Footballers Direct: Reporter Challenges Reasoning Behind Local Football Rivalry

Writers at Footballers Direct were interested to read Csaba Abrahall’s Guardian report questioning the logic behind automatic local football fan rivalry this week.

In it, Abrahall describes the way his father first introduced him to the idea that “harbouring positive thoughts about your team’s local rivals” was not “the done thing” and explores ways in which this type of attitude can create unnecessary tensions between local fans. In his case, as a supporter of Ipswich Town, an automatic hatred of Norwich city was an inevitable part of his football ‘duty’ and a direct result of the expectations of others. However, he says that he was never really comfortable about the idea of expressing dislike for other teams for no logical reason:

“The truth I now acknowledge is that I still don’t dislike Norwich City, and a question that I didn’t ask my dad is demanding an answer – why should I? You should have a good reason to dislike something. Norwich is a nice place – both my daughters were born there and it has a lovely cathedral. The football team’s recent renaissance and dedication to entertaining football can only be admired. Neither the city nor the club offend me, so to develop a groundless aversion to them and let it dictate my behaviour would appear irrational and futile.”

Abrahall also highlights the rise of the internet as one of the reasons behind an increase in unfounded negativity between fans, pointing out that the anonymity it offers can be a bad thing. When fans form opinions about football direct from internet sources they are often related to what are known as ‘bragging rights’. He says:

“Bragging is neither attractive nor rewarding; bragging rights are little more than a licence to behave like an arse. It’s not something that appeals. I don’t mean to suggest that we should all get along. While participating in gloating seems pointless, it is understandable that football supporters should seek some kind of adversary. There’s a role for an antihero in any drama but automatically casting the team down the road in the part is the lazy option; we should be more discriminating.

“Thanks to the reported actions and words of their players, managers or supporters I have managed to build up genuine petty grievances against plenty of clubs without needing to invent one against my local rivals. And while some fans will have good reason to include their neighbours on their most-despised lists, there must surely be many more who, if they think about it, will have been more cheesed off by others.

“Dislike of our local rivals is an indoctrinated position that’s hard to shake. If, just for example, Norwich were to lose at home in the FA Cup to a non-League team at a time when I feared that they might have a squad decent enough to win something of consequence, I would be unable to suppress a chuckle, but there’s no malice there. I don’t really care. To do so would be an unnecessary strain on my blood pressure, and it’s already a bit high. I’ll reserve my spite for those that really merit it.”

Reactions to this report were very varied but many agreed that Abrahall has a point. One responded: “Agreed. My best mate and my Uncle are City fans, so if I’m declaring my pathological hatred for City and all City fans I’m actually slagging off family and friends in the process.” Another said: “I still remember me and my Dad jumping around the living room in 1988 or whenever it was, when Arsenal won the league at Anfield, because a London team had won the league. That memory always makes me smile, but it’s unthinkable now.” While ‘Birty’ reminded us: “I always see football rivalry as a pantomime villain style. When we’re in the ground I may sing about your sister or your players or the lack of studious work ethic your town is known for but in the end its all meant as a joke.”

What do you think about local rivalry in the game? Footballers Direct would love to hear your opinions…