The Premier League is back! From my side, I’m happy for United to have begun the campaign with a win, but there is a long way still to go. The best league in the world always has twists & turns, excitement & heartbreak as well as the final month’s glory & disappointment for everyone involved. It’s the moments deep in the second half when your team is defending a lead or pushing for the winner, and you are feeling your heart is pumping harder than usual, that you know it’s back. That feeling is pure. Its passion flowing through your veins and it makes you realise why you love the game and your team.
But for a while now there has been something which could be seen as an invasion on your true football feelings. This “game within a game” creates an unnatural feeling towards opposing teams and players which should not be there in the first place. I thought I could also repress these feelings, but while you are in the game, there is no denying it. I’m talking about the game that everyone gets fickle over, especially when you are at the bottom, and that’s Fantasy Football.
I was watching the opening fixtures last weekend with a group of mates and noticed something horribly wrong. When Stoke won a free-kick in the dying minutes of the game against Chelsea, a mate piped up and said: “Hold up Chelsea, I need that clean sheet!” Was this die hard football fan cheering for the “wrong” result? That’s when I knew things had already started off on the wrong foot, yet again. All of us who play, and please note that I have been an active player since 2004, have had those moments when we hope for that goal or clean sheet to happen for the teams we are supposed to despise. That just is not good enough. That part of me, my mates and all others who play Fantasy football, who hope for those immoral results to happen, need to have a rethink. We are betraying our teams and ourselves. For what? A few more points? Come on now, we all need to do better!
How should you be feeling?
Let’s recap how you should feel if Fantasy was not involved. You should want what’s best for your team in terms of the matchday result (i.e. victory). You should want your rivals to drop points. You should WANT to see them concede in injury time, making the damage of the dropped points hurt even more. So why does a part of us not want to see the ball land up in the back of our opponents net? For pride? Respect? Let’s ask ourselves, what do we get if we win a Fantasy league amongst our mates? A few hundred bucks? Surely the glory you get from mocking opponent fans for conceding late on or winning the league come the end of the season trumps it?!
How do you end up feeling?
It’s just so much fun when you get it right. When your captain scores a double, 2 of your defenders provide assists and your keeper keeps a clean sheet, you just feel like you understand football and are able to predict what happens next. You gloat amongst your friends and let them know who is boss. However, football changes very quickly, and your feelings are completely different the next gameweek when not a single player performs and you see the dreaded red arrow pointing down. You get over it and wonder why you play. It all seems quite fickle to me, but it’s all part of the fun! You have to take the good with the bad, and that should start from the top, where the real game is happening. And let’s also all agree that we all wish we knew the weekend’s results on the Friday, imagining if we had picked the defender who scored a double, kept a clean and got all the bonuses as captain?!
However, Fantasy does have another positive aspect to it. It allows you to find interest in games that you may not have watched in the first place – like a Wigan vs. Blackburn or a Wolves vs. West Brom (not disrespect). You hope for Al-Habsi to keep that clean, Samba to score, Jarvis to assist a goal or Odemwingie to grab that elusive winner. In turn, you are exposed to new teams, players and managers which you may previously had known little about. That is one big benefit of Fantasy football for the game in general.
My point is that however fun the game is, we all need to keep it in perspective. We must acknowledge that it is a game based on the real game and wouldn’t exist without the real football. Your team and football in general deserves better than for you to be cheering for the “wrong” results. If you are a neutral and enjoy the game just for the actual football, then by all means cheer on whoever you want. But if you are a United supporter and you AREN’T cheering for Liverpool, City, Chelsea or Arsenal (in that order) to concede in the last minute because you have their defenders in your team, then you should feel ashamed and know that you are betraying your team. The occasional slip is fine, but when it’s happening week in week out, then you should reconsider where your passion actually lies. But like real football it’s an addiction which I struggle to under control.