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The Show of Me

Colin Payne really likes his football mobile-free


I don’t like electronic ticketing. And I sure as hell don’t like Covid passes. However, my displeasure with such things relates neither to excessive queuing, which isn’t that excessive; nor any perceived violations of my civil liberties nothing is being violated other than a person’s right to be a fuckwit. No, my issue is far simpler; both rely on the use of mobile phones, and to be quite clear, these objects have no place in a football ground.

Matchdays are my special days. I look forward to them immensely, no matter the opponent, regardless of the league we are populating. They are about more than mere football. During that afternoon I link with two of my now-grown-up children in a way that would be extremely difficult in any other setting. The journey to Watford is one of catching up, impromptu quizzes (William loves a quiz) and sharing playlists gathered over the preceding weeks. Weather permitting, it’s eating street food on a High Street bench, or sharing a pizza, burgers or fish and chips around a table. It’s that walk to the ground, the same route every time, picking up more fellow fans along the way, like tributaries to a large river, all flowing with the same purpose, all seeking out the same destination. It’s sharing the same jokes as we take our seats, me clasping the flag laid out, like a 10-year-old boy all excited, Sophie and Will rolling eyeballs as I invariable tangle it as I swirl it, clearly in the wrong manner, above my head – incapable of learning. It’s joining in with the first Since I was young… and nodding to each other silently, yeah it’s going to be a good one today.

Nowhere in this scenario should a mobile phone feature. Football is our day where it’s about us, this isn’t the world where we sit silently staring at a screen, swiping or tapping (and yes, I’m guilty of this outside of WD18), this is a world of feelings, emotions, of living the moment, cherishing that togetherness, of a family, but also a wider crowd. It’s shared passion there is no disconnect at football, no alternative generational views. It’s family members, or friends – or indeed strangers – enjoying each other’s company whilst doing something they dearly love doing. At no point do I reach for my phone during this time in the stadium, it’s not something that even comes into my mind why would I? In fact, if I had the option, it wouldn’t even be on me. 

It annoys me no end to see people filming the game, watching through a tiny screen, as if what they are recording will ever see the light of day, their footage somehow superior to Match of the Day or Sky’s coverage. Live the moment! This is live entertainment at its rawest, there is no script, no pre-ordained result (OK, barring the visits of those sky-blue Mancs), everything is open to anything happening. You don’t need a phone to enjoy it, and you will never forget what you see, providing you’ve seen it first-hand, rather than filming it!

I guess it all became an issue for me at some point, and I’m pretty sure of that point. May 2015. The Wednesday game. It was the day Watford fans got it all so wrong. The pitch invasions and manufactured joy have all been covered in previous issues of YBR!, however my abiding memory of that post-match Festival of Folly was seeing people on that turf taking their selfies, filming the shameful crassness of it all. 

There was nothing natural, instantaneous, or even remotely joyful about it. To quote author Adam Nevill: ‘Mobile phones... they’re not for communicating, they’re for broadcasting. Broadcasting The Show of Me’. It was thousands of people losing sight of what was important about football, important about that crucial game, and it represented pure nothingness, sponsored by Apple and Samsung, phones aloft, filming through the equally obnoxious smoke (and that’s for another day), to celebrate winning absolutely nothing.

It’s not that I’m some crusty Luddite, or live in a shack on the Outer Hebrides, of course the modern world features heavily in my life. But maybe that’s why I yearn for those hours of living for the moment, rather than a screen; of getting lost in passion, and not a technological rabbit hole; of being part of something human, not to record or ‘share’ but just experience. Because football, and Watford in particular, is a great experience on its own.