A few weeks ago I was sitting on a train from London to Newcastle with a good mate, on my way up north one final time before I have to go home. I was heading back for the England-Australia game at the Stadium of Light.
We got talking about how football is a language that so many people can identify with. Picture this – you could be sitting around a table in Thailand with five people that speak five languages from five different countries. In the corner of the room the Manchester United-Liverpool game is on, and all of a sudden have one glorious thing in common – football. Football speaks louder than any language I know, it’s what so many people identify with, and it can crush barriers between different cultures with an unprecedented force.
Take the other night in my pub in London for example; an elderly man from Argentina came in and not a word of English came out of his mouth, all he knew was Spanish. He placed his order with me by pointing to different foods in his Spanish to English dictionary. An hour had passed and he came up to the bar to pay; he gave me his credit card, and then opened up his passport to show me he was from Argentina. “Argentina?” I said gleefully, and “Messi” with thumbs up. His face instantly lit up.
The next few minutes passed, and with the very basic Spanish I remembered from backpacking around the country last year we managed to have a conversation about the Argentinean national team. We talked about how they had lost to Chile in Santiago last year (a game which he attended), and how happy he was that they’d just got revenge at the Copa America in the USA. I told him I supported Newcastle United, and mentioned Coloccini and Gutierrez, (the latter whom I described as a hero to me – he agreed). With that he left, but it reminded me once again that football, unlike so many things in the 21st century, has no boundaries. The beautiful game’s reach is endless, and so it should be.
I was trying to explain to my friend how football had changed for me. I moved halfway across the world because I fell in love with a football club, that being Newcastle United. I was possessed by some crazy drive to get up at 3am each weekend to cheer them on back in Melbourne. I didn’t mind, all I wanted to do was watch them play. When the opportunity arose to move to England and live in Newcastle, it was something I knew I had to do.
I arrived in Newcastle in August 2014, in love with a football club. However I leave England in a few weeks having fallen in love with a city instead. That city, and my second home, will always be Newcastle. What that football club means to the people of Newcastle is beyond words; its a travesty it has fallen to such lows under the Ashley regime. The Geordies are, without a shadow of a doubt, the nicest most welcoming people you’ll ever come across. They took me in with open arms and made me an ‘adopted Geordie’. A phrase which I’m more than happy and proud to brandish about in London.
Newcastle United is the identity of so many people and it’s something we should all be proud of. St James’ Park is one of the most unique and awe inspiring places in English football, if only the team on the pitch could deliver as much! When I’m back in Australia, of course I’ll miss seeing Newcastle play at St James’. I’ll miss the away days, I’ll certainly miss games being on at a reasonable hour but more than anything I’ll miss the people that made me feel so at home. The people that made those 12 months the best and happiest 12 months of my life, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.
Football has changed for me, its something I’ll always be passionate about, nothing can describe what it does to you. The feeling of scoring a last minute winner, or the feeling of taking the lead on an away day. Nothing else in life gives you that buzz, and nothing ever will. But when I return in a few years time on holiday, I’ll be longing to see a game at live, but more than anything I’ll be hanging to go for a pint at the Town Wall or to go for a walk along the Tyne. As Sir Bobby once famously said, football is “..the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city”.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Jem Sullivan (@anaussiegeordie)
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