Football is family

July 31st, 2020

In Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium at the moment, there’s a huge red banner that adorns the empty seats of the still and silent Stretford End. It reads, “Football without fans is nothing”.

Indeed, fans watching the games beamed live from Manchester, or Liverpool, or London or wherever, will know the atmosphere they created is abated, their voices now a vacuum, the drive and determination they give to their team is diminished.  But at least these fans have something to watch.

What are ‘Fans without football’?  Are they still fans? Are they still something – with nothing to be fanatical about?

I am one of those fans.  A football fan with nothing to watch.  But it’s not soccer I miss – it’s British American Football I yearn for, or Britball, as it’s more commonly known.

In 2019, I was part of a group of parents, relatives and friends who followed the East Kilbride Pirates Junior American football team home and away.  One of the coaches gave us the rather menacing moniker of the EKP ULTRAS – which of course we loved – but be assured, any balaclavas were self-knitted and worn to keep us warm, and the only flares we armed ourselves with, flapped around our ankles on a windy side-line.

At this point it should be explained that there is only one other Junior American football team in Scotland – the Highland Wildcats – conveniently located in Inverness…  for any Invernessian aficionadas of American football, but a bit out the way for everyone else.  The rest of the teams are based well south of the border.  With the quirksome and irksome scheduling of the sport’s governing body – our six-game season resulted in only two homes games – with the resultant made up with two trips to the highlands and two further trips to Chorley and Manchester.  This in turn, resulted in the EKP ULTRAS forming maxi-bonds in the mini-bus during our resulting, long voyages to watch our Pirates battle it out.  However, the only results that mattered the 2019 season were very successful.

An undefeated regular campaign, an epic last gasp win in the semi-final against Birmingham – cumulating in another short, 10-hour jaunt to London, to play the London Blitz in the BritBowl Final at the neutral venue of the London River Stadium, London.  This iconic and ironic, last crusade to the capital, was just one too far for our proud Pirates, but that doesn’t matter, none of it matters.

What matters is the absolute joy of being a fan of this football team.  They allowed us to live our youth again through watching them play.  We blocked, tackled, passed, caught, and scored every touchdown with them.  And I think most of us even know the rules of American football now!

We watched the boys grow in training and battle on the field.  They did all of this with smiles on their faces and I hope they saw those smiles reflecting back at them from the side-lines and stands.  We’ve seen them become friends and solid team mates, and that friendship and teamwork has developed through to us on the side of the pitch.  They gave everything on the field and have given so much pride to everyone who came on the journey with them.

Last season we initially travelled to and from games as fans.  As Mums, Dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters and friends.  We ended up traveling together as a family.  The fun, laughter and excitement our team brought into our hearts will live with us forever.

Then 2020 came into vision, something nobody could see ever happening.  A lost season and a season of the lost.  What are fans without football?

The answer is simple.  We are family.

For the fans, players, coaches and every single member of the East Kilbride Pirates organisation… 

Football isn’t nothing.  Football is Family.

By Kerr Girvan


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