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The art of football

I’ve supported Tottenham Hotspur since I was 8 years old.

I wasn’t that interested in football and then one Saturday my Dad took me along to White Hart Lane to see my first game and that was it. 32 years later I’ve been to something like 200 games home and away (only a handful a season, but enough to call myself a supporter). I’m happy when we win, and increasingly pragmatic but sometimes still bad tempered when we lose.

Recent years have been good. The team have got better and expectations are now much higher. We have an amazing new stadium and have been finishing in higher league positions while playing in the top European club competitions for a number of years now. It wasn’t always this way. Growing up I witnessed some terrible games, scrapes with relegation and humiliating defeats.

In the end opposition fans are always quick to point out how little silverware our club has won, especially in our recent history and with a relatively good team. We have gone close. Often runners up, but we have never quite got over the line to become ‘winners’.

The point is this. It’s never been about winning for me. Football doesn’t always give you what you want, but that’s the joy of it.

There is something about how your team plays and the intention they have to win that matters most. The moment of actually winning, or being the best is less important. Maybe that doesn’t fit with the way society functions and how other people think, but I feel like it really is the taking part that counts.

Most football clubs never win. They can’t all win as only a select few can come out on top. But for all these supporters football is about something bigger. As a supporter you belong to something. You’re in it together, the idea that your team could win, or maybe just survive. But there’s a connection, a togetherness that makes it all worthwhile. Football is a ritual, something that forms habits and traditions of how people, friends and families comes together.

Tottenham reached the Champions League final back in June this year (the biggest prize in club football). We didn’t win, and it’s possibly the closest that we will ever come. It was disappointing but I’m now thinking about Everton away next Sunday at 4:30pm.

That’s the art of football.

Ben Holliday is an experienced design leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). You can follow all of Ben's blog posts by subscribing to the RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter for more regular updates.