I truly love this piece, and I wasn't even going to read it because it's about sport and I know nothing whatsoever about sports like football other than what I know about all sports involving a ball, which is: watch out! It goes to show very beautifully precisely why no path to excellence is duplicable. Your past, your family, your experiences all have created what we read, which reflects a great deal of who you are and what you experience- and it's all yours entirely. Writing is so odd, really. It's words, after all, and we all understand even the same words differently, yet there it is- a doorway. A doorway that has on one side the unique private space and on the other side the vastness of the world. And all of us in it. On one side or the other- and both. Wonderful.

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I felt exactly the same …. the title almost put me off !

Another great piece by Hanif and I have to say, I really loved your take on it .

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I'm puzzled by your math. Surely at 35 pounds a year your dispatches cost less than you say and in fact cost only .67 pounds a week. A great buy either way!

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I love the way you have chronicled your life story with football. Your sense of humor in storytelling is my favorite. I look forward to reading your chronicles.

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Apologies to the subscribers who have no interest in football for the following...

Great piece, Hanif. I rediscovered football after a long break around the same time as you, and in not dissimilar circumstances. I also remember watching football in the pubs of the 90s and early 2000s with their charged atmosphere, although I was in a group of pals who despised Man U, Cantona and Ferguson (they supported a team that had to wait for a German with fantastic teeth and a baseball cap to return them to Premier League glory).

Surrounded by pals who supported another shade of red, I found myself absorbing this almost visceral distaste for your team. Then I met my partner who is "one of yours" (she went to the Champions League Final in Barcelona when you won the treble), and my negative feelings towards Old Trafford have mellowed somewhat since then. These days I find myself hoping things will soon change for the better for your beloved Man U (he says, the morning after you lost to - cough - Fulham).

Then again, at least you're still in the Premier League!

All the best,

Den (a Stoke fan!)

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Too good. This really brings back memories of switching on the telly and the room smelling of burning dust for half an hour. My boyfriend also remembers when watching the telly in his house - he was the remote.

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I love that those swollen penises are lodged in the BL. Beautiful photo of boys n hound x

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Love the childhood list of William books. Ms Crompton would applaud your observations of boyish behaviour and family dynamics. So funny and touching. K x

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Got Gladiators on just to connect me to Saturday night - your weekly writings are also now part of said evening and just a joy to read now. Joined by your three strapping lads and dog to watch the game . With me it is snooker starting with Alex Higgins- watching on a small but perfect portable black and white tv - it was orange with a flat black screen Japanese of course and when it all went to boxes and digital and such like kept it for years - yes snooker in black and white those were the days, On the rare occasions I do watch football (worldcup ) I enjoy it especially who is in goal they are god. But when the various matches turn up on my telly when Corrie should be on? No!

Happi memories and more in the making for you - by the way good on your son for choosing a vegan lifestyle . Have to go my cat (one of them) is giving me the hard Paddington stare that indicates she is starving. With lots of care Maddi x

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Handsome sons, wicked sense of humor here and there laugh out loud, very enjoyable piece--especially this: "had several televisions piled up on top of one another. Only one of them seemed to work, and since he had obtained it from a fish and chip shop, when it warmed up, it gave off an awful smell of rancid oil. "

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I had two tellies back in the 80s. One had sound only, the other had picture only (though damson pink). Life on the dole taught you to be resourceful.

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Am glad you can now enjoy family time Hanif ! Am also glad to hear that you are regaining some strength. Xx Jane

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I grew up in central Massachusetts, in a home that strongly, deeply supported the Celtics and the Red Sox. I am a part of the local generation somewhat hated by those older than us for the success we basked in through our childhoods, particularly in the context of the New England Patriots dynasty, but the Sox and the C’s won championships of their own as well (and I hope that the Celtics are on track for another title this season — but I didn’t say that out loud 😉) — success that they had to suffer through decades of garbage to earn, success that they were not born into. I’ve never taken the sentiment personally, but I’ve also never been a huge fan of American football.

At the start of 2013, my 16-year-old self couldn’t have told you what Real Madrid was. I was a “good kid” so it’s hard for me to say how much I was drifting in the way that teenage boys drift; my father would take me out for a drive every Sunday afternoon, and we would listen to “Car Talk” on NPR and get ice cream or throw around a baseball and talk about life. But in the summer of 2013, while away at a church camp up in Maine, I came to find out that one of my cabin-mates was a Londoner who supported this team called West Ham United. Specifically, I came to find this out because the other campers who knew anything about soccer would give him shit for supporting West Ham United. Now, I don’t know what it is that predisposes me to love all things British, but I must admit I do suffer from that niche American trait. So when I got home and looked up West Ham I immediately fell in love. Nick Hornby’s “Fever Pitch” posits that football must scratch some depraved Freudian itch for obsessives like us to dive so deep into it, and I can only agree. I learned all about the pyramid league system, something at once completely foreign and perfectly sensible. My mother was truly taken aback when she learned that I, within mere months, could name the stadiums of some of the lower-league teams; that was when she realized that this was something serious for me. Getting FIFA that Christmas helped things along too.

And, if I had been in any danger of drifting, football helped to provide the same connection with my father as it did for you and your boys; Saturday mornings became getting up early, making a Dunkins run, and sitting down to watch the games, bemoaning the god-awful performance of my chosen team, one that my dad also chose to adopt as his own, though not to the same extent as I did. I liked West Ham’s diehard fan base, supporters that stuck with it even through the hardship the team constantly put them through, and that reminded me of the Celtics and their fans, the scrappy Bostonians who bleed green through it all. Maybe my dad saw the same in them. We were fortunate that the 2013/14 PL season was the first for which NBC had broadcast rights, making it the perfect time to get started. That following summer was my first proper World Cup, supporting the Netherlands, the home of my maternal grandfather who I never met.

Ten years later and I am still as miserable as ever supporting the team that I love. I also devote an unholy amount of my time to the Fantasy Premier League game, and have amassed a bit of a Twitter following around it. Maybe someday I’ll start a podcast or something; anything to make an extra few bucks.

Thank you for your story, and I hope that you don’t mind me rambling on about mine. Much love.

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I very vividly remember watching the Giggs semi-final.

At the time I was in my early 20s and a fallen Man United fan having lost interest in football to some degree when I found the usual teenage interests.

I'd been a feverish fan previously as much as you can from the Midlands and having only been to maybe two games. I did spend a lot of time calling the old expensive Man United club call information line if you remember that? so I consider myself a reserve ultra of sorts. Like the army reserve force but for football fans?

I had finished university and had made that awful decision to go and live back at home at my home in the Midlands.

This decision, or more accurately, the non-decision, was a nice way to burst - no slowly deflate with a long comedy squeak - the bubble of the ridiculous, heroic bohemian personality I had manufactured over the previous three years.

Back in my childhood room listening to music made in bedrooms about escaping bedrooms (I think?). Noticing my newly accumulated wardrobe of bohemian, hot rock damaged clothing gradually vanish. One by one as my parents tried to desperately re-engineer me.

I was hoping to study for a National Council for the Training of Journalists Diploma (in truth my mom had done all the application forms etc and paid the fee. I just had to turn up to the interview/test).

I was working at the local Co-op as I'd been made to do so by my dad rather than laze around smoking and regressing back to childhood like some sort of less exciting version of 'Big', 'Freaky Friday' etc (or those various films where a person takes over the body of a child or viceversa). Actually I think one of them is called Viceversa.

I was eventually accepted onto the course and while on work experience had been offered a job on a local newspaper on Lichfield (full time for £8,200 a year further trapped me at home).

That week I'd told my horrendous spindly borderline albino Welsh manager that I was leaving and I did it in a pretty happy and relieved and open way. As you do when you are young and before you realise no one is that happy for you in these situations. Your happiness weighs less than the paperwork you are creating. He took it as a betrayal. (insert Co-op and Mafia comparison here).

Later that week as I worked out my notice I informally swapped shifts without checking with him as everyone seemed to do. While it was a bit slapdash, he was usually OK with it. But as he was angry he decided this week to fire me during a quick meeting in his office.

I was a bit shocked and sort of embarrassed by the stiff formality of the manager and his deputy manager, but as I was 20/21 I fucking loved and was excited by the drama a lot too. As I walked out with a bit of a skip I just laughed to myself and tremendously enjoyed handing him over my Co-op official tie and being free. He had the last laugh as I didn't get paid my accrued holiday leave of a couple of days.

So instead of going home I went to the pub and drank several beers and watched that wonderful, instantly mythical game against Arsenal. One of those pearls of a game that football gifts you as a reward for filtering through the many hours of drudgery.

I watched a talk with you in Birmingham during my A levels that very much inspired me to get into some form of writing. And just generally inspired me in many ways. I managed to get people to pay me for writing up until now so you succeeded. Thank you. And I escaped my childhood bedroom a couple of years later. Although it wasn't the last time I got fired.

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Thank you once again for a gentle read on a Sunday. Connecting with adult sons can be a real challenge. With my younger one, who lives with me, it is food and cooking that keeps us close, but with older one living on the other side of the world, communication can become strained, even barely existent. Favourite comment of yours: about the youngest son who has "lost interest in football and become a vegan." I wonder which is the lesser of the two evils? Keep smiling!

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I love reading you!

Impressive list of books in your notebook! I may have read one or two at about the same age! You've reminded me of the English teacher who recommended CS Lewis and Tolkien to us when I was 11.

My own memory of Cantona was being surprised when he appeared in one of the funniest films I've ever seen, in Italian it was called La felicità dietro l'angolo with Michel Serrault. Catona played a rugby player. He's been in other films too hasn't he? A foreign ambassador at the court of Elizabeth I and another I haven't seen about himself...

You've also made me think of my Naples supporter friends who can also tell their life stories referring to MAGICA moments of the team's glorious past. I don't know if you read in Italian. Maurizio De Giovanni, well known for his crime stories, had written a wonderful book about Naples supporters describing games and moments of play without ever actually naming Maradona - he calls him by other euphemisms.

Thanks as always for being so honestly you! All the best!

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From Wikipedia

Il resto della settimana

Il resto della settimana è un romanzo di costume dello scrittore italiano Maurizio De Giovanni edito nel 2015; è ambientato nella Napoli "ammalata" di tifo calcistico. È il settimo libro dedicato dall'autore allo sport.


Tra i vicoli della Napoli storica il piccolo bar di Peppe è costruito intorno alla vecchia ma favolosa macchina del caffè. Alla cassa la diciottenne Deborah, dalle insospettabili capacità multitasking che non si avvede delle attenzioni che ha per lei il garzone extracomunitario detto Ciccillo.

"Il Professore", studioso alle soglie della pensione, si troverà da Peppe a raccogliere i racconti di molti avventori che potrebbero essere la base per il suo vagheggiato libro di sociologia.

Scopre così il gioco del calcio, a cui non si era mai interessato, e soprattutto quei giorni della settimana in cui la squadra del Napoli non gioca.

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This takes me back to y own childhood as the only daughter,of a sports junkie. Here in America, it was baseball, basketball and college football, never the pros until we moved to the cenral coast of CA. Several years ago we had a private tour of Dodger Stadium. (My mother took us to the groundbreaking ceremonies when I was in third grade.) They keep World Series trophies and Golden Gloves. Walking by those names is like watching a replay of your life.

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My Dad was a Man U fan. As was my first boyfriend. I followed for a while during the Ferguson/Cantona period, and remember all those players’ names. Even cared a bit if they won... Great photo of your sons!

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