It is an assumption made over and over again in soccer circles. “I’ve been supporting them for forty years, so I know what is right.” Or it’s “You didn’t know what it was like, you weren’t there.” Does this really mean that someone is more fanatical? Or even has a better knowledge of the game in fact?
As an Arsenal fan, it is an argument I hear quite a lot. Whenever someone younger defends Wenger you hear “You’ve only known Arsenal with Wenger, how could you possibly have an opinion?” But you have to go back a way to find Arsenal fans who do know anything other than Wenger. As he began managing Arsenal in 1996, in reality no one born after 1990 is really going to remember before Wenger and as a result anyone under the age of 23 has really only known Wenger in charge. It’s impossible for anyone this age to know any different than Wenger, but they are not incapable of using Google. Even a quick search will tell anyone that doesn’t know that every team has its ups and downs during their history. Usually. supporting a club for twenty years gives you some kind of recognition with your fellow fans, but at the moment Arsenal is a special case. In fact those who have stuck with Arsenal for their seven, and probably eight, trophy less years are going through a time where Arsenal are hard to support and those who stick around are probably the true Arsenal fans.
With Chelsea the argument is much similar. “You were not around before the Abramovich years so you’re not a real fan.” But then again as Abramovich took over in 2003, less and less people will have been around before Roman Abramovich bought the club. Who would have wanted to be any way? Since 2003 Chelsea have won nine major trophies – the UEFA Champions League, the Premier League 3 times, the FA Cup (4 times) and the League Cup twice.
With the introduction of the Internet, anyone can know anything about any club. No one really needed to be there to know what happened. Obviously they needed to be there and feel the atmosphere or the depression whichever club and whatever time they are looking at. It means, though, that everyone in football can know the same amount no matter what age they are. Facts and figures can be looked up, and people can read other accounts of people who were there. The point being that people who are older, especially soccer fans, do not automatically know more anymore.
Undeniably people will make the argument about glory supporters and those who swap their team at a moment’s notice; the game is rife with it. This is not something that will stop though and if they are funding your club by paying for merchandise and maybe even at the turnstile, I would not complain too much about them. Sometimes their knowledge and loyalty maybe lacking and this is annoying but it is not the true young fans that should be targeted by this kind of assumption.
Deriding someone’s opinion for being a younger fan could deny the game some of its most avid supporters, those who are not jaded by the beautiful game. Yet who turn up time after time. In Arsenal’s case there are plenty of better arguments to oust Wenger, so this one does not really need to be used. It quite frankly makes people look a bit stupid because they don’t have any arguments to use instead, and seem just as bad as those who show blind faith towards people in football.
So does being older make you a better fan? No, the answer to being a better fan lies somewhere else, in the amount that you watch the games, the amount you take part in the club’s fan base and the amount you defend them and support them when they need it. Anybody of any age can do this and they should not be put off by dismissive comments.