Team fandom, and all the associated feelings that come along with fandom, is not something that is easily explained.
It’s like the connection you have to your favourite song.
If I were to explain to someone why The Light by Common is my favourite song, it couldn’t be done in terms of explaining its lyricism, the song production or trying to explain how Bobby Caldwell’s hook made that song perfect. It has to be done in terms of the way it made me feel when I first heard it.
Those hard-to-explain feelings are the same feelings you get when trying explain your fandom for a team. If you were to ask me why I used to love Chelsea football club, flashbacks of the 5″6 Italian magician, Gianfranco Zola, come to mind — a man of below-average athletic ability, who would blow by defenders, his shaggy mane flapping behind him. It resonated with me because it was inspirational.
When we talk about Brunei’s national football team, the feelings run much deeper than could ever be explained in under a thousand words.
The Brunei national team represents the country I love and all the reasons I love it — from our beautiful mosques and our people, to the golden sunset drives down the highway and the weekends spent at Tungku Beach.
When the video surfaced last July of Brunei’s under-15 football team winning their first international match by beating a technically superior Cambodian side, I couldn’t help but shed tears.
The outpouring of emotion by our little Wasps spoke for us all. It captured the struggles we have faced in our lives finally overcome; the validation we need after working so hard — it is finally worth it in that one fleeting moment.
If anyone else shed tears watching that video it was most likely because it represented something much deeper for that person, whether they knew it or not.
However, the beauty of fandom does not come without problems. Problems such as constantly being nervous or angry at something that supposedly exists to give us joy. When we see the team we love getting thrashed and outplayed by athletes with superior natural gifts, honed by expensive and extensive training schemes, we can’t help but look for excuses. ‘They have more people than us, of course we were destined to lose!’ Or ‘that referee had it in for us from the start’, or ‘Player A just didn’t give it his all tonight’.
If we watch our favourite teams for only those fleeting moments of triumph, then maybe we aren’t doing it right. The matches should be viewed as something both beautiful and worthwhile — the hours of struggle, the twice daily practices culminating in those 90 minutes where our athletes have to lay it all out there for everyone to see.
Sport was created for entertainment, but it’s our love of sport that has allowed it to transform into something much more meaningful. It takes courage for an athlete to step out into the spotlight, completely exposed, representing the hopes of a nation — that is a heavy burden to carry. It should only be viewed as something extraordinary and awe-inspiring. Personally, I can’t wait to wave the flag for those who are brave enough to represent the country and so many of the thing I love.