What Does It Mean? – 18 Dec 2012

Football has meaning, it has spirit, it has power. It is a microcosm of life in so many ways.

It means so much to so many. Livelihoods are made and lost. Dreams are lived and shattered. Hearts are warmed and then broken. It affects those in all walks of life, from the owner to the supporter on the terraces. It is tangible and real. It has passion and meaning.

As the R’s won their first game of the season against Fulham, at the seventeenth time of asking, the overriding emotion was one of relief. Huge relief to all the loyal supporters, mixed in with no little joy. It has been a long time coming and there has been much hurt and despair along the way. Yet for once, in this torrid season, a moment to smile and there have been very few of those. At last there is hope. Hope to us all.

Yet what does it all really mean? To whom is this victory really for?

To the owner, Tony Fernandes, it was massive. For one who has invested so heavily in the team, it feels like he deserves some success and return for all his efforts. At the final whistle, he turned to Philip Beard, the club’s Chief Executive and gave him one of those old fashioned bear hugs, the sort of thing grown men only do when something very special happens. He followed it up by exclaiming on the wires “that is the best Christmas present ever”!

‘Our’ Harry was equally enthused. His first win as manager of his new club left him buzzing, so pleased for the people behind the scenes and for his hard working players.

The players were delighted and relieved in equal measure. Joyful celebrations greeted the final whistle and the players quite rightly stayed to take the applause, which was thoroughly well deserved. Harry had demanded ‘blood sweat and tears’ before kick off and the team had answered his call.

Yet it is arguably the supporters who feel it the most. Owners, managers and players all come and go, yet the supporters are there for the long term. For many it is their life, theirs is a sense of belonging, a shared cause with fellow like minded souls. Through thick and thin, good and bad, ups and downs, they will always be there. ‘Rangers ’til I die’ is an oft sung mantra on the terraces and it is always blasted out with feeling and passion.

For one young supporter, the joy of victory was perhaps greatest of all. As he ordered his post match meal in Cafe Tuga on the Uxbridge Road, he was glowing, his face a picture of happiness as he manoeuvred his wheelchair expertly around the cafe. He spoke in delighted tones, the excitement of the hour and then the promise of what might follow from this victory. Positivity flowed from his lips and his eyes sparkled as he regaled the afternoon’s action. He was just like the next man, talking football and sharing the sweet smell of success. Yet he was not just like the next man at all, his life would be extraordinarily different. It was a reminder of how life can be so cruel yet how this game can bring people together, raise spirits and be so uplifting, overcoming all barriers. To him life was clearly a struggle, yet his own difficulties paled into insignificance at his excitement at the afternoon’s events. He was not going to moan about his own predicament, far from it, his life was about living and making the most of it. His beloved team, his Rangers, had made his day and he was proud to have been there to see it for himself.

In a footballing world full of greed and egos, maybe this is what the sport is really all about. This was the real highlight of the day. It was inspiring and it felt a privilege and an honour to witness one young man’s joy. The world felt a better place for it.

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