Can you 'pick' your team?

One of the most basic questions in Argentina is ¿De quien sos?, who are you from? It's a football question. In most contexts, few here will think you are asking about their parental or nationalist history, though both are deeply intertwined with football. I've tended to follow this question with a second, ¿Porque?, why?

I'm starting to realize that this might be the wrong question, or one without a very good answer. The typical response is because someone in my family, usually the father, is from the same club. I've been told that the feeling one has for your team is something inexplicable, like love. You can have 'reasons' but these do not explain why you have such a deep feeling. At least there is no systematic way to categorize how someone becomes a supporter of a team. It is something you carry with you 'in your blood', for some it is their blood. I've heard a San Lorenzo supporter defend their fanaticism by pointing out, "what colours are your blood? You have blue blood and red blood, just like San Lorenzo."

For a Canadian football ('soccer') fan, fairly removed despite the internet and television, from most of the major footballing cultures it is hard to participate in the cultural processes that make the deeply emotional experiences that many supporters feel. For a long time, small bars hosting Saturday morning Premier league games served as the small enclaves of social interaction that I'd argue is an important part of the emotional development of a supporter. Football culture is starting to open up in Canada, however, and has gone 'public' with the re-invention of professional soccer in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and now Montreal. Previous street celebrations in ethnic neighbourhoods during World Cups and Euro Cups have also played a big part. Hopefully the national teams will also play a bigger role in the coming years.

Nevertheless, soccer is not broadly embedded into the social culture. In Canada, Who you are from? is a question about your ancestors. And if you encounter a soccer supporter who has a team in Canada, their response to my second question "why?" is a rational question that you respond to with reasons. Recently, on the Footy Blog journalist Richard Whittall provided a "Guide on How to Pick a Football Club", advising you on the criteria that you can use to 'pick' a European team. Whittall suggests you can pick a team based on a moment of glory, results, team history, or personal ancestry; and support local (don't be a snob!).

It is an interesting example of how 'relevant' soccer is becoming in Canada, that people are interested in having 'my team' and reasons 'why'. The comments are interesting; a mixture trying to fit into the categories given, while a few are sublimely unreasonable: Adam @ 4/5/12 3:31pm writes "Gunner till I die!!!!!!!!!" or Johnny @ 4/8/12 3:34am, who writes:

Lazio till death do us part.
Loved them since I saw Signori wear the magical Sky blue.
I’m football crazy! Just like Giorgio Chinaglia.
Curva Nord forever!

I think these unreasonable posts 'make the most' sense to the question of "why" you are a supporter. In reflection of all the responses I've heard here in Argentina to "why", the most understandable response is that there is not a reason "why" - you just are. The same person who compared their team to love explained how he had taken eight of his nephews and children to see Racing Club play every game, bought them all Racing clothes, and in the end "only" two turned out to be 'from' Racing - as if it was determined. A few, inexplicably, turned to rivals Independiente. There is no 'reason' or explanation he told me just the feeling. When you have a team you 'know it' deep inside of you. It's a very romantic response within a world seeking 'rationality' to the acceptable response.

It forces me to rethink the question from ¿porque? to ¿como y cuando? - How and when? When did you know you were from X club? And, How did you know? If being of a team (or 'having' a team) is truly a deep feeling, as I'm pretty sure it is at least in Argentina, then the moments that make such passionate fanaticism will be meaningful and often memorable. At the very least, the next time I ask a taxi driver how they can support Boca, I'll hear more than the dull and fairly meaningless excuse "because my father was from Boca".

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