I am a life long Hammer, as are my entire family going back a few generations. My siblings and I shared a season ticket for a while and to me, there's nothing more beautiful in this world than walking up those steps and seeing Upton Park in all her glory. It is indeed rubbish to be a football fan and live abroad, and before you start, it's not rubbish being a West Ham fan in general. At least I'm not Spurs.
Living about 6,000 miles away from the Boleyn is one of the harder separations I've had to make to live in San Francisco. And it doesn't matter how many Red Sox games I go to, there is just no replacement for being at home when the season starts.
I remember my first time clearly. We beat Leicester 2-1 on a rare Monday evening. The sun set as the crowd got shoutier, the floodlights giving each player four shadows, an image that I can instantly recall. I got my chunky, grappy 5 year old fingers trapped in the tip-up seats and the pain was incomparable to anything I'd felt before. I loved the noise, I loved the singing, but most of all, I loved the football.
Our routine for games on the rare occasion I am in London, usually consists of coming in on the District Line from Zone 6, like a Pied Piper collecting willing participants with every stop. We have a quick half in a pub by the station and then surrounded by friends and family, head to the ground for about 45 minutes before kick off. The feeling of being part of something bigger, part of a community, is wonderful.
Now I listen to the games whilst I make breakfast, barely awake and reaching for the (England bought) PG Tips. The eight hour time difference is rough. Worst of all I listen to the games on my own. San Francisco is just stretching and yawning as the whistle blows. East London is a sea of claret and blue, and I'm in my pyjamas and last season's away shirt, wishing I was there.
There's a pub here that our mate works at and they open up early enough to go down there and watch it with a cheeky pre-9am pint. Unfortunately our mate lived in North London for a while and has continued his support of Arsenal ever since. Yes, I watch West Ham games surrounded by ex-pat Gooners. In some ways this makes it sadder.
So think of me the next time you go to whatever ground you call home, especially if it's on Green Street. Because it's hard being this far from your family and friends, but it's even harder being this far from your football team.
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