I still put myself through the experience daily, as do most of us - listening to phone-ins, reading comments by people who believe football was invented in 1993; believing the hyperbole that sky etc. feed us throughout the season; supporting modern-day footballers with their modern-day hairstyles, chest waxes and agent's transfer requests; I annoyingly still get some excitement at the transfer gossip that does the rounds. (Most of which is now completely made up, as by the time we fling open the window to let a fresh breeze containing new signings and outgoings on it's thermals, we will have totally forgotten the tosh written in the tabloids linking our team with the new maradona and such like 6 months ago. Conscience-free bull from the papers, then - oh, hold on a minute...conscience?)
I am also becoming ever more fatigued and bad-tempered at the constant baracking that referees have to endure - there are some bad decisions, naturally, but increasingly the slightest errors of judgment are being made, when they have one split-second to see everything around them, and a bunch of pundits, who have 20 different camera angles, slow-motion and numerous replays to assist them are berating them for their failures.
So, with this (and much more) in mind - I thought I would instigate a group hug in this post, and talk about a little bit of footballing bromance. (although this does not, of course, exclude female fans in any way at all - read on!)
Young "Finn", the knee-surfing dude I work with is a Manchester United fan. But he has a bit of a thing for Jermaine Beckford. It seems to stem from his rather excellent goal against Chelsea last season, for Everton. We had been discussing goals, and he chirruped up with this gem (link below) and it was all "Jermaine.." this and "Jermaine..." that and "come on Beckford, my son".
It got me thinking.
Being a fan of a Premier League club - particularly one that has been regularly in the Champions League - has thrown up the rather fortunate scenario of seeing some of the world's best players in the flesh. Throughout the years, United have afforded me the chance to regularly watch players of the calibre of Robson, Hughes, Cantona, Giggs, Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo etc. -and as football fans in general, we have all fluttered our eyelashes towards the likes of Zidane, Figo, Old Ronaldo, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta -even Henry and Drogba - you know the names.
Just underneath that layer, where admiration lies, there are other players that turn your head as a football fan.We know they may never play for our team, they may never have anything to do with them - they may play against them at one time or another, possibly for the enemy - but we can't help having an unhealthy obsession - a footballing crush, if you like.
Mine was one Gabriel Omar Batistuta.
Football Italia on Channel 4. Some great names graced our screens during the halcyon days of the nineties, when C4 tried to open our minds to more exotic wares than English football. For me, Batigol was head and shoulders above any.
It was not just the skill, the goals, the long, flowing, gladiator-like hair, but the stories that came with it. Fiorentina's brightest star, he stuck with them in 1993 when the club slid in to Serie B and returned the club to Serie A one year later. He then stayed on through the nineties, scoring a total of 168 goals for the club and had a statue erected in his honour outside the Stadio Artemi Franchi, with the rather fantastic, also gladiator-like inscription: "He is a warrior who will not surrender - who is hard in the fight, but fair in his soul."
The man also deigned to make my footballing dreams true one night at Old Trafford in the Champions League. So often, your heroes let you down. We go to the game in the hope of seeing the extraordinary. Of seeing something that we would not be able to do without an xbox or ps3 pad in our hands. Batigol repaid my faith in spades, with a superb goal for Fiorentina that cemented my unrequited love and provided some sort of closure at the same time. I stood facing the goal, mouth agape (you tube link below, also - of the goal, not my dropped-jaw!). (He even was gentleman enough to allow United to come back go on and win the game).
As I say, we have all had our flirtations. But not all players can cut the mustard when it comes to making the perfect companion - take Gabriel's fellow countryman Diego Maradona. Unarguably brilliant, one of (if not THE) greatest of all time. We do, however, know far too much about the man and his failings to have a true, pure, footballing crush on him. Could his one abiding and immense talent overcome those failings? - our mum would tell us to stay well clear ;-)
So, who is it? Is it the likes of Jermaine Beckford, grafting away and supplying a beautiful footballing moment for all to revel in, or the likes of Batistuta - admittedly firmly one of the best players of the last 20 years, with that touch of class to elevate him above. A former player that has moved on and you have followed his career ever since?
Finn the knee-surfer dude and I can't be the only ones, surely?
Who is your footballing crush?