You Lucky Bastards: The Hypocritical Nature of a Football Fan
It seems I have a brand new player to dislike: one Federico Macheda. As I set off to go to work this morning, my life was happy enough without Mr. Macheda in it.
As I came back from work, with roughly 82 minutes on the Old Trafford clock, my life was still pretty happy without Mr. Macheda in it.
In fact, the first time I actually registered that there was someone walking the earth called Federico Macheda, he was wheeling away having scored the winner for Manchester United against Aston Villa deep into the customary five minutes stoppage time.
Yes, I hated the man before I even knew his name.
It is nothing to do with his personality; I'm sure he is a top-notch guy, it's just the fact that a) he plays for Manchester United b) he scored for Manchester United and c) He won the game for Manchester United.
Just as it seemed they were going to slip up again, up popped Mr. Macheda with quite possibly the most important goal of the season.
The timing of the goal was particularly painful. Ninety-two minutes. Don't you just hate it when teams score late goals?
Well, not all the time.
The first thing I thought when Macheda scored that goal was "you lucky bastards." United had done it again. They had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and quite possibly snatched the title back from Liverpool.
The second thing I thought was how Liverpool had done exactly the same thing almost precisely 24 hours earlier.
Yet, when Yossi Benayoun struck that shot across Mark Schwarzer to give Liverpool three vital points, I wasn't left thinking "you lucky bastards." I was, instead, left thinking how good Liverpool's never-say-die attitude was.
Unfortunately, the media seem to think the opposite way from me. Manchester United's late goals are the form of champions, while "lucky" Liverpool always "leave it late," usually relying on Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard to bail their "crazy" manager out.
If this was the only occasion this had happened, I wouldn't bat an eyelid, as Liverpool were incredibly unlucky not to win 5-0 against Fulham, while Manchester United didn't deserve anything from the Aston Villa game. In short, Liverpool weren't lucky, United were.
But it happens on so many occasions. Every time I watch Liverpool, I expect a late goal. The same applies when I watch Manchester United. And every time, my reaction is the same when my expectations are met.
If it is Liverpool scoring, they are showing the type of form needed to become champions. If it is Manchester United scoring, they are the lucky ones, unable to beat teams in normal time, instead using the extra five minutes they get to obtain the result.
Yes, I understand this is hypocritical. That is exactly my point. Every football fan is hypocritical to some extent. We blame the media for picking and choosing our country's heroes and villains, yet we are, often, just as bad.
Every time a rival team scores a late goal there is a bitter taste in my mouth. I begrudge the team who scored it, merely because they did so, and the team that conceded it. Is it honestly that hard to hold out for a few more minutes?!
But then I remember that I am a Liverpool fan. Liverpool. The King of the Comebacks. How can I begrudge these teams for doing what my team does almost week in, week out?
I have come to the conclusion that the only thing that can challenge late goals for the heartbreak or elation they cause are penalties.
One mistake and it all goes up in smoke. Just ask John Terry. The tears streaming down his face that night in Moscow would have been seen on thousands of faces all around London. Penalties can be the cruelest thing in football.
Similarly, had AC Milan scored a late goal in the 2005 Champions League final, I think I would still be trying to mend my heart today. Andriy Shevchenko's miss from point-blank range was enough to send me to the edge.
In fact, Eidur Gudjohnsen's miss in the latter stages of the semi-final almost finished me off. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to see Micheal Thomas score that goal at the end of the 1988/89 season.
Compare this to the feeling I got when Liverpool beat Arsenal with two late goals in the Champions League last year. Or to the feeling I got when Steven Gerrard hit the last-minute equaliser against West Ham in the 2006 FA Cup final.
Just like penalties, late goals can be the greatest feeling in football, or the worst.
If your team gets one, then they deserve it for working until the end. If your rivals get one, well, they are just lucky.
But that is the hypocritical nature of a football fan, I guess.
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