment that people can’t seem to suppress.
I do understand that it’s not the norm, and I must say that Newcastle fans are genuinely the least guilty of this. However, it’s just another sort of uncomfortable feeling that passes over me on matchday; that I’m the subject of some bemused, suspicious scan.
This is much more prevalent on away days, and I once had to scurry back to my seat at the beginning of half-time after a bit of craic turned a bit too aggro, leaving my Dad on his own to down the 2 pints and 2 glasses of wine he’d bought for us. That day didn’t end well.
I really don’t intend this to come across as some sort of judgmental anti-fan crusade: it’s just me stating what I’ve found to be true, and raising a discussion on what it is about the tradition of the matchday environment that causes me to leave my feminist card on the turnstile. Perhaps it’s subconscious: when surrounded by a 90% majority, I guess human nature is to follow suit. Maybe I’m just a bit of a lout when I’ve had a couple of Carlsbergs.
I will say this though: Newcastle fans are a chivalrous bunch. They always let me in front of them to buy my Foster’s.
Emma has also started her very own blog which you can visit HERE and you can follow her on Twitter @Jowse