Being a football fan often feels like being married.
You know you’re stuck with your team for the rest of your life. You know there’ll be tough times. You know that at some point, you’ll want out. But you also know that if I don’t ask you to be mine…wait a minute, did I really fall into a Richard Gere’s Runaway Bride routine that fast?
Anyway, while being a fan really does feel like having a wife, does that mean having a second favorite team is like cheating? I always found this concept ridiculous.
Having a little affair with another club will never affect your original marriage: In fact, having a second team is more like having a long-distance friend. It’s still fun and exciting, but you never invest as much into this as you would do a proper relationship and can call it quits literally any time without anyone judging you.
So why not? After all, picking a team might be the single most underrated part of the whole ‘being a fan’ experience. In most cases, you don’t even get to pick one but rather stumble upon it – exactly what happens with most relationships – then wait a year or two until they lose seven games in a row, hire Sam Allardyce, and you finally realise, “Wait a second…So this is what my whole life will be? They are NEVER going to win anything? How come no one stopped me from doing this?”
The bad news is that, unlike with a marriage, you can’t just casually divorce one team and move on to another. The good news is, if you do everything right, you can root for two teams at once – and find it much more enjoyable that you might expect.
But how do you choose a second favorite team? And how do you root for several clubs at once? What are the rules? And why is it good?
Without further ado…
Step 1: Pick a side the exact opposite of your favourite team
As simple as that. If you’ve been watching your guys try to replicate tiki-taka for months now and they’re yet to discover they’re not exactly Iniesta and Messi, you can always restore your faith in humanity by taking a closer look at Atletico, Leicester City or even West Brom if you want to take it to the extreme.
The same goes for those Bayern and Barcelona fans who might want to see players actually kick a ball towards the goal before completing 869 passes.
Rooting for a contender? Pick a perennial underdog. Always hated your team’s colours and shirts? Find yourself something entirely different. Cheering for Bournemouth? Trust me, no one would ever blame you for peeking at Monaco or Napoli. Why watch the same thing twice, right?
Remember that our goals here are to keep it fresh, interesting and enjoyable. Plus, you might actually learn something new about football, broaden your horizons, even feel something you’ve never quite felt before.
For instance, as a Liverpool fan, I would love to cheer for a team that wears purple, knows how to defend a corner and actually wins something. So why can’t you do the same?
4-1 up. Ok Denmark. If you bring these 1986 kits back for next summer, you're my second favourite team. Guaranteed. pic.twitter.com/YupwUFKgY7
— Alex Stone (@AlexStone7) November 14, 2017
Step 2: Avoid a side that competes with your favourite team
As long as you control your emotions and keep your priorities straight, it’s OK to simultaneously root for, say, Manchester City and Huddersfield Town. Yeah, they play in the same league, but who cares? The gap between these two clubs – their ambitions, and goals, and capabilities – is so big that one of them might as well be based on the moon.
The safest option, though, would be picking a team not just from a different league but from a different country. Sure, they still might clash in the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup or rehab meetings in case we’re talking about Crystal Palace, Benevento or Malaga. But hey, at least you tried.
Step 3: Gravitate toward a team which has already been a part of your life
Remember that charming Eredivisie club with a weird name you’ve spent countless hours building up on Championship Manager? Well, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.
Maybe you went on a work trip to Lyon in 1997 and brought home not just mugs and baguettes but a keychain or a magnet with a little logo that said ‘Olympique Lyonnais’.
Maybe you won two Champions League titles on FIFA 07 with Udinese or Hamburg. Maybe you had spent your gap year travelling through Andalucia and one evening, as you tuned in to a random Sevilla match, all the memories came rushing back.
Seven years ago, as I was enjoying my week off in Frankfurt, I happened to be at the Commerzbank-Arena when Eintracht scored two goals against a hilariously out of form Henrique Hilario in a pre-season friendly against Chelsea. My first European game. Call me crazy, but occasionally, I still peek at Bundesliga standings just to make sure they’re doing well.
Step 4: Don’t pick Paris Saint-Germain
Just don’t. Please.
Step 5: Pick a city that could double as a holiday destination
I mean, seriously, wouldn’t you love spending two or three weekends a year somewhere in Nice, drinking wine, eating cheese while cheering for your second favorite team on the planet and watching Mario Balotelli try to beat up a referee, steal the opposition team’s bus or something? Does it even get better than this? Probably not.
Amsterdam? Awesome. Bologna? Perfetto. Bordeaux? Say no more, mon ami!
Not that I have anything against Dortmund or Hull but … um … hm … hmmm … well, you get the idea.
[Ed: We’ve literally just booked a trip to Dortmund, FFS…]
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Step 6: Look for your favourite team’s former players and coaches
When Lucas Leiva left Liverpool after 10 years of serving as the most non-Brazilian Brazilian player in Premier League history, I didn’t have to think twice which Italian club I should root for over the next couple of years.
Stadio Olimpico quickly became my secret European getaway. Plus, they’re based in one of the greatest cities on Earth (as we have already established, this is a HUGE plus), so there are literally no downsides. Well, except for some really strong Nazi vibes. But you can’t blame Lucas for that.
Picking a side which already features one or two of your favorite former guys is always a good bet. Even confirmed sports monogamists would have to accept it.
Step 7: Avoid a team that will ruin your whole ‘escape from reality’ masterplan
In other words, avoid clubs that are too tortured, disorganised or have more than three players who might potentially appear on the cover of Daily Mail with their pants barely hanging from their hips. There’s a good chance you have a bunch of those guys in your own team already. You don’t need more of them in your life. Trust me on this.
Also, if someone claims a team you’ve considered has a wonderfully gifted English midfielder who might “go places”, step aside and think again. Escaping from reality only makes sense if you’re fleeing to somewhere nice, not to the bizzaro Groundhog Day roundabout. So yeah, do your homework.
Step 8: Never forget it’s your second favorite team
Don’t throw the word “we” around unless you want to be an enormous chump (and just so you know, you can totally do it while talking about your first favorite team; anyone who tells you the opposite is an enormous chump as well).
Same goes for wearing team’s shirts in public, purchasing all sorts of paraphernalia and yes, even whining, gloating and slamming players on Twitter. Don’t go overboard. Remember you’re just a guest there.
Step 9: Don’t get too emotional
Probably, the most important step in the guide. We all know it’s ridiculously easy to fall in love with a team, especially when things go your way. My only advice? Don’t get too attached.
Because, you know, who can tell where defeats, misery and Big Sam are heading next?