Let me tell you a little story about why I despise football so much.
Back on the 90’s when I was a teen, football was my everything. I ate, slept and drank football, it was my life. I was a Man U fan and I would have taken a bullet for our national squad. I knew anything and everything there was to know and I couldn’t ever get enough. I tell you this because you need to know what it meant to me at the time, and what was then taken from me later on.
I met my (now ex) husband at the beginning of the 2000’s. I was fresh out of treatment for my alcoholism and i was vulnerable. He was 12 years my senior and he was strong, assertive and he treated me well. He helped me to pick up the pieces of my life and put it back together, or at least, so i thought. What he was actually doing was piecing me back together in a way that suited him. He was creating what in his mind was the perfect wife. I was young and easily manipulated and I didn’t know then that what he was doing was giving a masterclass in gaslighting.
Why am I tell you this? Just stick with me, I do have a point and it does link back to football.
When the first beatings started, I was already so low and felt so worthless that I thought I more than deserved it. Add to that the fact that he was in a drunk, drug fueled rage and trying to fend off a rabid body builder was nigh on impossible. So I took it, waited for it to be over and then retreated to the back of my wardrobe and tried not to cry at the pain. He didn’t like it when I cried. So I would sit as quietly as I could with both my cats and wait for the inevitable “I’m so sorry baby, I didn’t mean it, it won’t happen again.”
It wasn’t long before he added drugging and rape to his repertoire. I’m not sure of the drug he used, but I don’t remember much, thank god. I ended up in hospital several times, the worst being with a torn anus thanks to him deciding he wanted to really punish me. By the time this happened, I was so far gone down the rabbit hole that I never thought I would come back. I tried to take my own life twice and each time he would rush me to hospital, play the part of the doting husband, and make sure that my family and what few friends that I had left never found out.
But what does any of this have to do with football?
I’ll tell you. The worst beatings and the worst rapes always followed a losing England game. Any time that England were playing, I would brace myself for the defeat and then just accept my fate. I would try not to be in the house when he came home, but he’d always find me. Or he’d wait, getting more and more drunk while he did. I knew what was waiting for me at home, but I was so broken and lost that I would always go back. He would be on me as soon as I had closed the door behind me.
So you see, now I associate football with all the trauma in my life. The screaming red faces of those in the stadium stands, every fluttering England flag attached to a car, all of it. And when its a World Cup, everything is ramped up 10 fold. I can’t escape it, it’s everywhere. It’s all anyone ever talks about. It’s on billboards, in newspapers, tv adverts. For the duration of any global tournament, I am in a living hell. My PTSD takes over and every shout at the TV when a match is on is aimed at me. I see his face and hear his voice everywhere. I’m haunted by everything that happened to me, but football just makes it so much worse.
It has been proven that there is a spike in domestic violence cases whenever England are in a big tournament. Domestic violence cases are 11% higher the day after England play, whether they win or lose. It’s an age-old pattern of abuse and it won’t ever stop. As long as there is football, booze and men together in the same room, the violence won’t ever stop. There are so many women (and men) who are going to go through what I did whislt the World Cup is on and my heart breaks for them. All I can say is that you are stronger than you think you are. I made it out and you will to.
So when I say I hate football, I’m not doing it to be a bitch, or to be unpatriotic. I can’t ever give a reason whenever anyone asks because how the fuck to I tell someone the reason why? I hate it because of what it now represents for me. I hate the game, the people who play it and the majority of its supporters. I despise everything it stand for and that isn’t ever going to change. For the most part I can avoid it, but when the World Cup is on, I just have to wait for it to be over.
All I ask is that you remember reading my story the next time someone says they hate football. Just take a moment before you respond and ask yourself what the reason could be: is it because they simply find the game tedious, or is it because football could be a very real and visceral link to a past trauma. Football isn’t sunshine and rainbows for everyone.
Where To Turn: