Football (How to prepare for inevitable disappointment).
By Joey Brannigan.
Sometimes I don’t know why I do it to myself. Get into things that are so far out of character that I end up looking like the ‘token wierdo’. Whether it is my (borderline) obsession with Charity Shops or my love of poetry, this voluntary outcasting is something I am very much at ease with. However, it is not always an image thing.
When I was very young I used to go to football games with my Dad. Coventry City was, and always will be, my team. However, if I am entirely honest with myself; I didn’t enjoy it much. The loud, angry, beer soaked singing of the terraces was no place for a world weary primary school student, let alone one that would later discover numerous OCD tendencies (to my knowledge, this is not a related issue).
However, I did make the effort to go to games as regularly as I could, as it was a rare chance for me and my Dad to do something together. It will not come as a huge surprise to admit I had more in common with my mum growing up; I still wear the nail polish today.
As my teen years approached and I discovered that Rage against the Machine was more than just a clever T-shirt design, I slowly distanced myself from the Saturday afternoon roar of the great game. I still kept an eye on the Sky Blues and their results, but from a distance.
Fast forward to 2011, I began to dip my toe back in again, going to a couple of games with my mate. Before, for nostalgia sake, beginning to attend regular games again with my dad through 2013/2014. Now, well into the 2015/16 season I am the proud owner of my first ever Coventry City Season Ticket, and have got into regularly attending ‘Away’ fixtures. My dad comes to a few games, and 2 out of my 4 friends are City fans so they often join me, but the season ticket is literally just me on my own.
As a vegan, assumptions can be a very dangerous thing, and I have been fortunate enough in my travels so far this season to look after my appetite prior to games. From a Salad Sub before a depressing 1-0 defeat at Scunthorpe, to a trip to the wonderful Earth Café in Manchester ahead of a tense game at Bury.
However, I let my guard down a little on Saturday 10th October when the Sky Blues made the long journey north to Fleetwood Town. I was getting the coach that day with 1 of my 2 mates that support the club, and, pressed for time before our early departure I thought to myself “It’ll be OK. I’ll get something to eat at the game”. I know, I know. Schoolboy error right?
A long story short? I ended up paying £1.50 for the only packet of vegan-friendly crisps in the ground, and resorting to a packet of mints I had in my bag for additional sustenance. Fortunately, in the last minute of the game, Coventry netted a goal. Richard wood, a former City player, now with Fleetwood Town, scoring an own goal giving his former club the 3 points. Furthermore this was the first game in charge for Steven Pressley; whose last job prior to this? You guessed it, Manager of Coventry City. It wasn’t a pretty game. Infact, if football games were women this one was certainly a case of personality winning over looks.
However, as that ball hit the back of the net the terraces erupted with the loudest and most frantic cheer I had ever been a part of, and as the sugar rush from the mints kicked-in, I surged forward, bouncing up and down like I was in well natured mosh pit. Some guy even kissed my forehead, It may have been his attempt at romance, he may have thought I was a woman, or have maybe he was just very, very drunk…I decided I’d let it go.
However, even after this thrill, this moment of unity and, dare I say it, acceptance on the terraces. I found my mind racing. Now, I was naive to assume that a football ground would offer a full vegan menu, and in reality I didn’t expect it to.
But how ‘Vegan’ is football itself? I mean, on one level, enjoying running and sliding around upon a lovely stretch of green is the epitome of Vegan Ideology. However, If you take the players themselves out of the equation, it is infact a game based on the transportation of a spherical piece of leather via skilful impacts from leather boots. Now granted, I am sure vegan alternatives are widely used (again with the ‘wrong to assume’ thing), but in essence, this is the image I conjured up; cheering and jeering as the skin of a dead animal was helplessly hoofed (pun intended) around a pitch resembling the sort of pastures that poor animal likely never had the fortune to graze upon. Surely a fresh Lettuce would have similar enough aero dynamic properties to be a suitable substitute (pun intended)?
Then, on the long ride home, I got even more picky. Was the coach seat I had paid to use leather? There was an assistant to the driver offering free cakes to all passengers on the club coach; had I unwillingly paid in-to the dairy industry by paying to ride on a coach where chocolate mini muffins had been purchased as a ‘treat’? Or was I simply tired, hungry and deflated? Probably the latter.
The next morning I woke up, and in a daze stuck on a DVD. It was the first series of The Addams Family TV show from the 1960’s. I LOVE that family (almost too much), and I continued to enjoy a few episodes in my bed whilst sipping a lovely liquorice tea (a combination of TV and beverage that works really well; get on it!). But then, my thoughts began to wander into the same mode as the previous evening. Was John Astin (Gomez) wearing ACTUAL Leather shoes? Was Ted Cassidy’s (Lurch) suit made from a WOOL blend? And that Taxidermy; Not REAL? Surely? …Had I, unknowingly paid into a pot of money made from a cast of actors wearing and using animal based products 50 years ago? Or, and this is the conclusion I arrived most content at, was I simply thinking too much?
Granted, we could debate amongst ourselves until the end of time. But then that is not what veganism is really about is it? It is not about closing our eyes every time we see someone who doesn’t share the same dietary choices or moral coding as our own. It is about making these choices for ourselves; to be free from animal based products and by-products in any aspect of our own lives.
For what it’s worth, that was the first and only time I have felt like an outcast at a football game in recent years. In the weeks that have followed I have learned my lesson when on my travels; hunting down the ‘free from’ aisle of the nearest supermarket (football grounds usually seem to have one close by).
In short; If you see me singing from the terraces be sure to come and say Hi! Especially if you have any Naked bar’s, as I don’t think many grounds do a vegan version of the steak pies at half time! And the point in me telling you all of this? Simply put; always assume the worst. Prepare to be let down, and be sure to have every ‘worst case scenario’ scouted. After all, A vegan rarely goes anywhere without a backpack right? Then, in those all too frequent cases where you don’t get spolit by the green glow of an M&S Simply Food, you can rest assured knowing that either way; You’ve got It Covered.