For no particular reason, I have decided to announce, today, to the whole world, in cyberspace, in my most earnest self, a secret I have been hiding for more than three decades.
Here it goes – I am a lifelong Aston Villa fan, and I am feeling very lonely.
Now, that wasn’t so difficult after all.
If I were living in Birmingham, such loud proclamation will most likely invite two reactions.
The first is “We knew from the start.”
And if I were to be so stupid as to make that announcement in a pub that serves mostly Birmingham City or West Bromwich Albion fans, then I would be served words I cannot repeat here.
But in Singapore, trying to come out as a fan of an “obscure” club is a much more difficult affair. For a start, when attacked, you couldn’t sprint across town and seek refuge with fellow supporters, who would gladly fight the enemies for me, and for the club.
There just aren’t that many of Villa fans around in the Lion City. Even if there are, most will be lying low, trying not to invite ridicule.
Once I was in Orchard Road and I saw a man going up the escalator, clad in the familiar claret and blue colors of Villa. I was very elated but I tried to restrain my excitement, and double-checked to make sure it wasn’t a West Ham fan. I followed him for a while, with the intention of introducing myself, and asking him if he wanted to hang out once in a while.
Another time, I had dinner with a business associate and her husband, and the topic of football came up. I asked which club he supported and he murmured, “I don’t think you heard of the team.” His wife then whispered “Aston Villa” in my ear. Almost instantly, we two men became closer friends. A few years later, the couple divorced, but the split had nothing to do with me or VIlla, I can assure you.
More recently, in a taxi on CTE, I passed a small red car with five young men dressed in red. On closer look, I realized it was my friend James at the wheel, with his fellow Manchester United diehards. That was the day the Red Devils were playing arch-rivals Chelsea and they were on the way to a Red Devils prayer session.
I sent James a text message saying, “Chelsea 3 Man U 0.” The reply, which came almost instantly, was, “You go and die.” I was quite sure one of James’ red brothers sent it, as he was still driving, but I knew it made no difference because all Man U fans think alike.
A few years ago, I finally lucked out and met a Birmingham City fan, for the first time in my life, in where else but Singapore.
I was having dinner with Hamish’s friend from London and I don’t know why but the topic again drifted towards football. When she found out I am a Villa fan, she just picked up her mobile phone and called our mutal friend. “You won’t believe it, there is a Villan in Singapore.”
Later that night, we all met for a nightcap and Hamish and I tried not to stir up a hornets’ nest. But just like all worthy rivals, we checked each other out. I found out Hamish grew up on the Blues’ side of Birmingham, that’s why he is Blue.
“I became a Villa fan because I didn’t want to support a team that is named after a city,” I explained, “and I wanted a team with unorthodox team colors.”
In addition, I also like the mysterious ring to the word Villa. I once told a friend, “Villa is like a mansion, where secrets are kept” only for him to say, “yes, so mysterious it disappeared (from the EPL).”
One of the biggest Manchester United fans I know in Singapore happens to be the sports editor of The Straits Times. In all fairness, we don’t really fight because Man U and Villa aren’t exactly in the same league (go figure out what I REALLY mean). In fact, we share one thing in common in England, the team that never fail to disappoint.
Matt is mostly a gentleman but he has his moments of weakness, like when he chuckled, instead of apologize, when his newspaper spelt my team as Vanilla.
These days, Matt has no choice but to be a little more civil towards me because fortunately, the success at Aston Villa also means joy in the England squad. With as many players in the national team as his Red Devils, my friend has no choice but to want to be nicer to me and MY players.
As you may have noticed, Matt’s newspaper has no choice but to write more about the to-ing and fro-ing at Villa Park, without having to resort to dirty tricks like mixing my team with some ice cream flavors.
What Matt doesn’t know is that behind his back, and that of other Red Devils in Singapore, I have been making fun of his team in my own ways. For example, I have told some women friends that they should avoid dating guys who support Man U because they are only into each other.
Since we are now in the Top Five, I also couldn’t resist dissing the other three rivals – Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea.
“There are no real Chelsea fans in Singapore because Chelsea only became better with the Russian’s money,” I have said before.
“Arsenal is a misfiring gun.”
“Avoid all men who support Liverpool because they are all in pain from winning nothing in the past decade.”
Oh dear, I forget that I live with a woman who is a lifelong Kop.
I think this is where I should end.