England v France, 15 February 2003
My boyfriend and I have one major difference of opinion - I like football, and he is definitely a rugby boy. However, Nick has been remarkably good about humouring my obsession. He let himself get talked into a Rangers season ticket this year - and this season alone has accompanied me on day trips to Barnsley, Cheltenham and Crewe, to name but a few. We live 250 miles apart and he’s allowed our weekend visiting schedule to be completely dictated by the QPR fixture calendar (home games he comes to London, away games I go to Liverpool). This arrangement (obviously) suits me rather well, but although he has been extremely accommodating, I haven’t yet managed to infect him with a passion for QPR (still “you” - rather than “we”) and at no time is that more obvious than during the Six Nations tournament.
He is fond of saying that there are 46 QPR matches per year, but only five Six Nations’ England games - so he’s not going to miss one for me, but I should miss a QPR match to be with him. Whilst I’m sure that there is a hitch to the statement, the exact flaw in the logic escapes me. Last year we basically separated for those Saturday afternoons when there was both a QPR home match and an England rugby match.
It seemed to work okay, except for me occasionally feeling that I might have been a little disloyal to him (particularly when England were notching up a very impressive win v Ireland last year and QPR were playing out a highly uninspiring match against a side so uninspiring I’ve forgotten who they were) and me turning up at whatever pub he was at to find him already rather drunk. Also we do only see each other on weekends, and are not yet (two years in) at that stage of the relationship where we don’t find every minute we spend together precious.
So this year I decided that I would be prepared to miss one QPR game to watch the rugby with him. Having tried hard to make a similar effort about rugby to his with QPR, I knew that England v France was the match of the tournament and reasoned that I’d already seen us play Port Vale countless times. So it came to be that I found myself standing on a table at the back of a packed Fulham pub. I had given our season tickets to my brother... on condition he texted me with the Hoops score regularly.
The rugby kicked off (or whatever rugby does) and I got a text telling me it was Rangers 0 Port Vale 0 at half-time (but ‘quite a good half’). I had pangs of Loftus-Road-sickness but was determined to really try to enjoy the rugby. Despite the atmosphere in the pub (a few hundred people packed in, including a high proportion of French fans) the game appeared uninspiring (or is rugby just uninspiring in general?). I checked the R’s score on WAP and was amazed and delighted to see a 2-0 scoreline. The rest of the pub must have wondered what I was celebrating as the rugby was in (yet another) lull.
A couple of minutes later I got another text - 3-0 and the scorers. Suddenly I realised I was in the wrong place. I could hear the Loft singing “Gi-no” - but all I could see were rugby fans and a game I can’t summon up the energy to care about. There were hundreds of people around me who had probably waited for England v France for the last year - but the only result I cared about was unfolding a few miles down the road.
A few minutes later and my phone buzzed again. ‘4-0. Kev.’ I couldn’t take it any more, pushed my way out of the pub into the street and stood on a street corner in Fulham in tears. QPR’s biggest home win of the season and I wasn’t there. All four goals scored at the Loft End, right in front of my season ticket seat: 4-0 and I didn’t even know who was in the team, bar the scorers.
I’m not a complete softy. This is only the third time football has made me cry - away at Port Vale a few years ago when we’d lost and they were reading out the other Division One results that were all going against us; and when our third goal went in against Chelsea pre-season last year.
I’ve missed too many games this season and the irony is that it’s the first season in my QPR lifetime where we genuinely look like doing something positive. So what’s the solution? My immediate gut reaction was not to miss another game this season and never put rugby over football again. But that’s a pretty selfish solution and was not particularly well received by my lovely boyfriend, who’s been so selfless and accommodating about my passion for an underachieving (sad, but true) football team. As he pointed out, if we’d lost 3-0 to Port Vale, my reaction would have been completely different.
I don’t think I’m going to miss a home game for a rugby match again in a hurry - and hopefully not miss another home game for a good long while. In an ideal world my man would fall in love with QPR and fall out of love with rugby (not to mention changing religion and moving to London). But just as we didn’t really choose to fall in love with each other, we can’t really swap sporting allegiances. I suppose we should just both be grateful that at some level we understand why the other feels so passionately about something, even if it’s not the same thing.
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