Imagine, for a second, that your football team folded tomorrow. Putting pride aside and assuming that you wouldn’t become a Clubless Colin, who would you support?
It’s something I’ve thought about many times this season, given Fulham’s dedication to performing like a group of c-list celebrities brought together for a one-off charity game. In the end the answer is simple, if logistically awkward: Atletico Madrid.
Atleti are the perfect blend of agony and ecstasy. For every peak there’s a despairing trough.
What’s supporting a football team without ammunition with which to goad rival fans on social media? Your side’s history is your bullets, for without it you’re open to ridicule when trophies become harder to come by. See: Liverpool, AC Milan & Nottingham Forest.
Atletico’s history is rich with victory. Los Rojiblancos have been winning domestic cups since the forties, La Liga titles since the fifties and European honours since the sixties.
But you can never be accused of being a glory hunter.
Atletico have been relegated on six occasions. The last of those demotions came in 2000, when the goals of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as well as the creativity of Santiago Solari and Juan Carlos Valeron wasn’t enough to keep Atleti in the top flight.
It’s because of Atletico’s Jekyll and Hyde past that their supporters don’t go into every game expecting to win, which is one of the drawbacks of supporting Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Atletico fans see themselves as the club from the other side of the tracks, which makes for a true derby with Real. There’s no point supporting a club if you don’t have a true rival to get your teeth stuck into.
That’s something I’ve missed this season. Fulham losing to Chelsea every season doesn’t quite have the same charm as a genuine derby against Brentford and QPR.
Watching a homegrown player who genuinely shares your love for the club represent the shirt every week is one of football’s great joys.
Current first-team midfielders Koke, Saul Niguez, Thomas Partey and Rodri all started in Atletico’s youth team, although in the latter’s case he was forced to continue learning his trade at Villarreal before returning home.
Fernando Torres is the poster boy for Atletico’s youth policy, while Gabi graduated from the academy to win a league title, Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and two Europa Leagues with the club.
Diego Simeone has given Atletico an identity that fans can truly buy into. On the sidelines, Simeone exudes ‘Cholismo’– the battling spirit which has come to represent Atletico- while on the pitch Diego Godin would headbutt his grandma if it meant keeping a clean sheet.
Throw in the state-of-the-art Wanda Metropolitano, which has actually managed to maintain the atmosphere of the former stadium, and life is good for Atletico fans right now.
Shame I support Fulham.
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