What is a Football Club?
I have recently begun writing about the issues facing my Football Club; Charlton Athletic. I have told the story of this season and it's perils and I've explained why a recent EFL statement shows that the club is in trouble. I have been driven to do this because this football club is special and I thought I'd share why to explain why it would be abhorrent to lose it.
To those who don't like or even know football, a football club is just an organisation that pays overpriced athletes to kick some balls. Their is some truth to that. There is indeed a lot of ball kicking and watching Charlton feels like a kick in the balls every Saturday, but there is still something that drives me back.
Watching sport is intoxicating, there is something about supporting a team that really conjures up an experience like no other. The game plays out almost like a story with your team as the protagonist and you get drawn in like no other. You empathise with every blow, you feel every crunching tackle and you are amongst every set-piece.
Your first visit to a ground is a memorable one. The sound deafening, the ambience mesmerising and the teams, if your lucky, can perform wonders. I still remember my first match and have many games I still recall fondly to this day. Whether it be last year's playoff win, Claus Jensen's last minute winner after a Brad Friedel goal or a miraculous comeback against Cardiff.
But it isn't about just being in the stands but being amongst people with whom you share this something special with. They've chanted every song with you, they've gone through the heartbreak of relegation and the ecstasy of promotion. They are one of you.
This stems back to when these teams were formed from local working men groups or from a group of local lads that the locals rallied around. This has evolved into full communities that aim to better their surroundings. The Charlton Athletic Community Trust are world-beating and provide brilliant care for those with special needs. A lot of their funding comes from supporter engagement and this story runs similar around the UK.
The Common Ground
Being part of a community that has these shared experiences of dramatic highs and crushing blows allows people, who would normally never chat, to communicate with others. This in-road can bridge a gap between worlds and people from all walks of life can discuss that dubious penalty or that Aneke goal that should've stood.
It allows the brothers that don't talk often to text each other every weekend and check in on each other. It allows those who are shy have a way to express themselves.
It allowed me, when I was at my lowest, to reach out to my friends, who drove me to the game and that let me open up about my depression. It allowed me to escape a world that I was drowning in and then provided me a way to float after.
A football club is a workplace, a spectacle, a culture, a mission and a community. They were formed by local people and should work for them too. Any club that is left to rot is a disgrace, please don't take my Charlton.