6. Fitting in at the footy by Steve Whyte

My 5 year old son Ewan was recently invited to a five-a-side football birthday party. Wear a football strip, the invite said. The thing is, Ewan doesn’t have a football strip and he knew that all the other boys going did. Ewan doesn’t have a football strip because he doesn’t follow football yet and he doesn’t support a team – he’s five.

While most of the boys in Ewan’s class have fathers born and raised in the local area, I’ve lived my life like the Littlest Hobo and my team is over 500 miles away. Besides, I wouldn’t be so cruel as to force him to follow the mighty Dons. [By the way, I long ago resigned myself to the fact that my son, my own flesh and blood, was going to be an England supporter. I’m cool with it. Good luck to him, I say – as an Englishman he’ll have to learn to deal with regular unmerited optimism swiftly followed by fierce fully-deserved defeat. It’s much easier supporting Scotland – it’s always a disappointment and we’re used to it].

So I had a decision to make about buying him a football top just because he was going to a party. Hertford town centre has an InterSport so I took Ewan along to see what we could see. Being Hertford, the choices were limited to Arsenal or Tottenham. Or Barcelona [go figure]. Now, at this point I should add that I have a rather unfair reputation for being tight with cash, but I’m not afraid to admit that I baulked at paying £30 for a kids footy top for Ewan, especially when he didn’t even support the teams on offer. I left the shop, dragging a near-inconsolable Ewan who was close to tears. Yes I felt bad but we had a week or so until the party so I told him I’d “look in the shops near work” [ie: eBay] to see what I could find.

On the way home though, we walked past one of Hertford’s many charity shops. As I glanced in the window I saw something… no, surely not? We went in – it bloody was, you know! Hanging in one of the railings was a kids football top, aged 5-6. Except I didn’t recognise what team it was. It had a Turkish flag on the sleeve: I knew it wasn’t the Turkey national team, so this was a Turkish league team.

I looked at Ewan. He looked back with those pleading eyes. I looked at the price label. £1.75. Despite my reputation, I reckoned I could stretch to that.

It turned out that I’d bought Ewan a Galatasaray top – how a kids Galatasaray top found its way into a Hertford charity shop is beyond me. But he didn’t care which team it was, he didn’t take it off for days. He didn’t care that it came from a charity shop or that I could pay for it from the shrapnel in my pocket. He didn’t care he’d never heard of Turkey, never mind Galatasaray. He had a football top to wear to the party and he was pleased as punch.

Hayatın anlamı Galatasaray...

Hayatın anlamı Galatasaray…

Party day arrived and there were three kids in Spurs kits, two with Barcelona tops, a couple of England and a Chelsea. Most had the full kit going on too.

Did Ewan care that he wasn’t wearing the same top as any of his pals? Of course not. Was he conscious of his being “different”? No way. He had his first football top and he was happy just to be there and running around with his friends.

More to the point, would I have cared if Ewan hadn’t had a football top to wear to the party? It struck that yes, I probably would have. Would Ewan have cared? Maybe, for about a minute or so. So who was the more concerned person here?

Another thing that occurred to me was whether the three 5 year old boys really supported Spurs? I’m prepared to stick my neck out and say that it’s the parents [Dads] who are the supporters, not them, and by buying the full kit for their sons, they’ve cemented the like father like son following.

But how could I do that to Ewan? Aberdeen and Scotland – that could border on child cruelty. He’d be much better off supporting Galatasaray.

Steve lives in Hertford and works in TV production.  He was last seen buying a round for his friends in 2007.

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