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Loss: Reacting To The Pain of Football

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You may remember my first piece in this sort of mini-series, and here's the next part of my writing, this time reflecting on the loss against Bayer Leverkusen. With this in mind, I take a look at reactions to loss within football, and in a broader context, life.

Again this is part of my work for the 4 units of English I am doing; more feedback, which many of you were generous with last time, would be much appreciated. Enjoy.


Bayer Leverkusen vs Chelsea, 23/11/11

Human beings, by nature, have different mechanisms to responding to loss. The football fan, in particular, has a wide variety, ranging across a vast spectrum, with an outward, expressive demonstration of anger at one end and at the other a silent self-inflictive temporary passage of sorrow. There are many others in between this range, but I admit ashamedly at being an active participant of the latter.

Not always. There are some losses I can take as a chip on my shoulder, a blot on my day; when the performance has its merits or perhaps the result itself is not particularly bearing upon anything; these days are met with casual smile, half-hearted grin, as if to say oh well.

There are other times where a loss will make me cross, where we should have done better, or perhaps we were just unlucky or were not the favourites; these losses are met with petulance and dismay; and then there are the times that a loss will just make me very, very angry.

The Bayer Leverkusen game was a strong example of this type of loss. It's ridiculous, I know, for the circumstances are not as damming as much as other losses that have gone before.

To paint the scene; a safe passage to the round of 16 beckoned, after a performance that did naught to warm the heart, but this was acceptable in lieu of the approaching final scoreline for its importance amongst a run of poor results. Even at 1-1, I was okay, a couple of fluffed swear words, but up until the ninety-second minute everything was, for the most part, accepting.

It takes words beyond my capabilities to fully explain the emotions a fan feels when a team falls prey to a late winner for the opposition - it is a pain that hurts, most definitely, but to fully articulate exactly what it is that runs through one's mind at the minute of sudden impact, I find that very difficult. We can try, and many do an admirable job, at describing the emotions we feel, but for the most part, words cannot feel that void that becomes so apparent in the moments after the news hurt¸ and why should we be subject to this? What have we done to deserve this?

This is clearly repeated, as aforementioned, in the real world with the losses we experience. Obviously it is not anywhere near as significant or as important, but a loss such as death or discovery of infidelity is also met with the same reaction (even of some of us, myself guilty, do have corresponding reactions).

It must be noted that football does not mirror life, nor does it act as a metaphor for the games that God plays with us. It is instead a different dimension, something completely separate and yet universally parallel. We experience similar feelings across both these worlds and in both we experience life's dizzying highs and disastrous lows through many intangible moments.

But there's a key difference here. We don't choose to take part in the real world (unless we decide otherwise), but in a totally bizarre and inexplicable paradox that exists in the football world, we choose by volition to join in this painful experience.

We choose to join the pain of Moscow, the hurt of Chris Foy, the sting of Cole's defection.

Why don't we just celebrate the cup finals, the league triumphs? Why do we subject ourselves, year after year, game after game, to the ritual loss and suffering that our football clubs subject us to?

I met the late Leverkusen equaliser with a silence that lasted for fifteen minutes, mute to the apologetic and mocking faces of fellow fans, mute to the dejected players making a half hearted effort to applaud the faithful, mute to the world around me.

Silence is my way of dealing with grief. But this is not akin to the real world, in which I find myself needing to talk, needing to converse about how I feel, allow my emotions to roll like a wave in those moments of great sadness.

That's probably because in the real world I have to face these tribulations head on, because I have no choice.

But in the football world, where that choice was given to me, I have foolishly continued to remain loyal to that choice. Here I find myself with no answers to loss. Any sort of action associated with the real world is totally rejected - why do I need to talk? Why should I go to class? Why should I interact with my peers?

There's something inside me after moments of great betrayal that spits out in disgust against the rituals of society; and that's precisely why I choose to join this unforgiving football world.

Football is a mechanism through which we can escape the clutches that conform us in this life - it is just one of its many powers to allow us to not have to recognise the losses we experience.

It's in this football world loss can be responded to in a manner we find necessary: we take loss the way we need to; whether that's through fuming rants or dead stillness; and that's one of the reasons why we sign this arduous contract; why we don't sever these ties that we all regret; because in some way or another, these outpourings of grief, for the most part rare in the real world, occur so often in the football world and as such create an outlet for our wildest reactions.

Humans are born to express themselves, but rarely do we have the chance to take it to the extremes. A loss against Bayer Leverkusen is in no way comparable to the death of a loved one or the loss of a love. But we allow it to be so, because we crave to step away from the norm, because we want to scream and shout and shut up and sit still; humans in our own strange and twisted ways need this more often than we are allowed to, and as such, we turn to football and allow it to fill this tragic void.

In our own private way we all need these moments of suffering. The script of pure drama that a cold night in Germany can provide is craved and desired to no end. You might not realise it, and you might not want to acknowledge it, but that's okay. You're only human.

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