Look, I'm not a bad person. I know that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players to have ever graced this Earth. But I am fully prepared to say that I can't stand him one bit.
His journey from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United is one I remember well. As a young 8 going on 9 year old kid I remember waking up to Match of the Day on Saturday morning and looking on at this curly haired, bronzed, unstylish looking fella. I remember scoffing as they said he would replace David Beckham as Manchester United's new number 7. DB wasn't necessarily my hero, but I just thought 'Who the hell is this kid?'. (YES, I WAS A SASSY 8 YEAR OLD)
Anyway, it's needless to say I was wrong to scoff. He was a tremendous player for United. Simply sublime. But I never caught the Ronaldo bug. Everything about him annoyed me. And still does to this day.
His constant asking for fouls, his constant moaning when a player never passed him the ball, his daft wee faces he pulled when he missed a shot, his stupid run up to the free-kick, the way he takes too many touches, his greediness, his over zealousness, HIS GENERAL GREETING WEE FACE.
I was fully aware that watching Ronaldo, was watching one of the best in the world. But he would never be in my good books.
Allow me to explain why.
Since I was young my Dad and I would watch snooker. We loved it! And still do. Daddy and daughter time consisted mostly of watching Ronnie 'the Rocket' O'Sullivan or the Wizard from Wishaw or Mark Williams The Welsh Wonder or The Golden Boy.
People don't ever really believe me when I say I love snooker. But I was raised on it.
As a treat my Dad would take me to his bus garage to play a couple of rounds. I was so small I could barely see over the table. But I loved it!
You are probably wondering what on earth Cristiano Ronaldo and snooker have in common. To be honest not a lot! However, that being said there is a distinct correlation between the stories my father told me as a child and my distinct dislike for the Portuguese power house.
I mentioned before a snooker player named 'The Golden Boy'.
This snooker player was incomparable. A Scotsman from Edinburgh who goes by the name of Stephen Hendry.
Hendry was the best in the game. The Ice Man; no one could match his nerves of steel. During the 90s, the decade in which I was born, Hendry won seven consecutive World Championships and was named World Number One in 8 years between 1990 - 1998. Hendry is the all-time record holder for the number of ranking titles won (36). He won six Masters (including five consecutively) and five UK Championship titles. His 18 Triple Crown tournament wins is the joint-highest of all time (equaled only by Ronnie O'Sullivan).
Yet the great Hendry was booed everywhere he played.
Hated. Despised. Loathed.
Hendry, like Ronaldo, craved success over everything else.
Hendry, like Ronaldo, was not the people's champion.
And before Hendry there was Steve Davis.
Steve Davis, otherwise known as the Romford Robot. Why was he known as the Romford Robot? Because that's exactly what he was.
Davis was famous for being boring. The only interest he brought to the game was his formidable play. He wasn't a character by any stretch; the man was dull as dishwater.
Davis was another one who won every tournament under the sun. His likeness to Stephen Hendry is uncanny. Or rather Stephen Hendry's likeness to Steve Davis was uncanny as Davis came before Hendry.
During the 80s Davis dominated the sport. He won the World Championship six times and was ranked World Number One for seven consecutive seasons (sound familiar). His career achievements include three Masters and a record six UK Championship titles. He won a total of 28 ranking events (fourth on the all-time list behind Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Stephen Hendry).
But just like Hendry and just like Ronaldo, he was booed everywhere he went. From Shanghai to Sheffield the crowds taunted and hissed.
Now, the important part isn't that these great performers were booed. But what is important is that they didn't care. As long as they won, as long as they took their prize money, as long as they got the sponsorship, as long as they lifted the title and claimed the fame then they didn't care a jot.
All three of these performers are mavericks of their sport. They are the best in their field; they can do things that others can't even dream of doing but they WIN EVERYTHING and that is why they will never be loved.
The sportsmen and sportswomen I love are perfectly flawed. They can hit the best shots, see the right pass, land the perfect dart, run the correct play and never win a thing. It is also likely that I will root for them because they have been somewhat deviant. They might have a weakness, or an impurity. They maybe a failure in life the minute they leave their stage.
But I will love them.
I won't love them regardless of their flaws, on the contrary I will love them for their flaws, weaknesses and failures. For me, its just relatable more so than the robotics of a Davis, or a Hendry, or a Ronaldo.
I understand how blessed I am, how blessed we all are, to watch Cristiano Ronaldo play football.
But it's in my nature to root for the people's champion, and he's just not it.
I have always championed the athlete who has failed in life; their name might be splashed all over the tabloids because they've been involved in a bust-up in a local pub, or they've taken drugs, or they've cheated on their significant other. I have respect, love and appreciation for the individual who can admit they have fucked up in life, and in sport, but are completely honest when they say that they are okay with it because they love the sport they do (did) and just to have played to the masses is enough for them.
Its enough for them to go out and entertain and show people what they can do, even if they never win a thing.
Jimmy White is the snooker player that always comes to mind when I think on this because he will always be remembered as the greatest snooker player to have ever lived who never won the World Championship. White was an alcoholic and a drug addict yet he will always be affectionately known as 'The People's Champion'. When the World Championship comes around everyone wants to hear Jimmy White's stories, everyone wants a picture with The Whirlwind and, put simply, he's the guy you want to see on the BBC when the big tournaments are on.
The athletes I adore played not for titles, or fame, or wealth but because there wasn't a single thing on this Earth that they were born to do other than their chosen sport.
And I suppose in a way, maybe Ronaldo was put on this Earth to play football but it almost feels like those external factors (the titles, the fame, the wealth) are so crucially important to him, and that is the exact reason why I can't align myself with this incredible footballer.
Ronaldo is not flawed; he's robotic. In many ways, he is perfect. And it just doesn't float my boat.
The curious tales of the armchair supporter. (Note: there aren’t any)
Guys, do me a favour? See that hard earned money you make, please spend it on yourself! Life’s too short, you can’t take it with you. Go and see the world, take the car to the coast, make memories. Forget about sleep, family and friends - they’ll be there when you get back and you can sleep when you’re dead. People often say to me ‘how do you afford all this travel?’ It’s simple really, I don’t spend money on clothes, or 'looking good', I’m not really one for material things - go fucking live your life. For all we know you only get one.
For me football is life. I spend hundreds of pounds going to football games and I love it! The stories I have and the memories I’ve made are PRICELESS. Find that thing that makes YOU happy. Share it with the person/people who make you happy. Be SELFISH!! Genuinely. Being selfish every now and again, trust me, makes you a better person, a better friend, a greater listener and a brighter communicator in the long run. Believe me when I say the people who love you want you to have the best life. If that life is leaving them for a couple of days to enjoy the things you enjoy, they will love you for loving you.
YOU deserve to be happy. Never forget it, never doubt it.
I will continue to travel around the world via the confines of the football ground. Because, I fucking love it!
You, do YOU. Find your happiness. Spend the money, it’s YOURS. YOU earned it. YOU should spend it on YOU and never feel guilty or ashamed to do so.
Money doesn’t make the world go round, but it gets you from A to B. From Glasgow to Madrid, from Prestwick to Hamburg, from Glasgow to Gatwick. From what you wished you'd done, to 'oh, we did that last February'. From where you'd wished you'd been, to 'oh, we've been there and seen that..'.
Travel fulfils the soul. It injects the mind with all kinds of positive energy. Your world is bigger than the town you come from.
Please keep in mind it’s not always possible to travel, I know this more than anyone. The trips I’ve had to cancel, the plans I’ve had to stop researching, the tears I’ve shed because I can’t afford it. However, you can watch that YouTube travel vid, and you can read that book about Canadian sports teams. Also, there are tons of things you can do around your city. Stories you never knew! Things that make you, who you are. Things that will open you’re eyes. So make sure you travel around your own city because it will impart wisdom like no Netflix show or YouTube video ever can.
Open your eyes. Get out of the house. Move away from the TV. Expand your mind. Explore you city, explore your world, explore your passion. Explore your happiness. Explore YOU.
On a recent trip to London I received a message from my cousin, whom I have spent many football adventures with. He asked me "Why do you go to the game when it’s on the telly?". Put it this way if I didn’t go to the game I could never have said I was at Wembley the day Harry Kane became Tottenham Hotspurs highest Premier League goal scorer.
If I didn’t go to see the Philadelphia Eagles last Autumn at Lincoln Financial Field, then I could never say I’ve seen a team that’s won the Superbowl. I was part of that season. Albeit a small part.
If I didn’t wake up at 5am to stand in a queue, in a field, for 6 hours to wait to get into Wimbledon the year Andy Murray won the tournament for the first time then I couldn’t say I was a part of that either.
If I didn’t go to see the Red Sox play against the Kansas City Royals in October 2016 then I couldn’t say I seen David Ortiz play in his final season of baseball.
Don’t be an armchair supporter. Get out there and get involved.
Sean Hanlon is my best friend and I love the boy to bits. Sean doesn’t make all the money in the world, but he’s living his best life because he does what HE WANTS. Call it selfish all you like, I call it self preservation and happiness. He sets an example to myself and others that you don’t have time to waste searching for your best life. He works all week and more often than not gets up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday or Sunday to travel to some other city in the UK to watch men, more well off financially than him, kick a ball round a field for 90 minutes. Now for some of you that’s the height of nonsense, and I understand if your not a fan of the beautiful game, but you can’t knock the boy, he found the thing he loved and he pursues his passion every weekend, and even most week days.
I was recently asked by my friend Emma, "How do I think having a season ticket (at Celtic Park) has influenced my fandom?" And my answer was simple:
"It's just being there, that's what it's all about."
I told her how important it was that I was able to say that "I was there when..."
I was there when Nakamura scored THAT free kick against Manchester United, I was there the night we won THAT penalty shoot-out against Spartak Moscow, I was there the day Henrik Larsson played his final game in Paradise - I cried onto my Dad's shoulder. Being there means that I got to see all those special wee moments that gave me pure joy. I explained that these moments, and the stories that make up these special moments, are the one's that connect us. It doesn't matter what age you are, what gender you identify as, what sexuality you are - if you're a Celtic fan (or a fan of any other team) then you will always have a connection to someone, no matter where you are in the world, if that person has the same passion for your team.
This may be the best it ever gets for me. Traveling to grounds on the cheap may well be the greatest luxury I ever have. I intend to take it! Rather, I intend to enjoy it.
Fuck sitting at home watching the game, I'd much rather be in the stands; making memories, seeing the world, meeting new people. Life is a gift, and if you are lucky enough to have your health then it is not something that should be endured from the couch.
Supporter of Glasgow Celtic, member of United Glasgow FC and a keen writer.
"The day that I decided, you're the best team I ever seen"