May 3, 2014

Why you should always back your local team

Even if that team is based 4130 miles away

Preity Zinta: the high priestess of cricketing enthusiasm © AFP

As you grope your way along the unlit hallway of life in search of the kitchen of destiny, occasionally banging your head on the hatstand of fate, you face many dilemmas. Should you stick with that master's degree in Advanced Number Fondling to keep your parents happy or go for the diploma in Paper Aeroplanes now enrolling at the University of Time Wasting? Get married or remain happy? Shiraz or Merlot? That tie with those shoes?

But of all the difficult decisions a human being has to make in the course of a lifetime, perhaps the thorniest is choosing which sports team to support.

For some, the answer is easy. Every summer the streets of English holiday resorts are adorned with Manchester United/Chelsea/Manchester City/Liverpool shirts as people proudly display their lifelong support for the team that they last saw win on television.

For the rest of us, it's trickier. A sports team lies somewhere between "friends" and "family" in the proverb about being able to choose your friends but not your family. You can choose your sports team, that's true, but it's usually a choice in name only, between two equally unappetising alternatives - a bit like a general election.

That's because etiquette in this area requires you to demonstrate a connection with the team of your choice, and only certain kinds of connection are acceptable. That your favourite colour is blue, for instance, does not entitle you to pledge your loyalty to Chelsea, any more than owning a DVD of West Side Story qualifies you as a fan of the New York Jets.

The would-be fan usually has two options: the team that your family elders support or the team whose ground is the nearest to your breakfast table. You might get away with claiming loyalty to an outfit you followed while you were at university, but be warned this is regarded as a little superficial by people who feel that six alcohol-soaked semesters in the suburbs of London do not make you a cockney.

When the tournament you're watching is in another continent, choosing your team is even harder. When the Indian Premier League began, I obviously wanted to pick one of the many shiny new franchises to half-heartedly follow from a distance. But which one? I couldn't claim a family connection to any of them, which left me with the tricky business of working out which franchise was the closest.

Fortunately, I was able to call on my C- in Geography, and with the help of an astrolabe, a wooden globe, a piece of string, a tape measure and a few calls to NASA, I was able to establish that Chandigarh is just 4130 miles away from my front door, and that therefore Punjab are my local team.

Back in 2008, this seemed like fun. Punjab dressed like extras from an episode of Power Rangers, but I remember thinking, as I chuckled at the sartorial misfortune of those poor Chennai supporters, that at least my team weren't dolled up like canaries. They also had the advantage of Preity Zinta's enthusiasm; her jumping up and down on the sidelines producing enough celebrity energy to power a medium-sized electricity generating plant.

Six years later, after an odyssey of defeat, disaster and disintegration, my support had started to wane. After a particularly limp 2013 campaign they finished sixth in a blaze of mediocrity, and the signing this time round of "Million Dollar" Maxwell and creaky old Virender Sehwag appeared to be the key ingredients in a particularly ripe failure trifle.

Yet as the circus is in mid-air, heading back to India, it is the men of Punjab who are flying first class, enjoying the complimentary champagne, having won five games in a row for the first time in, well, forever, while the superstars of Mumbai are in the cargo hold, sweeping up the elephant dung. All of which goes to show that the true sports fan should stick with their local team through thick and thin, even if the thin is very thin indeed and their local team is not really all that local.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 4, 2014, 23:37 GMT

    As always, the power and eloquence of your reasoning leaves me trapped in the vice-like grip of pure reason.

  • Dummy4 on May 4, 2014, 14:34 GMT

    I have been a Liverpool fan since 96-97 season, when Owen came onto the scene!! Less said about him the better, but being a RED grew in me slowly and deeply that I dont do anything else when my team plays than watching them whichever part of the world I am!! I am a proud RED and ofcourse a passionate CSKian too, as I am a chennaiite indeed!! YNWA!!

  • Sutheesh on May 4, 2014, 12:51 GMT

    "As you grope your way along the unlit hallway of life in search of the kitchen of destiny." Wow. All hail Baba Andrew Hughes.

  • NIKHIL on May 4, 2014, 9:42 GMT

    I support RR not because i belong from Rajasthan but because of RR being a underdog team. You always have a soft corner for the team who is not full of stars and don't have best of the state players either. Don't like RCB and MI at all as they always try to steal top players from other clubs during the auction. Love to see RR thrashing big teams against all contrasts. N.Ojha , K.Khan , Y.Pathan , D.Mascarenhas , Munaf were players who performed so good while playing for RR while Faulkner , Rahane , Samson performed too good when bought in by RR against different clubs.

  • Rajan on May 4, 2014, 3:39 GMT

    I am from Bangalore and I support RR, because, 1. Of my fav cricketer Rahul Dravid 2. I like how they encourage youngsters

    Even though from Bangalore, I do not support RCB because, 1. No Karnataka player in Bangalore team and all Karnataka players are playing well so far (atleast better than Yuvraj) 2.Too dependent on big stars, gives little or no chance for youngsters to shine

  • Dummy4 on May 4, 2014, 3:19 GMT

    Always supported MI because of Tendulkar - doesn't matter where I come from. Always liked Tendulkar the batsman to tendulkar the leader ;) This is well reflected in team strength this year (no Maxwell, no Smith, no Johnson and Maxwell making big impact up the order and Pollard generally having lots to do coming lower down). So this year happy to support Punjab for Sehwag (the guy at his best was stunning) and ofcourse due to maxwell, miller and a very mature and well behaved bailey

  • Dummy4 on May 4, 2014, 3:04 GMT

    Being from Kerala, I had my local team Kochi Tuskers for one season, but then too it was my second fav. For me and many likes of me , its the team the Greatest Indian player plays - Mumbai Indian became the favorites. Its just because Sachins presence , MI seems to be the most supported team till last year in IPL. I am still keeping my loyalty but with a slight drop in passion.

  • Abdul on May 3, 2014, 23:24 GMT

    As an Indo-Guyanese, whose best players are part of the West Indies, the fact there are no Guyanese currently in the IPL means I can truly enjoy the cricket without the bias of supporting any one team. However, I do monitor the performances of West Indians such as Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Kieran Pollard, Dwayne Bravo (haven't seen him lately). Also follow Sharukh Khan & Priety Zinta's teams because of their Bollywood connections (Shilpa Shetty still around?). Absolutely enjoy witnessing the world's best cricketers competing, rubbing shoulders and being exposed to each other in this tournament. It's great! Where else could we see this on TV? The fans still turn out in droves but I do wonder how long can it remain lucrative with the underlying corruption, match-fixing and spot-fixing in that part of the world. Quite aware also of the old school argument that this is not true cricket, but I admire the way the best cricketers adapt to the 20-20, 50 overs and Test cricket.

  • Dummy4 on May 3, 2014, 9:55 GMT

    As a punjabi i will i will always support KINgs X1 punjab no matter we win or loose and also don,t care if any punjabi plays for the team only the best should play for our team regardless of where they belong.

  • Dummy4 on May 3, 2014, 8:50 GMT

    im one of those people who love their own people like their family. my home is where my family stays rather than some location or concrete house. being from Kolkata, I am a supporter of bengalis and bengal players... none of which the knight riders have barring shakib al hassan, a fellow bengali from bangladesh. nobody can force me or many others like me to support kkr just because it claims to have kolkata in its name whereas it takes young talents from all over the country but bengal. so i support rcb which has bengali talent ashok dinda and my 4 of my favourite players, virat, yuvraj, gayle and devilliers. when rcb and kkr play i want shakib to do well but rcb to win.

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