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Fallen Love: Why I Chose To Support QPR

July 11, 2013

 

Julio Cesar at QPR: a tough year

Julio Cesar at QPR: a tough year

This is the story of how I, on this of all years, became a QPR supporter.

And why I don’t regret my decision one bit.

Originally from Brazil, but long ago relocated to Canada, I moved to London on September 18, 2012, to attend one of the city’s finest drama schools.

Indeed, I consider myself a “citizen of the world”; and London is, essentially, the world capital of culture – and football. Two things I cherish very, very much.

As soon as it was decided that my wife and I were to reside in West London – more precisely, on Askew Road, where Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & Fulham, Acton Town and Chiswick all pile up on top of one another – I proceeded to properly think about choosing a club to support; and given my tricky location, my options were several.

Many friends told me I should go for Chelsea, since they already had a large Brazilian contingent in the club, and were building an excitingly young and winning squad. But I thought that would have been too obvious a choice, and not a very exciting one. After all, I chose acting as my profession – I do not tend to make sensible, easy choices in life.

Others told me I should ignore my West London location, and go for something thrilling like the Tottenham Hotspurs, if only to annoy those many Canadian friends who somehow adore Arsenal. But, again, that seemed like an all too obvious option, and I truly wanted to support a local West London side. So I settled on Fulham!

Fulham had everything I really wanted in a club: potential for surprises, an exciting forward in Moussa Dembele, a certain stability coated by a delightful veneer of underdog struggle, and, more importantly, no one really hated Fulham or Fulham supporters. Done, I was sold!

Thus, on September 18, I landed at Heathrow every inch a Fulham man!

Alas, upon arrival, and as the weeks progressed, I simply couldn’t find myself getting fully behind Fulham. I tried. I watched the games, I followed the news…but I started to feel like a fraud – sort of like Robinho (hey, remember Robinho!?).

And then Fulham sold Dempsey and Dembele, which only deepened my conundrum.

So I decided to let go of this idea of supporting an English club, and instead continued to focus on my passion for the Brazilian national side and Sao Paulo FC (my childhood club). Perhaps it was mere culture shock: maybe my melodramatic and erratic Brazilian heart couldn’t find a match in the Premier League, where things often seem too bureaucratic, and in the end Manchester United wins anyways.

But there was one option I hadn’t yet explored, and it seemed to contain my deep desire for danger and dramatics: Queen’s Park Rangers!

Frankly, I thought the idea was absurd. Why support a club that, even at that time, very early into the season, were already struggling? And, what’s even worse: similarly to Chelsea and Manchester City, QPR were attempting to rebrand themselves through the sheer cynical power of money.

Nevertheless, because it was a sunny Saturday morning, I took a short walk to Loftus Road, just to see what I’d feel like once I got there. I must confess, though, that the signing of Brazilian International Julio Cesar had me a little too excited already – he is a player I’ve been following since his Flamengo years, indeed a favourite keeper of mine for a long time. And to think of him as a “neighbour” was making me a tad giddy.

Since I needed a new scarf, I went into the QPR shop upon arriving at Loftus Road. I was the only person there – aside from the clerk behind the counter, who didn’t seem particularly happy to be in there on a sunny day, listening to loud replays of QPR’s glorious past on DVDs…

I asked about any Julio Cesar gear, but they didn’t have anything yet, since he had just recently signed with the club. They did have, however, loads of Robert Green stuff!

I decided to pass on that offer.

But I did manage to find a very cozy and quite attractive scarf! Success.

I confess, there was something so simple, and a tad desperate, about the Loftus Road grounds that was winning me over.

It is a very small stadium, almost attached to the neighbouring houses, screaming for space. Indeed, it feels like it is part of the community around it, like it truly belongs there – like it has been there for generations, piled on top of buildings and flats, in people’s backyards, squeezed in, unthreatening, unpretentious, welcoming…

And, at least for now, even though the team is owned by an ambitious business man, Loftus Road retains that vintage charm of a proper football club that belongs to the common folk.

Needless to say, I was becoming enamoured with that aura. I am tragically romantic.

So I thought it was imperative that I attended a live match. And, being a poor drama student, I went for the one I could afford: the bombastic first encounter between QPR and Reading, a 1 x 1 draw!

In retrospect, that first match between the two clubs in November turned out to be more tragically significant, if not prophetic, since both clubs managed to be relegated after a suicidal draw following their second encounter a day before my birthday, in April.

Nevertheless, I have nothing but great memories from that live match at Loftus Road. It was there and then when I truly became a full-fledged QPR supporter!

For most of us, it’s hard to pin-point when exactly we first became supporters of our clubs. We just… are. I remember always liking Sao Paulo FC (and later PSG’s) star playmaker Rai, so I quite naturally developed an affinity for the club in my youth – which has stuck, and now I cannot not be a supporter, even though Rai retired some 13 years ago.

Once you develop that affinity, it truly becomes hard to shake off the feeling that you are somehow connected to the club – that you have made a commitment, and to break it would be somehow shameful (kind of like a marriage).

Indeed, in most instances, our reasons for supporting a club are quite mundane: ‘well, my dad was a supporter’; ‘I was born around the corner from the stadium’; ‘as a kid, I liked the colour of their kit’; etc, etc…

Football fandom isn’t rational. It’s all down to a feeling.

And that’s what QPR gave me on November 4, 2012: a feeling of utmost desperation; a feeling of life at extremely high stakes; a feeling that the battle for survival was on, and that I had an important role to play in supporting the club. I couldn’t just sit there in silence, squeezed in between proper fans, with my knees hitting my chin because I was too tall for that tin-can of a venue. I had to take part in the belief that c’mon you R’s, this must be the first win of the season, c’mon, for Christ’s sake!

I confess, it was exhilarating. Being Brazilian has kind of spoiled me: I’m too used to winning. In my lifetime, I’ve seen Brazil lift the World Cup twice, and play another final. And Sao Paulo FC are one of Brazil’s most successful clubs. So QPR was teaching me something completely different, and something most English fans are all too familiar with: disappointment.

In that sense, I was having an absolutely authentic Anglo experience! I started to feel like a true West Londoner. QPR were my team, and by God, they were awful!

But they were my team; my awfully dysfunctional and disjointed little neighbourhood team. And they needed me.

Moreover, who would have thought, disappointment is kind of fun! It feels great to yell at players, to call Mark Hughes bad names (God, he was dreadful), to share your sheer disbelief in your club with fellow supporters…all of this pain and angst make for incredible celebration when something finally does go right – as it did in that match, when Djibril Cisse scored a delightful goal for the R’s!

Loftus Road exploded in joy! It was right then: I became one of them.

Unfortunately, things grew rather grim for the rest of the season, culminating in the disgraceful relegation of Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club. Tragically, not even the mighty Harry Redknapp, the Honest – who was brought in way too late – could save the club from sinking into the bowels of the Championship tier.

And, frankly, I cannot see the club ascending back into Premiership any time soon. There is a lot of work to be done, as many of those suspiciously mercenary players ought to leave the club, and an identity must be built into the squad. And all of that takes time.

But that’s OK. I’ll be right here, whenever QPR needs me. And through the struggles, I’ll continue to passionately play with the side on my PS3 – whose FIFA Soccer universe has even seen (under my controls) QPR win a Champions League.

Virtual dreams…

However, as a true fan would likely say: who knows, maybe one day in reality, eh?! Who knows…   

Alas, suffering truly is an art-form the English (and now me) are particularly good at.

Well, C’mon you R’s!

 

RB.

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