Sometimes my passions entwine. This blog is one of those moments. There has been great press interest in my football club, Brighton and Hove Albion, over the past season and even more so now as us as south coast wannabees dare challenge the might of the ‘sleeping giants’ of Newcastle United for the Championship title. Our squad was not bought with mega bucks from payments due to being in the Premiership, nor do we have any big name egos amongst our cohort. What we do have is togetherness. We seemingly have the wellbeing of individuals and the team as a whole as equally important.
This attitude has been well documented through the horrific events of the Shoreham Air Disaster of 2015 and more recently, with the support network shown to player Anthony Knockaert at the sudden death of his father. Social media has highlighted the heartfelt respect and love shown by the boss, Chris Hughton and the squad, who unbeknown to Anthony made the trip to France to attend the funeral. It seems that football can be secondary to the team ethic and spirit. Empathy with how each other feel has bound the players together on and off the pitch, creating something exceptional which does not come around that often – a wholeness that encapsulates all, from the staff through to the playing staff and us, the fans.
People often ask why I have such a passion for my club these past 23 years. It has been the love of the game and more importantly, the fight to save my club back in the 1990’s. The tribal unity of the fans was cemented through our battles; with humour, uniqueness and clarity.
After one of our own perished in 9/11, the Robert Eaton Memorial Fund was set up to raise money to help those less fortunate participate in football, to keep his memory alive. Many people have put hours into making it a thriving and innovative fund – selfless people making a huge difference. We also see a rather wonderful fan site on the internet. It is primarily a site for postings about the Albion, but was the catalyst for the REMF. If you also want to find out how to fix anything, where to go for good food… you will be given advice. For all the randomness of the musings on there, when someone is in pain, in need, cries out for help, the community is wonderfully supportive in a non-judgemental way. It does not mock, it provides genuine help and those who are able to offer more specific, guided aid, do so without question. Football gets a bad press, but I feel proud to be involved with a spectrum of people, many of whom do not know each other, but who have such a bond.
Where does this fit with my other passions? Well, with all the much-needed talk of creating environments in schools to cater for those who have mental health issues, who are deeply unhappy and underachieving, my club is a role model. It has not always had money, but it has always had people who care. People who do not let someone in need go under the radar. The government will fund training for teachers in secondary schools to help combat this immense problem mountain; let’s see! In the meantime, it isn’t just secondary schools that need this input, with most behaviours set before the age of 14, primary schools must nurture and develop more child-centred approaches to helping children who are struggling. We need to create environments that have the same approach to togetherness and guidance that my club and its fan offshoots provide. By taking care of pupils when they are young, passing them through a programme of self-help and support as they grow, we can foster change. We can create a better future. Sometimes, football isn’t just about earning the megabucks. We can learn!
“Everyday in a hundred small ways our children ask, “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?” Their behaviour often reflects our response. “
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY