Following Football from Afar: St Helena Island

Being a football fan on a remote island isn’t all that different to being a football fan anywhere else in the world. In fact, there are also some distinct benefits: football season is sunny, being abroad means we get to watch the 3pm Saturday kick offs on TV and there’s no Robbie Savage! There are some disadvantages too, as I can’t just nip across the Pennines any more to watch my beloved Everton play and whilst you were all rejoicing as Andy Townsend was booted off ITV, his transfer to the international Premier League show means that we have him pretty much all the time now.

With better communications around the world now, being a football fan anywhere is pretty easy. Despite the fact that our communications are pretty poor comparatively (there is currently no mobile network, internet speed is a max 1.5mbps with a max download of 13GB per month) they are still far better than what we had growing up. Back in the day going abroad meant a break from football. I remember going on holiday and sitting around the radio on a Saturday afternoon, listening to the BBC World Service for Sports Report to start so we could hear all the day’s results. Then waiting for two days for the newspapers to arrive and read the match reports to get a flavour for what happened. Those summer holidays invariably clashed with the first games of the season, so being away meant the excitement of a new season was watered down. But today, even 5,000 miles away from the UK and somewhere that takes 5 days on a boat to travel to from South Africa, we have an abundance of football. In fact I probably watch more football than I ever did at home. I’ve seen nearly every Everton game this season, which obviously hasn’t been quite as enjoyable as I’d have liked.

The TV coverage is good here, we have 17 channels in total and 6 of them are SuperSport, the African version of SkySports. Thankfully as English football is so huge in Africa it means nearly every top flight game is shown and pretty much all the European games too. Saturday at 3pm is wall to wall football and brilliant fun flicking between all the channels, it certainly beats staring at tele-text looking for goal updates and it’s even better than watching Jeff Stelling, Paul Merson and Co describing (in a ridiculously over exaggerated way) the matches. I can still go old school too as every Saturday afternoon the World Service covers a live game on the radio and I can tune in as I drive round the island and listen to Alan Green pontificating about how modern players are overpaid wimps. If it wasn’t for the dramatic backdrops formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago I could even pretend I was back home.

One of the things that you do miss is the arguments with your mates down the pub. Who was the worse signing; was it Lukaku or Ballotelli (definitely Ballotelli!)? Did Rooney dive or was it a penalty (he dived!) and why do England keep under-performing? But even that is eased, with Twitter, WhatsApp and other social networks we can all be watching games in different parts of the world, and somehow still manage to abuse each other from thousands of miles away. After all, it’s the different opinions and arguing about them that really makes football great for me.

Something that is surprising though is how much you miss out on the hype. I’m not sure why that is, I still read the papers, I still see the games but the hype seems to pass us by. This has its benefits but it also has some drawbacks too. Judgements on players and teams are very much based on your own opinion and you can often find yourself swimming against the tide. Last year for instance I just couldn’t see what people saw in Southampton and many of their players. Lallana, Lovren and Lambert were vastly overrated (I know, I know, there’s an anti-Liverpool theme here) and so were many of the others that were being touted to other clubs. This is fine, but it also makes me look stupid, going against the grain isn’t something many football fans actually do or not what it comes to certain issues anyway.

However, when you look at the pros and cons regarding, there are some distinct advantages to watching football from Saint Helena, which significantly outweigh the disadvantages.

 

Follow our St Helena blogger, Tom Holvey, on Twitter here.

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