Monday, August 10, 2015

ZoHammer : The Tale of a Football Lover

In less than half an hour, West Ham will kick off their last season based in the iconic Boleyn ground, Upton Park, with an away game to Arsenal. And as a true Claret and Blue Hammer, i obviously want us to win the match, though logic and common sense state that a draw itself would be a very good result. 
In the buildup to this, there was a question, or rather a statement, made in a local football whatsapp group that basically stated the chatter's bemusement at why any Mizo football fan would be a West Ham supporter. I chose to reply that with a simple 'the same reason I love football' line and refused to be baited further into the matter. 
This was not by any means the first time I'd been asked a similar line of questioning and I've mostly chosen to give a short, concise answer because I don't want to sound eagerly defensive like a petulant child. 
That being said, I guess it brought to my mind that I would maybe like to address the issue in a format that would give me both the space and freedom to describe exactly what it is that makes me an ardent member of The Irons.

Another factor that piqued my desire to write on this subject was a recent Twitter article i was a part of. I am a member of the Indian Hammers group, a group of fans who are either based in India, or have Indian roots and are united by our common love of West Ham United. 
It is an admittedly humble group with about 20 core active members and over 100 total in the Whatsapp group roster. I was one of the first members of this group and also the first Mizo member (there are 3 Mizo West Ham fans, 2 besides me, if there are any others, please feel free to contact me to join up) and am a very active member of the group. 
We have a modest amateur website, as well as an official Twitter handle and online community that is recognised by our club's official group. 
Recently, the Indian Hammers admin had an idea to do a series of interviews with each member of our group to give an idea about our passion and publish it on Twitter for others to see, and i volunteered and was chosen to be the first person to do this interview. 
When I was given the required questions and blanks to fill, it really got me going in my head and heart as I did a bit of soul searching to give these answers the most genuine possible and I have decided to publish these here in my blog in a more detailed non-Twitter confined form.

One of the things i wanted to avoid when i started getting into football was to be a 'plastic' fan of a club - one of those fans who liked a club only for superficial reasons like peer-popularity and/or fashionable choice. I was lucky enough to meet a lot of genuine fans of various clubs, who had a story to say about how they got hooked and had a heartfelt reason to support the teams that they did and I wanted to be one of them. And of course, me being a believer in serendipity, figured that when the time came, i would just know when to support a team, so I didn't actively search out a particular fanbase to be a part of.

In a way, you can say that my love of West Ham is built on A Tale of 3 Goals.

Its silly to admit, but my love of West Ham started with a game of PES back in the 05-06 season. Losing a toss with a friend, i had to choose a low ranked team, one of the newly promoted teams of that season, while my opponent got to choose his favorite club, Manchester United. I was already familiar with West Ham at the time due to Di Canio, who was one of my favorite players to watch when i first really got into football. Keep in mind that this was the time when Manchester United was an all conquering team, and their stats were through the roof, i was fully expecting to get drubbed. Nonetheless, I fought on, and after a see-saw match which saw its fair share of cards and fouls, a last minute Bobby Zamora winner ensured a 3-2 win with ecstatic post-match celebrations. The look of devastation on my friend's face was an inverted reflection of the happiness on mine.
This was Goal #1, and so West Ham had my interest piqued.
Amazingly, it was around this time that West Ham started on that incredible run to the FA cup final until THAT Gerrard goal stopped it, and that's what secured my interest as
 i started seriously following them as a team. The unexpected wins, the confidence building up, the desire to get an unforeseen cup, and the heartbreak of seeing it go down in the last few minutes after a wondergoal from England's greatest midfield talent when it comes to wondergoals.

Goal #2.
This interest was finally sealed off into fanhood with the rollercoaster of emotions that I and every Hammer experienced in the next season. The amount of abuse i got hurled my way for backing them through the pitfalls and the horrible performances, the turn of face that happened later in the season as we won 7 of our last 9 games 
which climaxed with THAT Tevez goal against, ironically enough, Manchester United that secured one of the greatest relegation escapes in history. 
Goal #3.
The first goal was the twist of fate, the one that alerted my destiny.
The second goal was the building of respect, the one where my admiration for a resilient dark horse was built.
And the third goal was the forging of bonds, the one where I decided to stick by a team through ups and downs in a season, and experienced the vindication that comes from backing a triumphant, resilient underdog.
Obviously, there were other reasons along the way, such as discovering the incredible history of the club and feeling at one with the passion of the fans through all odds and Ups and Downs. And so my identity as a Hammer was forged and now, whether we vie for Europe or whether we were fighting for promotion in the Championship, my soul as a sporting fan is now set with West Ham United FC.

Edit : This post was drafted before our opening match of the season, just before we kicked it off in the best possible way with a win away against one of the title contenders of the season and our London rivals, Arsenal. Come On You Irons!!! (COYI!!!) :D :D :D

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