Sub-titled: Everything you need to know about football but were afraid to ask.


Psychotherapists love to hear about their clients’ dreams. Mine is no exception. Last week I had two dreams that involved the England football team. As a consequence of this, my Thursday session revolved around the topic of the role that football plays in the dynamics of my/the male psyche.

It is an oft-quoted fact that many/most of us don’t choose the football teams we support, we inherit them from our fathers. At a fundamental level this speaks to the issues of parenting and nature of father-son relationships. However it is clear that all sorts of often-noted psychodynamic factors and consequences are involved in this ‘transaction’ such as the role of the father as a hero, a son’s wish to attain accelerated entry into one’s fathers adult word and society. With regards to the latter, the tribal nature of the game is certainly one of its key features; albeit despite our 21st century global village, where locality is of decreasing significance. In my experience, especially within the UK and European environment, the team that one supports holds significant currency in male-to-male communications – the team one supports enabling a identity tagging that facilitates the processes of social introduction and relationship continuity.


However, at a more deep psychological level, there are other more complex behaviour patterns that potentially are being played out in the arena of football- support. One dimension that I am certainly aware of, from my own experience, is the ‘permission’ that football affords one to express oneself emotionally in a way that is not part-and-parcel of our general behaviour in broader polite society. My father was not a man who was emotionally repressed but when it came to sharing a mutual support for Fulham Football Club, there was a spontaneity and intensity of emotion present between us that was not usual in the currency of our daily lives. This also was true on the tactile dimension. Not surprising then that as a child going to matches with ones father became one of my week’s highlights and why as adults, going to football matches in later life, the experience is rich in warm memories of childhood and resonant with positive memories of our fathers.

This is deep stuff, but why – of all of multifarious life’s activities – does football afford such primitive emotional responses. At one level this has to be because football is an activity contained with 90 or so minutes. Imagine what the world would like if football was a 24/7 undertaking! Indeed it is exactly because the game is contained within temporal and spatial borders that it affords the opportunity for unrestrained – within limits – behaviour. In such, it reflects as much the world beyond football as the world within; suggesting a potential deficit of spontaneity and emotional expression in our everyday lives.

My female reader will, no doubt have noted that I have been writing solely about the inter-generational male-to-male experience of being a football supporter. This is not because I am oblivious of the presence of females at football matches and in increasing numbers, these days. However it is a general fact that they are, still, in the minority and a personal one that my mother and my wife have expressed a more-or-less total indifference to the game. To be fair, my daughter has, to my joy. agreed to attend some matches with me. However her response has been more on the holistic spectrum, (she enjoys the crowd and the singing), than becoming personally & emotionally involved in the events on the field and the outcome. This conveniently segues me onto the final, and most controversial, element of my thoughts on this matter: football as a paradigm for sexual conquest, as pursued by the males of the human species.

Woody Allen in Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask

(Click here for movie clip)

I contend that it is no etymological accident that the purpose of the game is to ‘score’ and that ‘scoring’ comes about as a result of the ball being introduced into the goal in the face of determined resistance. The ‘build-up’ – even that term is ripe in sexual innuendo – of play from the relative safety of one’s own area of the pitch, through the mutually contested midfield into the other team’s most vulnerable area does have a certain nuance, does it not? It is a game of many attempts and few resolutions. It can be a very ‘frustrating’ game at times where good ‘play’ remains unrewarded. When it does and a goal is scored – especially one that breaks an impasse – there is a cathartic release that surely has its origins in an endorphin-fuelled parallel world. To score a decisive goal, in short, is an orgasmic experience. To be ‘like’ is not to be the ‘same’ as, but the direction of travel is, IMHO, certainly similar.

In conclusion, then, there is a lot more to watching football than meets the eye (sic!).



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2 Responses to Football dreams.

  1. mike says:

    But sometimes sons pick another team, perhaps as a way of existing their individuality visit a visit their father. Case in point, I support Fulham, but my son is a plastic Manc

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