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A Football Fan Am I Not

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Mount Kailash is often regarded as the holiest mountain in Asia. Revered by the pre-Buddhists as the point of all creation and celebrated by Hindus as the recreational playground of Lord Shiva, dancing and smoking copious amounts of cannabis. Hidden away in the barren deserts of western Tibet, to circumnavigate the mountain is said to wipe away all the sins of ones´ lifetime.

Indeed, according to Buddhists, 108 circuits will ensure enlightenment. Drolma La pass marks the highest point of this strenuous 52km trek, perched at a foreboding 5630 metres. Look closely and you will see a Watford football shirt tied to prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, lovingly and auspiciously placed in July 2000 by my good-self.

I am sick and tired of hearing 606 football fans bemoan non-attendance as “imitation” fans. For my sins I have been a Watford fan since watching my first match at the tender age of four — my first religious pilgrimage to Vicarage Road being in 1971.

It’s true, I have attended probably less than a dozen matches in the last 17 years, but in fairness to myself I have lived abroad during this time; 12 years in Hong Kong, 4 years in Bogotá, Colombia and now based near Dharamsala in the North of India. I don´t care what Danny Baker thinks, I regularly fly the flag through a wide series of replica shirts dating back from the 1980s. Despite my strong allegiance, yellow has never been a favourite colour of mine, so I am eternally grateful for away strips.

With the advent of the Internet, the world is certainly a smaller place. An annual subscription fee enables me to keep in touch with all the matches. Live commentary from bias commentators at local Three Counties Radio providing a backdrop to each match-day with video highlights and radio interviews posted sporadically throughout the week. This has resulted in a new level of unparalled geekiness.

With Hong Kong being 8 hours in front of Greenwich Mean Time, my Saturday nights were curtailed by a 10pm self-imposed curfew to enable me to listen in, much to the sheer disbelief and ridicule of my peers. However, this seemed to me much more reasonable behaviour than the midweek evening kick-offs which would see me at the computer at 3.45 in the morning, bleary-eyed and armed with a Benson and Hedges and double espresso. It is not often said with sincerity that The Hornets style of football is surreal at times.

Ever the romantic, when my Singaporean fiancée asked where we should marry in 2004, and without hesitation there was only one sacred place — Vicarage Road. Incredibly, the club were in process of making this legally possible, and fate dictated that in August of that year, we became the first couple to tie the knot at the stadium. Not so easy to organise when you are living thousands of miles away. You can bet your bottom dollar that such a romantic gesture very much endeared me to my in-laws!

Our honeymoon and next four years was spent in Bogotá, and being six hours behind England, I was to learn to appreciate a great Saturday breakfast kick — off experience. Night matches were still day matches and I still had most of Saturday left to try to live a life!

From our bedsit in Mcleod Ganj perched 2000 metres up in a tiny village in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, my broadband connection sparks up every Saturday evening as I perform my weekly ritual. I am hoping the proximity of my new neighbour, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, will further provide greater karma to “The Golden Boys” . A football fan am I not?

*The title is a tribute to Watford Legend (Sir) Graham Taylor

This article is a submission for the Soccerlens 2008 Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here. The competition is sponsored by Subside Sports (premier online store for football shirts) and Icons (official signed football jerseys).

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