Saturday became a dull day for football fans, but everything is finally heading towards a new ‘normal’.
Words: Mark Jirobe | @VillaMarkPGH
It was repetition for repetition’s sake. The tireless and most times autonomous movement of day-to-day life, constantly moving towards a moment where you can be yourself the most. Some say you act the most real when you are alone, but that’s not always how life works. Sometimes you feel more yourself around other people: human interaction is more important than some would be led to believe. Some of us work for the weekend, but some of us just want to work for Saturdays. For a million reasons, people enjoy a day off of work. But one weekend in March, for myself and countless amounts of others, the world stopped cold. And then, Saturday never happened.
I am fortunate. In so many ways. I tend to forget that through life’s little annoyances, no matter how large or how tiny the problem realistically is. I’m generally healthy, minus my love for chocolate and the various mental gymnastics I put myself through. As far as reflection goes, I was willfully blind to how much Saturdays meant to me. And then, Saturday never happened.
The weekend day can be about sleeping in, getting some house chores done, tying up all the loose ends that have unravelled like a kicked ball of yarn throughout the workweek. If Saturday is one of your identifiable “days off”, it might not even feel like that. More often than not, that “day off” is filled with more work than your actual occupation would allow. It has become increasingly obvious when someone replies “Not long enough”, to the traditional ice cracking question of “How was your weekend?”.
For me, Saturdays aren’t for house chores. They’re not for working hard. And they’re certainly not for catching up on the previous weeks things that need to be arranged, organised and tidied. For myself and so many others, Saturdays are for football.
No matter how close you are to your football club in terms of location, or how far away you are due to the challenges life has thrown your way, Saturdays have always been the defining day where you can be yourself as a football supporter. On Saturdays, you can sing and laugh and joke and be proud of your football club. If you’re lucky enough, you may even know a few folks who are passionate about the same club that you support. If you’re even luckier, you can attend as many games as you’re financially able to, even if your family or partner doesn’t quite understand sometimes.
Once the world started using vernacular such as “quarantine”, “lockdown” & “isolation”, things changed. We all felt it, not only as football supporters but as human beings as well. I felt the change from thousands of miles away from Villa Park and Aston Villa. I noticed the change, not only in myself but for the people I follow on social media who go see Villa home and away, come hell or high water.
The lack of football took a piece of something from them, like a surgical procedure gone horrifically wrong. I feel for them deeply, just as much as I feel for myself in this regard. Routine and familiarity were thrown out of the window as if it never meant anything. The average football supporter lived and died for their Saturdays. That boss that nags you over and over throughout the week is never in your mind when you’re watching your club play on a Saturday. And then, Saturday never happened.
I miss the smell of my local pub. I miss standing outside of the place in the pissing rain, waiting for the doors to open at 7 am so I can watch Aston Villa play. I miss being one of four Villa supporters that would subject themselves to this at such an early time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I miss the taste of the pint at a questionable hour of the day. I miss going outside at half-time for fresh air and to collect my thoughts. I miss the bartenders and I miss asking for the food menu, even though I could probably name everything on it by heart. I miss the camaraderie with other Villa supporters, the sights, the drama, the wins… hell, even the losses.
I miss the game.
I never knew the effect the game had on me until it was taken away. I thought I understood that I loved the game and all that comes with it, I just never understood how unrelenting that love was. I carried a belief in my head, pride in my heart and emotions on my sleeve. And then, just like that, Saturday never happened.
This strange period of life that we have all suffered through should become a daily reminder of a few things. Don’t take your Saturdays for granted. It may just be a silly little ball-game to some, but it means more to those who understand. The next time you rediscover your match-day routine, have a think about how much it means to you. Spare a thought for others who attend matches with their parents, their mates, their loved ones, their partner or even just themselves.
This has been one of the strangest and most challenging periods that you will likely ever endure and football supporters were not immune to it. There can be deep mental distress caused when routines are washed away like an unforgiving tidal wave in the choppy seas. No one is immune to it and it’s important that people far and wide understand this is an uncomfortable time, but not one without a lesson or two to be learned.
As football in England returns this coming week, even with all that has changed, take a moment to really think about what the game means to you. It will be strange for an incalculable number of people who wish nothing but to sit in their football clubs ground. It will feel like a searing pain to most, magnified by the human yearning to physically run to the ground and take part in it the only way they know how: loudly, proudly, and unabashedly.
None of us may be able to return to the routines we know of just yet, but time will be a cure of all ails. In small increments, the world is starting to settle back into place after being shaken like a snow globe. These types of baby steps have allowed football to make a return, even in an empty stadium. It’s not ideal, but it’s all we have at the moment and most will find it as comforting as can be in these modern times.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m ready for the real Saturdays to make a return into my life.