According to the urban dictionary, “an armchair fan is someone that claims to have a huge interest in a team they very rarely watch and when they do watch it’s on the television.” It is often used as an insult, but I’d like to give my view on why that is not always a fair assessment of the fan in question.
In the old days, supporting a football club was a very local matter. Football clubs recruited their fans based on the geographical location of their ground, because even if you became a fan of a club by family ties you could bank on the fact that your family’s origins were situated somewhere near that holy ground. It was also difficult to follow a club because you needed radio coverage, the newspapers or the odd sports publication. Televised games were scarce and I can only imagine football coverage was not as widespread as it is now. So the only possibility to find out for yourself if X player was the bee’s knees was by visiting the ground itself. Getting tickets was easy, players were paid decent but acceptable wages, the tabloids did not follow them everywhere, girls in Britain still reckoned becoming a nurse or a teacher was a better career choice than marrying a footballer, the terraces were not yet rendered useless and the ‘please sit down brigade’ was nowhere to be found. We all recognise the nostalgic feeling you get when watching the old boys in black and white and the crowd standing very close to the pitch. So the only kind of armchair fans at the time, were just those that did not bother (or were not able) to go to the games anymore or only had a very weak affiliation with the club they supposedly followed. It was simpler times, you had one type of ball, kits that did not absorb your body heat and football boots were black.
But since those famous and overly romanticised old days things have changed at a pace that makes Usain Bolt look like a snail on a high-grade ganja diet. First and foremost the grounds became more comfortable, the sit down crowd went crazy over the introduction of the plastic seats, the accommodations became ever more diverse, players became absurdly paid prima donnas , football boots were available in all colors (even goddamn pink boots) and the club shops started selling useless objects carrying the logo of the club. But all of this came at a cost and for lots of people that cost made their voyages to their holy football turf nigh impossible. Not that the clubs cared because for every loyal fan that gave up, there was another one waiting to take his/her place. Preferably someone willing to pay for the new luxury type of football experience. So that man that gave up and grudgingly became an armchair fan was bleeding inside because his heart still beats for that club and the shirt. To be confronted with his lack of income was a harsh pill to swallow.
[typography font=”PT Sans” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#222222[/linequote]But since those famous and overly romanticised old days things have changed at a pace that makes Usain Bolt look like a snail on a high-grade ganja diet.[/typography]
We now have about 6000 sports channels in high definition, making it able to see the sweat dripping from the million euro men that kick the fancy named ball of the moment around. And let’s not forget the ultimate development that made clubs breakthrough the local boundaries, the world wide web. That sweet high speed connection that makes it possible for fans to follow their clubs via paying streams without actually having to order a Sky subscription or selling their bodies on the street to afford a season ticket. Clubs became global brands and kids all over the world were buying kits of players and teams they had only seen on various screens. So a new kind of armchair fans arose (so to speak), the kind that lives many miles away from the holy ground, the kind that gets up in the middle of the night to watch a dodgy stream, the kind that dreams about one day visiting that place that called out to them since they realized it existed. Their hearts also beat for the club and the shirt even without having smelt the crappy toilets, the match day burgers, the sweat of the big bloke next to you and that overwhelming feeling when 35000 thousand people start the chant that you’ve heard so many times trough your boxes/headset. These fans are not always welcomed by a small part of the diehard fans of old, considering them to be tourists and stealing seats away from honest local fans.
In my opinion, an armchair fan is not always to be seen as an insult because lots of people that aren’t in the stands during games, share the love of the shirt, make a lot of effort to watch the games, browse the internet for information, meet other fans of that same club via social media and go crazy in front of their computer screen when a player puts that ball in that net.
For lots of these fans the following applies: WE ARE TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR, WE SING ON OUR OWN.
From a proud armchair fan.
Author: Belgian Spur