I should never have bitten. The internet is not a place for the easily narked, it is a country club for malcontents with its rolling fairways littered with the tossed aside sleights of the lonely and the pasty faced, where everybody wears a blazer tailored out of the translucently thin skins of those poor saps whose shots fell into the bunker of paranoia and self-doubt. People like me.
I should never have bitten, but I couldn't help myself on reading a comment on Facebook about the magazine I co-edit about Berlin’s football scene. It was a simple aside, nothing major, just a sarcastic little snark about, and I am paraphrasing here, us only concentrating on teams from the West. It has been almost four years that I have written about football in this fair city now, and I (and my colleagues) have been accused on the one hand of anti-Semitism and on the other of being too damn left. Of an Ost-centricity and of a West-based-bias and a thousand other contradictory standpoints. I always tell myself that this is fine, this is football, and where would football be if it didn’t revolve around irrational dislikes and perceived wrongs the world over?
I should know, and, as I said earlier, I should never have bitten.
The problem was that I had just been watching a short film about the protest movements in Turkey and how the fans of Istanbul’s three great clubs, the most bitterly divided clubs in the world, Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş and Galatasaray had managed to bury a hundred years of simmering enmity, malice and all of the partisan bullshit that this involves, to march together, to stand together as one, to stand up for each other’s rights and for each other’s freedoms.
I just thought to myself – as I gnashed my teeth and wailed at a monitor that couldn’t care less if I was offended by a simple sarcastic comment on the world’s easiest wind up board – that surely if the fans of these clubs could come together, bravely united, then why do the fans of clubs in Berlin still mutter about a catastrophic divide in this city that hasn’t existed for over 20 years. How is it that, in the face of football’s increasing commercialisation and all of the bad shit that is happening to the people’s game that we should be unified against, we still can find a fault line above which to build our castles, a tornado alley to erect our poorly painted camper vans.
Of course this misses the point. For good or ill Germany is not on the verge of popular revolution and therefore it is trite to draw the comparison to the inconceivable unity shown by the fans in Istanbul alongside so many thousands of others from other sides of uncountable other – surely just as deeply – entrenched divides. Also, on a much baser level, football would be rubbish without the vitriol and without the rivalries that make it so compelling. If we all skipped together under a rainbow to every match hoping that the game itself would be the real winner, dressed in the black or the luminous, bilious yellow, or whatever colour it is that referees wear these days, and cheered on both sides like the self-righteous bastard sons of Mahatma Gandhi and Bono it would be horrible, pointless, a waste of time and money and all of that material knocked out to make a enough pairs of purple coloured, corduroy dungarees for us all to wear.
It is just that sometimes it seems so pointless, particularly when it comes to an East/West divide that people fought, together, for so long to get rid of that now manifests itself, not in terms of remembering when “those bastards” beat “us” (which is, in these terms, utterly understandable, and even, dementedly laudable), but in terms of outdated geographical measures.
But then comes the crushing blow, as all of this nonsense falls apart. I was, of course, posting on a forum recently complaining about how in the arse-end of England, Anglia regional television has a blatant bias towards the west of the region, whereas us true easterners were less inbred, less uncultured (really, this is the best we can do, we couldn’t really claim to be cultured) and much more grounded. The existence of the topic itself proved my ill-conceived conceit to be wholly wrong, and merely showed up a simple, stark fact: I’m just as bad as the fucking rest of them.
So for that I apologise, and I’ll see you in the club house for the petty, the whiney, the childish and the agoraphobically embittered in time for Pimms and a whine about why my club never gets the credit it deserves.