As crazy as it would seem to some, the football team I support nearly decided which university I went to.
Yep. That’s right.
Caught in between studying here in St Andrews or studying back home at Glasgow, I was at a loss for which one to choose. Stuck, I counted the fact that I could watch my beloved Glasgow Celtic week in week out as a big tick for the latter.
If you don’t understand my reasons for this, you probably aren’t a football fan. But in Britain especially, and in Scotland even more so, your football team is a part of who you are.
Their successes on the pitch are, somehow, your successes, even when you’re only sitting in the stands with a Scotch pie and Bovril in hand, or at home in your slippers; their agonising last-gasp defeats your own personal anguish.
From Bogotá to Barnsley, Eastern Europe to the east-end of Glasgow, football has stood the test of time. Ever since the Football Association was first formed all the way back in 1863, the sport has provided a sense of community and identity, and all the passions and loyalties that come with that, to many.
But enough sentimentality. Whilst I still, of course, feel a strong sense of loyalty to my team (like my father and his father and his father and so on and so forth…) to say it has diminished somewhat since coming to St Andrews would probably be accurate, as well as a little surprising. And this got me thinking: Why?
Primarily, it got me thinking because I’m starting to realise that our University seems to have very little in the way of a football fan base.
To be honest, I never expected what is essentially a smallish rural town to have the same fervour and buzz for the sport that you’d find in a big city with big teams, student town or not. We are in no way, shape, or form immersed in a footballing culture to the same extent as, say, Liverpool or Glasgow, where football runs in the blood for the reasons aforementioned. To a certain extent, I think this has rubbed off on me, with a lack of regular immersion in what’s often termed the “Glasgow goldfish bowl” dimming my enthusiasm for the game.
The late, great Jock Stein, former Scotland and Celtic manager, once said that “football without fans is nothing”. He was right. Often, it’s the fans on the terraces – with their songs, displays, and spirit – that make the game what it is. You miss that buzz in St Andrews – and that’s a sentiment that’ll ring true with any football fan at our University, no matter where they’re from.
Of course, the town and University doesn’t exactly scream football either.
For a start, it’s the home of golf, meaning whatever sports traffic we get is headed for the Links, not the pitch. We students, too, aren’t a natural footballing demographic: We’re disproportionately privately educated, female, and American, to name but a few of our quirks. Chances are football has never been a “thing” for most in this town.
I should probably clarify at this point I’m meaning the professional, club variety. Like it does in many other sports, our University excels at amateur football, with 6 competitive Men’s and 3 Women’s teams playing in BUCS Leagues across the country. The club itself is one of the largest in the AU, boasting an impressive membership of over 200.
Given those numbers, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe our little corner of north-east Fife is in fact a footballing hotbed, a covert Mecca for football fans the country-over.
Covert, indeed, because it’s certainly not obvious if there is one.
So to the football fans of St Andrews (if you exist…); dust off your scarves and embrace the beautiful game, not just at home but here as well.