After becoming a father last year, Richard Waterfield takes a break from nappy-changing duties to ask himself some tough questions about his firstborn’s upbringing and induction as a Chelsea supporter.
Late last year I became a father. Thank you very much. What was it? A Chelsea fan of course – need you ask? Actually, perhaps you should, because ten months down the road a couple of important questions have leapt to mind and I need to address them. Not to put to fine a point on it, it looks like I might be a bad dad.
Exercising my parental responsibilities I decided that Matthew would be the more acceptable kind of Blue Baby. Not even three days old, he disappeared into a Chelsea snowsuit, aka his coming-home outfit. In the months ahead he would display his CFC allegiance through his clothes, bibs, booties and dummy. His birth was announced on the club’s official website, his photograph appeared in Onside and he was taken to Stamford Bridge. However, truth be told, he seemed rather indifferent to his father’s efforts, which leads me to my first question: who is the true beneficiary of all this CFC-inspired endeavour?
It is supposed to be my son. In years to come when he and his school friends are arguing about who is the biggest fan of the club they support and when their support began, he will be able to tell them about his snowsuit, the internet announcement and his trip to the ground. In the far distant future, as he nurses his litre of Hofflingbingtingalingabrau in Terry’s bar at the BatesDome, he will be able to trot out his unimpeachable Blue credentials for all to see.
Well, that is what I tell myself. But is all of this really about me and my Chelsea credentials? Am I more loyal, committed and hardcore now because my pride and joy has been linked at an unfeasibly early age to the football club I love. Never mind your new Chelsea shirt and your tales of trips to Rotherham and Scunthorpe, look at my blue-clad lad. I do worry. As self-appointed judge and jury, my considered response would be that it’s about half and half – thank God. A bias towards the latter would have prompted some very serious self analysis. But am I right to introduce the boy to football in general and CFC in particular?
In 31 years of watching Chelsea I have experienced some unbelievable highs (although most of them have been in the last four or five years, but that’s another story). In fact I would go so far as to describe them as peerless. My wedding day, the day of my son’s birth, graduation day, foreign travel, great gigs, loves, sporting achievements – they are all very special. But when we scored four in the second half against Liverpool in the FA Cup, when Robbie scored at Wembley in ’97, when Hughesy scored the third against Vicenza, when we sang Ten Men Went To Mow at half-time in the San Siro, the delight was different – childlike in its inhibition.
But there is more to it than that. They were exciting moments – very, very exciting. How many high points in one’s adult life can one really describe as exciting, rather than merely enjoyable or fun. How could I deprive my son of such experiences?
But the lows, my God the lows! The crushing disappointment of a promising cup run unexpectedly terminated, humiliation in a final (no names, no pack drill), shocking penalty decisions, lost leads, lost heroes, shock managerial departures (and how many of those have we had?) and relegation. What sort of a father bequeaths his son and heir that?
Supporting CFC is such a mix of extremes. There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and Chelsea letting you down. But then again, Albert Camus said: “All I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.” Football is life in microcosm, full of ups, downs and boring bits. As in life, you have to enjoy the ups when you can, take the downs on the chin and look at your programme during the boring bits – something like that anyway.
So, by giving my firstborn to football it looks as though I am helping to prepare him for life. Phew, what a relief. It would seem that I am not the irresponsible, football obsessive waster I thought I was. I just hope that I can convince his mother.