Love what you love, unconditionally.
On 17 July, 2020, Leeds United got promoted to the Premier League.
I started supporting Leeds in 2003. We got relegated in 2004. As a 17-year-old in Chennai, I had no idea what I had signed up for after relegation. Chat rooms, discussion forums, text commentary, illegal radio streams, detailed fan emails — everything except video / live telecast / streams.
Unless you were in the English Premier League, you had no access to support other division clubs. It was a weird time to be an “international fan”, if that is a thing.
We almost got redemption in 2006 playoffs final. Almost.
Upon our failure, I started an Orkut community called “Leeds United even after we die” wherein I wrote at length in the about section as to why I’m convinced that if this doesn’t kill us, it only makes us stronger. I believed in it as a teenager.
I also believed in Orkut communities as a concept. That says a lot.
No matter what lows you go through as a Leeds fan, you can’t beat evangelising on Orkut.
I was brought up on online forums filled with proper set of LUFC season ticket holders and passionate locals. They kind of made it clear at an impressionable age that I’m one of them and convinced me to fly to watch Leeds play as that’s what “proper fans” do.
It sounded mean.
It also worked.
The lack of proper access to matches made one hungry. I worked towards that goal relentlessly. Watching online in India was not an option then. I flew to Leeds every other year from the day I earned. I even got rejected the first time I applied for a visa in 2008.
The UK authorities didn’t believe in my Leeds story. I was in the papers (google: Aravind Visa Leeds).
It felt weird back then.
But I made it to Leeds later. It felt very normal. Like as if I have been here before.
At those pubs and coaches.
At those stands and counters.
At those grounds and turnstiles.
All these years, I forgot the fact that being back in the English Premier League can end this process of going extreme lengths to watch your favourite club play. These days online access is normal and easy. So is travelling and supporting.
Today Leeds United are promoted after 16 years and I look back at these 16-18 years. An acclimatizing period that made me grateful and content.
I thought I would be elated when we finally get promoted but I’m actually feeling peaceful.
From the bottom of my heart. Peace and love.
The circle feels complete.
To the greatest teacher I’ve ever had: Leeds United, thank you.
Aravind, popularly known as SA, is a filmmaker by education and is a stand-up comedian. He tweets from @Aravind_SA. This post was originally published on his Facebook page.