I have always been very skeptical of opportunists. I have many friends who ask me why I don’t support Mexico’s National University team if I studied there. I am convinced that true fans choose their teams in childhood and for much more important reasons than "rationality". How was my 6 year old me to know that 12 years later I would enter the UNAM? No! Teams are not chosen like that; They are chosen by irreproachable whims, a colour, a player, a family tradition. In football as in love, logic is only for opportunists. Passion does not allow calculations. You fall in love with who you can and then you see how you make it through
I support West Ham; the team that immortalized its glory in a song that pays homage to failure. Most chants are aspirational, anthems of war that prepare soldiers for combat. In that sense, West Ham have made an anti-canticle; if chants usually seek to build on collective catharsis, what happens at West Ham has the geometry of charm; here, catharsis is permeated by the soft filigree of dreams. Each game, the West Ham supporters sing "Blowin 'Bubbles" while a machine fills the pitch with bubbles. The scene is deeply moving, the gladiators enter the battlefield in the midst of a lullaby and a lot of soap. The initial whistle ends this collective trance; the small metaphors slowly yield to reality and normality sinks into the football ground. When there are bubbles on the pitch, West Ham play at home.
The problem with bubbles is that they burst. We all know that. And still, who has not blown on them with care? We all have that common memory: the diminutive version of ourselves chasing balloons of air in a park. The ephemeral, has its benefits. If the bubbles were to blow forever - imagine them bouncing everywhere - we would end up bursting them ourselves. Dreams are for those who will one day wake up; as far as I know, the dead do not dream.
In times of rapacious emotional capitalism, many choose their teams because they will bring them enough triumphs to make them feel winners. As I have never been given to self-help manuals, I support West Ham as a kind of phobia to therapy. Feeding on the triumphs of others is easy; building from their defeat is more complicated. Identifying yourself with the mediocrity of others requires resilience. The symbols of West Ham are the hammer and the bubbles; its symbolic foundation lies between the ideal and the plausible. If the bubbles rise and are destroyed, the hammer builds from the ground; Onirism becomes reality through iron.
Also, my devotion to the hammers fits well with my idealism. I confess that I am moved by the idea of a world in which illusions dictate the pulse of reality. The truth is that history is built of illusions that break and eventually settle down as reality: the illusion alone is not able to permeate the world of the palpable, for this it must first burst; the soap that falls on the floor is the one that causes the world to slip in new directions. If many fans live off the trophies of their teams, I prefer to feel like a potential revolutionary; my loyalty to the team goes through the idea of transcendence: bubbles always burst, until one settles and stays. When the illusions are set in motion the world suddenly rolls.
Before being accused of wanting to justify the mediocrity of my team with literary adornments, or of being considered a martyr who seeks attention by choosing a medium team, I think it is opportune to explain my adherence to the claret and the blue. In my story, illusion and dreams play a role beyond metaphor. I was six when my dad came home with the news that we were moving to London. The sense of space is peculiar in a child; It was not the map that scared me, but the strangeness of the name. There was something in the word that denoted an immeasurable distance. London did not sound like Mexico and that made it far away.
Touched by my anguish, my parents gave me a toy double decker bus. The idea was simple: to build a link between my current world and my future world. The gift was - in its most literal form - destiny. Glued to the front of the vehicle, a sign announced the end of the route: West Ham. I spent hours playing with that truck; I traced thousands of routes, but the letters were inescapable; No matter where I went before, my truck always terminated at West Ham. The name began to take on a mythical air.
I arrived in London like one who arrives to ïtaca. Somewhere in the city there was West Ham and that sounded like home. However, my parents are generous but not suicidal, they postponed the trip to that mystical place with care. In fact, for me it was TV that sealed the deal. One day I turned on the device and I found a football match. I immediately fell in love with the colors of that uniform. It was elegance at its best: the claret and the blue seemed a worthy combination of the gods. A little sign on the top revealed the name of my new team. It could have been the Aston Villa, but - fortunately - it was West Ham. I remembered my truck and knew I had reached the last stop. You always end up reaching your destination, especially on a double-decker bus.
In addition, my love for the club is justified in the rugged idiosyncratic similes between the club and my country. West Ham are an intrinsically Mexican club. West Ham’s steep contrasts reveal it as surreal as my country. For years, West Ham have been linked to the violence of their followers. Nestled in one of the poorest areas of the English capital, the neighborhood spawned rivalries and fights. For some, the prototype of West Ham follower is the English worker; tall, strong and shaved. But among all the violence that this image can engender, the tenderness survives; Every time a match begins the hooligans sing a sweet lullaby as their war chant. Nothing more touching than watching skinheads blowing bubbles.
Despite its tendency to mediocrity, going to West Ham is not a vain exercise in any sense. Decontextualized from the English environment and its deep-rooted correlation between neighborhood and team, for the casual fan, West Ham seem like a minor club. Nothing further from reality. The English football media has survived the onslaught of American values that only reward victory. True, there is no doubt that trophies help; Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are the "biggest" teams in England for their triumphs and their money. However, there is a series of teams whose historical value puts them in a privileged place despite not having the international pedigree.
For the "globalized" fan, a Chelsea vs.West Ham is a mere formality, a meeting between a giant and a stranger; in London the duel is lived as a final. For the real Chelsea supporter a win against West Ham, Tottenham, Fulham or Arsenal may be worth more than an international success. The example is no exception: ask an Arsenal supporter what is more important to them, to beat Bayern or beat Tottenham, ask a West Ham fan if he prefers to play in Europe or beat Millwall; football in England can not be understood without the rich history of clubs, their geographical location and their rivalries. Within that universe, West Ham is a team with an unblemished tradition and a very broad and deep-rooted influence. Half a step down from the big four there is a constellation of essential teams in the cosmology of English football: West Ham, Tottenham, Manchester City, Newcastle and Everton: without them the Premier League should not be.
I have already said that I do not support West Ham because I want trophies, but I still like to maintain a certain level of dignity. For this I carry an ace up my sleeve. A while ago a Chelsea neo-supporter (the equivalent of the new-rich of football, whose attachment to a team has arrived with the satellite dish) asked me in an ironic tone how many premierships West Ham had won. My answer came in the form of the classical mayeutic philosophy. How many world cups has Chelsea won? My interlocutor was confused; Wikipedia has its limits. In 1966 England won its only world cup. The team's backbone consisted of the great Bobby Moore, Geoff Hust, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson; four players from West Ham. in 1966 at Wembley, West Ham beat West Germany with three goals from forward and youth player Geoff Hurst; a statue at Upton Park remembers that moment.
Its presence there is not the only indication that you have reached one of the last authentic remnants of world football. Everything in Upton Park is built on small subtleties: the long line for "Nathan's Pie Mash & Eels"; British cuisine at its most revulsive and necessary; the vendor of programs standing on a ladder; the cry of beware of Tottenham! when the stools of the police horses fill the sidewalk; and of course, the cheap structure that simulates the towers of a castle. If the Manchester stadium is known as the "theater of dreams", in Upton Park dreams are not rehearsed, here the dream world is a fundamental part of the smooth filigree of everyday life. Upton Park, West Ham’s stadium, stands as a monument to an increasingly rare breed in the world of football: the inveterate romantic.
Among all that seems eternal in West Ham, the stadium does not figure. Today, West Ham continues but Upton Park does not. After 112 years of being the home of the claret and the blue the stadium yields to the capitalist impulses that will turn it into an apartment complex. The house of dreams will become the home of a few sleepy people. West Ham will follow its history a few kilometers to the west; the Olympic Stadium will be its new home. In his song Substitute, Pete Townshend talks about the functionality of disorder; "The north of my town is in the east, and the east is in the south." West Ham is the concretization of perpetual confusion, not only is it not in West London but the best kept secret of the club is that West Ham plays in East Ham. In that sense the Olympic Stadium that is in the west of the county of Ham will be a return home; but something in this geographical correction is prone to create confusion among members of a club whose essence lies in inconsistency and paradox. Why do we want reality and its exquisite commitment to precision if we have fantasy?
Geographic location will not be the only cause of confusion in the new stadium. As modernity replaces the melancholy austerity, the club will grow. Nothing in the new stadium will be able to recreate the atmosphere that Joseph Blatter called the second best in the world of football (he might be corrupt but he knows the sport). The homogenizer hammer of globality will finally fall on the hammers and will take away a touch of their personality and essence. But there is something that worries even more. After the game against Manchester the lights of this small and old-fashioned stadium will be extinguished forever and the towers of the castle will fall precipitously. What will happen to the bubbles? The fall of Upton Park is not the end of an era but the end of a way of life: the West Ham way; beautiful combative football that is rarely effective; a way of suffering very close to ecstasy. The story of West Ham tells the story of its fans, the working class that might not always triumph but even more amazingly, miraculously survives. What will happen when the new stadium brings the benefits of success? How does one blow bubbles in the face of success? How are we going to recognize our team when it wins?
2016 will be the breaking point in the bubble. On one side us, trapped in an idyllic version of a club that did not seek victory but glory, and on the other a new legion of fans who will come in search of glamor, trophies and the hubbub of first world football. Who of us would have even imagined it? Will they know that the bubbles are not eternal?
A football club is the continuity of childhood in adult life. When the world demands us to be rational and boring, football gives us ninety minutes to be children. I remember the enchantment that the bubbles had on me; their beauty was ephemeral but their existence activated an eternal mechanism with me: illusion. The problem with bubbles is that they burst. The wonder of the world is that meanwhile, the bubbles always fly.
In some way West Ham must adapt to its new identity without losing its essence. If the bubbles at Upton Park ever spoke of a future hope that did not come, now in the Olympic Stadium the same bubbles will act as interlocutors with a past world where the future was unattainable. A reminder that dreams last until reality bursts them. That's why football should work like a charm; not as a piece of reality but as a brief recess outside of it. 'Forever blowin' bubbles': Even if West Ham where to start winning and thus become unrecognizable, as long as there are bubbles there will be a team. The bus has many stops; some good, many bad, but at the end of the journey there is always home; the illusion lasts as long as it is understood that destiny is the illusion that the road allows. In my life that illusion has the name of a sausage: West Ham.