There are a whole bunch of questions I have about football that I have that mirror questions I have about life more broadly… this is the first one and I might write about some others over the coming weeks.
Like the football club of Theseus, almost every aspect of the club is transient.
The players shift from team to team at the sight of an additional dollar or two. Yes Philippe Coutinho, I’m looking at you.
The manager gets shafted as soon as there is a string of two or three losses or packs his bags as soon as he (yes, always he even in this day) gets a better offer.
The owners, who I only really care about if there are financial challenges, also flip every so often when they’ve had enough or made enough money.
The “way of playing” or “philosophy” is something fans get fixated on but is surely intimately linked to the manager and players. What the hell is the “Liverpool Way”?
The location of the stadium is one aspect of the club that is fixed. My club is called Liverpool FC. But I live nowhere near Liverpool and nor do the vast majority of fans. Few of the players consider Liverpool their home, and nor does the manager. Supporting a team was a local thing but globalisation of the game has weakened this to a point where I wouldn’t be surprised to see clubs move their grounds to more “commercially viable” places and “global networks” of clubs. What used to be a club that represented a locale is now, at the top end of the game at least, a behemoth selling shirts and football camps around the world. The biggest clubs are now no different from Apple or Zara, hawking their wares to us all, except there are some dying embers of ties back to a community that the club once represented.
The other thing that exists is the history and each of our stories that tie us to the club. A series of facts exist that are associated with the badge of our chosen team, and we weave a selection of these facts into a tale that becomes the basis for our understanding of what the club is. The longer your association with a club goes on, the more these facts feel like your own, and the more intimately you are tied into the narrative you construct.
Like companies, religions and the legal system, a football club exists as a collective belief in its existence reinforced by a history which forms the basis for each of our own stories of association with the club.