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In Absence: Part Three of Investigating Football Fandom

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I've been looking for an excuse to use this picture.
I've been looking for an excuse to use this picture.

I'm sure everything has had those times when you can't watch Chelsea games live; like me and my brother, I'm sure you find it especially painful.

You may remember previous pieces by me talking about what following Chelsea means to me, and if you don't, you can find them here and here. I've penned part three after spending three weeks in the Australian sun, and like last time, some feedback would be great, as this is all part of the process of completing my major work for the English Extension 2 course and further down the course, my end of school exams in October this year.

I'd also be interested in what other people have to say on the issues brought up in the story. Especially considering how globalized the community is here on WAG, I'm sure there's similar stories or experiences that you could share.

But for now, please read on.

Every January my mother and my father would pack the car full of beach attire and travel to Australia's South Coast with little regard for the scheduling of Chelsea games. Fortunately the first month of a new year eases up on the workload for players. By marking games out on a calendar, my brother and I could see that this season in a three week trip, we would only miss two games. Resigned to our fact we pack accordingly to our impending exile from Chelsea, bringing along an old fashioned dictator of footballing fate - the radio.

Holidays are often acclaimed as a time to celebrate the little things in life by living sparsely, and in a world dominated by the possibilities of the digital revolution it may seem to be taking that idea to an unnecessary extreme. After all, huddling around the wireless to catch up on the scores is something generally associated with life before the Second World War. The fault of this lay with the parents, who decided when I was four months old, long before a mere football club came to dictate my schedules, that holidays did not include access to mobile phone or TV reception, nor internet access. This is perfectly fine when one's aim is to indeed escape to something simple; a holiday cabin without electricity seems to do the trick.

These holidays are fantastic; days spent metres from the beach with kangaroos spending their days much like we did: lazying around in an unforgiving yet fulfilling Aussie summer. Much removed from the climate that the players experience in England; and much removed from the world around us. It's perfect for simplicity, not so good for keeping in touch with an obsession.

Fortunately the signal is kind for ABC Radio to at least deliver two numbers that will fulfill somewhat of the craving to stay on track with the seperate universe that the bubble of football creates.

Cravings for addictions can be cured with repetitious hits, and following a team in England these days amounts to a shot every couple of days. However one's dependence on results to dictate mood goes to a whole new level when you only have the result. A lot of fans would gladly skip the roller coaster ride that Chelsea regularly provide in exchange for the security of a definite, final result. Perhaps, before these holidays, I may have been the same.

However, there's another theory about holidays: some believe they can provide a new perspective. This is certainly true. No longer was the result satisfying enough to fulfill our craving. The slow monotone voice that announced a 1-0 win over Sunderland stripped the game bare.

What is both a wildly uplifting and perilously depressing experience became devoid of it's powers. What was I supposed to take out of two consecutive numbers? One, and zero. There's nothing special about them.

In the end, I drew two conclusions. First that the fans that feed their fandom through the two numbers alone are wasting their time. It may just be me, but in skipping the game the skip the pure pleasure of victory and defeat. There's something thrilling and strangely beautiful to share with others the emotions that define the moments we remember. Or perhaps these people are just not silly enough to put themselves through that inevitable loss. After all, there's only ever one winner in football, and most likely it won't be your team. Perhaps these people actually do something meaningful with their lives that doesn't involve watching kick a ball across a field.

This simplification of a complicated game led me to my second conclusion, which occured to me as spray smashed across my face as my brother and I discussed the score of the Norwich game on the beach seven days later. We knew nothing of the game beyond two zeros, and as we walked we discussed our yearning to know more. The vast potentialities of football teased our minds; had we been cheated again by cruel referring or had we been the ones lucky to escape with a point?

It came among my pacing thoughts the words of Juanmo Lillo, a Spanish manager appreciated with tutoring Pep Guardiola. He had been interviewed by Sid Lowe for Issue One of the football quarterly The Blizzard, and was my holiday reading. He discussed a "fulfillment that comes from the process" while detailing his coaching philosophy which is based around entertainment as the objective. At the time of reading these thoughts went in one ear and out the other, yet on the hot and sticky sand his words suddenly resonated a strong clarity. I came to the realisation that I no longer watched Chelsea as to obtain a piece of singular data: that is the point of following them, yes, but only upon reaching that piece of data does this become beside the point. In simplifying the game to nakedness we took ourselves away from everything we had come to so desperately need a radio for.

Some holidays are meant to be simple. It's easy to just survive by simple means when you are on holidays, but who were we kidding? After both games, we gave in to our addiction and drove to get some mobile phone reception.