There really is nothing better than a day at the football. An opportunity to escape the realities of life, to me there is nothing that does that better. Recently, I've got into a habit of going to watch non-league football whenever it doesn't clash with Arsenal. My local teams are Margate and Ramsgate, two fierce rivals within the non-league pyramid.
However, having played for both as a child and as an adult, I bear no ill-will towards either and view them almost as equal in terms of my interests. Generally I'll go and watch Margate seeing as they play ten minutes from my house, but if they are away I'll sometimes make the trip over to the red side of the area like I did yesterday. Treachery to the diehard.
But despite watching Ramsgate lose 2-0 to a side that I genuinely had never heard of in Merstham, I had a really enjoyable afternoon. Watching non-league football offers me an opportunity to simply watch football without the stress and angst that is brought about from viewing Arsenal. My weekly trips all around the country for Arsenal are amazing, and I'm very fortunate that I get to do that. However, one bad result has the ability to completely derail a week and make me sulk until the next match.
This is the product of emotional involvement. I've always argued that this is non-sensical, due to the simple fact that none of us, unless we are playing, can influence a game. With Margate and Ramsgate though, I'm able to take away that aspect. I still want a team to win, and I'm still happy if they do, but it is far easier to simply move on if the game doesn't go our way.
There is something so simple about it that I love. You can grab a pint and a burger without having to queue for 20 minutes. If you don't like your view, you can walk to the other side of the ground. You can interact with the players and inevitably, even know some of them individually. Families can share the experience together without having to take out a mortgage to do so. There's always an old boy that goes to every game that everyone recognises and gives a nod of approval towards. You can hear each individual comment about a players performance. There is no VAR nonsense. It's beautiful in its simplicity.
Yet there are still similarities to the Premier League football that I have grown up loving. It is still us against them. There are still rivalries. There is still hatred towards certain individuals. Groups of fans that don't know each other still congregate in one area with a sole purpose of supporting their team. But perhaps most importantly, it is still the game that we all know and love.
I'll often go to these games alone. It gives me time to think but more importantly, totally immerse myself in the game. Whenever I go with my Dad, I still watch and enjoy the game, but it is far more difficult to assess the match and individual performances when you are attempting to be sociable.
Non-league football is great. It might not be recognisable in terms of the ability levels of the respective players, but it's still great. So next time you have nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon, get yourself down to your local club, help support their community and immerse yourself in the simplicity of the game. You won't regret it.