The devastating and equally disgraceful events that shook Europe on Friday have really made me reconsider what I wanted to use my blog for today. Rather than talk about Norwich City and our upcoming games, I’m going to talk about football as a whole.
It’s easy to get exasperated with this game sometimes. The FIFA scandal. Sepp Blatter just being Sepp Blatter. Players rolling around, buying free-kicks, getting one another sent off. Incompetent refereeing. It can all leave you a little disillusioned and fed up sometimes. The beautiful game appears anything but.
However, watching Ireland triumph over Bosnia and seeing their fans go absolutely mental after Jon Walters thumped home the second? Well, it got me thinking. As a Norwich fan, we had experiences like that towards the end of last season. Yesterday, in fact, was six months since we beat Ipswich 3-1 at Carrow Road, sealing our place at Wembley. Days like that? They’re the sort of days you live for as a football fan. Delirious joy. Memories to last a life time. A buzz to fuel you for weeks and weeks to come.
Obviously, Wembley came afterwards which was even better. I will never forget that day. Ever. As Nathan Redmond drove home City’s second and the Norwich end exploded once more? My word. I can still see the ball hitting the back of the net. I can still hear the wild, deafening roar from the Canary fans there.
At that Wembley game, you had strangers hugging complete strangers. People you’d never met before! We were all friends. We were all together. We were all united. Week after week after week, at football stadiums up and down the country, all across Europe, everywhere, every league, whenever, whatever – you have people of all ages, from all different backgrounds coming together to share a common bond. We sit together. We cheer together. We sigh together. We live every ball together. For those 90 minutes, we stand as one, we share the highs and we share the lows and week after week we keep coming back for it.
When England took on France last night, just days after the events on Friday, thousands of people came together. There was a spine-tingling moment with the whole stadium singing the French national anthem, as the respects were rightly paid to those who lost their lives in the terrible events last week.
Whatever you’re going through, football can be that escape. As soon as you’re in that stadium, as soon as the referee blows his whistle, you’re just in the game. You’re amongst friends. You’re there to make memories, some you’ll remember forever, some you’d rather forget as soon as the final whistle blows – as a Norwich fan, I’ve had both. Yet, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m sure anyone reading this wouldn’t either. This game is special.
While others seek to divide us, football is one of those things that can unite us, even in the darkest of times. That’s why it’s the beautiful game.