The Last Defender: Half-and-half scarves

New kits, armchair fans, stadium re-brands…Steven Chicken is here to defend all those things that make you and your old dad ever so cross…

 

My wife hates Rupert the Bear. She thinks there’s something really freaky about the fact that he has a bear’s head but his body has human proportions. She’s probably right: football mascots are friendly and cuddly, but if Cyril the Swan had the body of a 12-year-old boy and a head the size of an actual swan’s, it would be nightmare fuel.

Mrs Chicken is usually a very calm person but mention Rupert and her face will contort into a sneer of utter disdain, which seems a bit much to me. How could anyone hold so much loathing towards such a harmless, happy-go-lucky scarf-wearing chappie?

She is not alone in this kind of bizarre overreaction, however. Go on Henry Winter’s Twitter feed during a match day and there’s a decent chance he’ll post a picture of a stall selling half-and-half scarves, and the replies to those images are colourfully trenchant in their unanimous disgust.

I understand where this comes from. To the match-going fan, the half-and-half scarf is totemic of the over-commercialisation and gentrification of football. It is the woollen embodiment of a group hated even more than the ‘plastic fan’: the football tourist.

There is nothing someone who refers to themselves as a Real Fan hates more than a football tourist. As far as the Real Fan is concerned, a football tourist isn’t a supporter, he’s a cultural leech, an invader, the prawn sandwich brigade, everything that’s wrong with the modern game made flesh. You should go to a football match to cheer on your team, not because it’s *spit* entertainment.

But here’s the thing: like every other sport, football is entertainment, and always has been. The clue is in the fact that they hold the matches in stadia rather than, say, abandoned airplane hangars. The idea that you should only be in attendance if you are there to actively support one of the teams involved is fundamentally absurd. If you went to see the new Avengers film only to be harangued at the cinema by a Captain America cosplayer because actually, you were a little bit more into Batman really, you’d be totally within your rights to tell him to f**k off.

It never fails to astonish me just how much anger Real Fans are able to generate towards people who are paying good money to spend their Saturday afternoon in the same way. Those who channel their ire towards the half-and-half scarf may as well just scream “STOP ENJOYING IT WRONG!”.

There are people who collect those little pin badges at every away ground they go to (Daniel Storey); there are people who try to visit all 92 league football grounds (Daniel Storey); there are always adverts in newspapers and fanzines selling old programmes (to Daniel Storey). All of these behaviours receive the Real Fan seal of approval. But if you want to remember that time you went to the Manchester derby or the Champions League semi-final, or buy a keepsake of your daughter’s first football match, then by golly you’d better not do that via the controversial medium of commemorative knitwear.

We live in an increasingly fractious world. Brexit threatens to split the UK in two, Trump is doing likewise across the Atlantic, and the other day I found out you can’t store onions with other vegetables because they go off quicker. If even root vegetables can’t get along, then what hope does humanity have?

But we football fans can rise above it. We all spend ridiculous money to go to the match because we love the game. Even the uninterested suits in the corporate boxes are helping to fund your next superstar signing.

So let’s not be the kind of monsters who hate on Rupert the Bear. Embrace the half-and-half scarf wearer; they’re one of our own.

Steven Chicken – follow him on Twitter here