Offside, 5 June
Sufferers of End of Season Affective Disorder should discover life outside the stadium.
Are you feeling lethargic, directionless, unsociable, or moody? Do you find it hard to concentrate? Is there is a gaping void in your life? If so, you may be suffering from End of Season Affective Disorder.
As if we didn’t have enough spurious new medical syndromes, it looks like we’ve manufactured another one. Research commissioned by Premiership sponsors Barclaycard suggests that 9.2million football fans may be suffering from depression and withdrawal symptoms as a result of the absence of football (1). ‘I know Saturdays are never quite the same without football; no game, no results on the radio and no post-match debate with your mates’, said Barclaycard sponsorship director Nic Gault. ‘To be honest, I have no idea how I will cope during the summer months without the game!’
Are we supposed to take any of this seriously? Psychologist John Castleton, who conducted the study for Barclaycard, certainly talks a good game. ‘Football fans clearly hold a deep-rooted relationship with their team, and as a result – like any other close bond – to have that central pillar suddenly removed, could cause a quite obvious existential crisis’, he psychobabbled impressively.
Barclaycard has even set up a national helpline for distressed fans. However, if there are any clinically depressed supporters contemplating self-harm and seeking counselling, they’re in for a surprise if they phone the helpline. On calling the number I was greeted by a recorded message from someone doing a bad impersonation of Des Lynam offering a menu of soothing terrace sounds including Simply the Best played through a dodgy PA system, the bloke behind you shouting himself hoarse, and fans celebrating a goal.
It’s amusing in a bloke-ish They Think It’s All Over kind of way. Bereft fans can also apply for a Summer Survival Pack containing pies, cups of tea, mini footballs, football magazines, and Mars bars. Mind you, only the first 1000 callers will receive a survival pack, so I guess that the rest of us – 9.19million, by my calculation – can just go eat Prozac.
But are we really all grieving for the loss of our regular Saturday afternoon dose of football? I’m not. Frankly I couldn’t wait for the curtains to close on this season. You see, much of what goes on during the season can be misery-inducing, too. I’m not just speaking for supporters of clubs who are struggling to avoid relegation. Watching your team gradually becoming mired in mid-table mediocrity can be pretty dispiriting as well – just ask any Spurs or Villa fans.
For many of us the close season will come as a blessed relief. Sooner or later some quack will probably attach a medical label to the mid-season symptoms that fans experience. To save them the bother here are some suggestions:
— Extremely Dull Nil-Nil Draw Disorder: protracted moaning, inability to concentrate on the game, uncontrollable yawning, and the gradual sapping of the will to live;
— Burger Queue Rage: morbid fear of queue-jumpers, mounting agitation as slothful burger-flippers serve customers in slow motion, purple rage after biting into over-priced unpalatable burger;
— Fragile Defence Syndrome: panic attack every time you lose the ball, premonitions of doom whenever a free kick or corner is awarded, involuntary Tourrettes-like compulsion to scream ‘F**king close the f**king space, you useless c**ts’;
— Italian Persecution Complex: burning sense of injustice, intense feelings of paranoia about the football authorities/referees/Zionist government conspiracy against your team;
— Final Whistle Fatigue: your team has lost, you’re emotionally drained, life sucks, you’ve had a skinful, your missus wants to watch a romantic film, but you just want to go to sleep.
I could go on. Football is an emotional business, but is it really worth having an existential crisis over? Perhaps the Barclaycard report’s most disturbing finding was that 75 percent of fans said that football was the most important thing in their life – more important than religion, politics, their family and partner.
Can this be true? Is football really more important than our nearest and dearest? Put another way, would you choose not to rescue your wife and kids from a burning building because the football highlights were on telly?
I don’t think so. However, I do think that football has come to matter more to us than ever before, and that religion and politics matter less. Football used to provide an escape from the daily grind but now, for many of us, it seems to have become the daily grind, dictating our moods and defining our identity. In short, we are becoming a nation that needs to get a life.
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