The unwelcome rise of the football hipster
Hipsters ruined everything. From music to cinema to clothes. These are the be-coiffed bandwagon jumpers whose all-judging eyes run themselves over your CD collections, your DVD collection, your girlfriend and will only sleep soundly in their beds once the very definition of your self, your whole, is imperceptibly altered. They will leave you questioning your taste, your authenticity, your opinions and now they’ve locked their crosshairs on football.
There will be blood.
Football hipsters are a relatively new phenomenon and there are two types that require profiling.
The first type seem harmless enough. The lower league football hipster. They support a team from League 2 down and exist on a diet of crumbling football grounds (note, not stadia). They are down to earth, defined by the authenticity of their support and have grown weary of the commercialisation of the game.
They will say things like, “the game is lost to us now” and will, like Nostradamus and the Mayans before them, gleefully forecast the death of football every season. They will point to the Sky money, foreign ownerships and monopolisation of playing talent to the big clubs as the plagues of this impending apocalypse. I can get along with this type of fan, put a hand over the Manchester City crest on my shirt and nod appreciatively, making sympathetic noises and agreeing up to a point.
Football isn’t broken, despite its high ticket prices, cynical media, disconnected players from fans, foreign ownership, teams in administration, debt, Sky, sexism, racism, lack of video technology, uncompetitive leagues, corrupt governing bodies, decline in International football…
In fact, football is better regulated and of a higher quality than ever, probably owing to the commercialisation of the game. Where twenty years ago we’d have to wait until Barcelona drew an English team in Europe or 60 years ago, for them to tour, we can now watch every game at the click of a button. Standards are higher right across the board. Teams like APOEL Nicosia and BATE Borisov are starting to compete with Europe’s elite in the Champions League. There are no real thrashings in the best competitions, the World Cup or the Champions League. The commercialisation of the game has also brought with it plenty of happy side-effects. Whisper it quietly, but Sepp Blatter’s vow to improve football all around the world hasn’t been a complete case of empty promises and the stuffing of notes into his back pocket.
So that’s the first breed of football hipsters dealt with. Nice, cuddly idealists. The second kind are more dastardly. You might find these on Twitter or running football blogs, these hipsters are the type who ruined your favourite band for you by sneering at your for coming in at the second album stage but get out themselves before the third’s arena tours.
You suspect that they watch a great deal less football than they claim – their opinions are cherry-picked from Guardian Football Weekly, from scan-read match reports, from broadsheet journalists’ Twitter feeds. Draw them on why they feel Napoli’s front three play so well together and there’s nothing to back it up. You suspect that their Edison Cavani avatar might be derived from assumed knowledge, a YouTube video and two goals against English opposition that prompt the smug “told you Napoli would win” tweets.
They stagger from European club to European club and buy the replica shirt of whoever is in vogue at that moment. The criteria seems to be thus:
- Must not trouble the latter stages of major competitions.
- Must possess one or two young players who are good on Football Manager 12.
- Must have a nice shirt that looks good with skinny jeans.
Napoli, Atletico Bilbao and Borussia Dortmund are apparently the current hipster teams of choice, but expect those hipsters to jump ship if Napoli progress to even further in the Champions League next year. Then, too many people will be aware of Walter Mazzarri’s charges, rendering the hipster’s alternative support lost among the noise. If they win the thing, they will have “sold out” - like Kings of Leon, their ascent to Europe’s biggest theatres will mean that this assumed affinity will be too commonly shared to survive in the fad-driven hipster micro-climate.
There’s always another band playing the local cess-pit. Until they enjoy any kind of tangible success, that is.
There’s nothing wrong with appreciating the way a football team play but the reactionary nature of this island country is something that pervades in this “hipster culture”. Take last Wednesday’s Champions League match at the Nou Camp as an example. Lionel Messi scoring buckets of goals is something that happens on a weekly basis in La Liga, yet it takes him scoring five on terrestrial television for him to land in the mainstream media. Of course, not everyone has access to Sky to watch their La Liga coverage but anyone with half an inclination to watch Messi play every week knows that where there is a will, and a reliable internet connection, there is a way.
No-one wants to talk about the fact that perhaps three of Messi’s goals against Leverkusen were a result of poor goalkeeping, that he has played many, many better games for the club.
Still, the interminable questions.
Is he the best ever?
Why can’t he do it for Argentina?
Like David Bowie or The Beatles, Messi and Barcelona are undisputedly brilliant. Therefore, the hipsters are still allowed to like them without fear of losing valuable points.
One tweeter who shall remain nameless, qualified his support of Barcelona on Wednesday, as he “supported them before Messi”. Football can live without these qualifications.
Appreciating football teams and supporting them loyally are two separate disciplines, of course. Like everyone else, I appreciate the way in which Napoli spring the trap on their opposition time after time but it’s just one way of playing rather than the way and the same goes for Barcelona’s boa-constrictor possession act.
Surely, if you’re going to support anything, support the game itself without pissing on your territory and without imperialistically planting flags in the centre circle of continental stadiums like a hipster Graeme Souness in a porkpie hat.
You don’t have to read Inverting the Pyramid to be a proper football fan, an appreciation of the game can be on a simplistic level but should never be a case of being seen to be a fan. The joy in football should be the variety, the choices that are available to any given team or individual to interpret moments in matches, to use opposition’s weaknesses against them, to carry a philosophy from the training pitches to the dressing room to the stadium. Teams can rely on physicality to succeed, beauty, craft, a system, organisation, incredible and unique support – there are too many blogs and tweeters who bought the band t-shirt and not the back catalogue.
You can buy a Sonic Youth t-shirt in Topman now.