Can employees be as fanatical as soccer fans?

Courtesy: The New York Times

A while back, I did some work for a company whose employees hated the company. The work or the company didn’t fill them with pride. They hid their ID cards when they were in public. You would too if passengers often beat you. I am told some of those travellers could knock out the Earth from its orbit with their blows.

Back to football. Can employees be as fanatical of their company as football fans? Myself, I swear by Manchester United. Best football club in the world. Sir Alex should have been Prime Minister. Succeeded by Paul Scholes. Scholes. That fella could have located bin Laden with his pass. And that David De Gea. He can save a marriage.

Fans are an asset. They guarantee you income. They win you more fans. They sell your values. Not like Arsenal fans though. Bloody disgrace.

Unfortunately, passion can also be a royal pain. I remember three episodes when I went to see Man United.

In October 2008, we played West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford. I sat at the Stretford End. Unbelievable atmosphere. Dimitar Berbatov scored his first league goal in that match. I have always loved Dimi. Fella could cushion a meteorite with his deft touch.

United won 4–0.

I also learnt some interesting United songs on the terraces:

“Que Sera Sera.

Whatever will be will be.

In Moscow we made it three.

Que Sera Sera.”

After the match, myself and an elderly couple found ourselves in a tram with a bunch of United ultras. I’d be happy not to have met those lot. They smoked, sang raucously and banged on the tram. The elderly couple winced every time they banged the tram. I thought I was tough, being an Agege boy. But those chaps — they could drive a nail in with their stare. They didn’t have tattoos on their bodies. They had graffiti. I shudder to think what would have happened if an Albion fan had been in there with us.

My trip to White Hart Lane a year later was more perilous. It was a league match in September. We were playing Tottenham Hotspur at their grounds.

Spurs went into an early lead through a Jermain Defoe overhead kick. Damn, that Peter Crouch fella is tall! Won every aerial ball against Vidic and Rio. Constituted himself a nuisance in our 18-yard box.

But, golly, we won the match 3–1. Anderson scored his first league goal for United in the match.

It was a late-afternoon kick-off, so by the time the match ended, it was getting dark. I left the stadium with a bunch of United fans. There is safety in numbers.

Unfortunately for me, I was enticed away from the group by hot dogs. Bratwurst and hot dogs. They are to me what a sinner is to the devil; irresistible.

By the time I had my hot dog in hand, the group of United fans had disappeared. I found myself alone on the street. Wearing a Man United jersey.Close to the stadium. Savouring a hot dog. I had ‘Bow Down’ written at the back of my jersey.

There is usually a large police contingent before and after every Premiership match. But strange thing, there was not a bobby in sight that evening. The water that will be used to cook my goose was on the fire.

A Spurs fan walked past me. Something registered in his brain. He walked back and confronted me:

“Who the (flowery language) do you think you are! This is not Manchester! This is North London! You (flowery language)! Bow down your (flowery language)! This is Spurs! This is North London, you (flowery language)!

Before I knew it, another Spurs fan had joined him. Then they became three. Then four. Then five. Six. They came out of the woodwork.

They surrounded me and unleashed a bitter verbal assault. To say they were aggressive was putting it mildly. I had the sense that they were waiting for me to retort and then they would stab me. Yea, they looked that messy. I didn’t say a word. Not out of good manners, I assure you. Dread had sown my lips together. I had never hated hot dog so much in my life.

The spirits of my ancestors followed me that day because a police woman showed up from nowhere. Folks, if you ever saw an angel, it looked like that woman. Showing up when the feathers of my goose were being plucked. Only Michael shows up like that.

As she walked towards us, the gang melted away, pained, I’m sure. They had been deprived the opportunity to take liberties with me the way my team had taken liberties with theirs moments earlier.

When the woman got to me, she asked if they harmed me, if I remembered any of them and if I wanted to press charges. Press charges! Ma’am, I’d rather press forward to the train station!

She walked me all the way to Wood Green Station. She made sure I got onto the Piccadilly Line before she left.

I will never wear a jersey to an away match again. Ever. And I will never eat sausages again. On the road.

The third incidence was more subtle but not insignificant.

It was May 2011. We were playing Chelsea at Old Trafford. Chicharito scored after 37 seconds and Nemanja Vidic added a second 23 minutes later. United won 2 -1 and moved one point to winning the league. I cherished the hopelessness of David Luiz that day.I had ordered the match ticket the day before. It was to be delivered to the hotel in Manchester. Prime seating, close to the pitch. Maybe behind Fergie even.

I had ordered the match ticket the day before. It was to be delivered to the hotel in Manchester. Prime seating, close to the pitch. Maybe behind Fergie even.So I travelled from London to Manchester on match day. I freshened up at the hotel and hailed a cab to Old Trafford. Halfway to the stadium, I realised I had forgotten to pick up the ticket from the concierge. I turned back. Happened that the ticket was not delivered after all. Called the website that sold me the ticket. No, they didn’t dispatch the ticket. They realised they couldn’t deliver it before kick-off. They apologised profusely and would refund the money.

So I travelled from London to Manchester on match day. I freshened up at the hotel and hailed a cab to Old Trafford. Halfway to the stadium, I realised I had forgotten to pick up the ticket from the concierge. I turned back. Happened that the ticket was not delivered after all. Called the website that sold me the ticket. No, they didn’t dispatch the ticket. They realised they couldn’t deliver it before kick-off. They apologised profusely and would refund the money.I was gutted and pissed as a newt. But in those days, there was no anger a good pint couldn’t dispel. I was already in Manchester anyway. Might as well make the most of it.

I was gutted and pissed as a newt. But in those days, there was no anger a good pint couldn’t dispel. I was already in Manchester anyway. Might as well make the most of it.So I asked the chic concierge for a nice pub to see the match. She asked me what club I supported. I thought it was an odd question. I just wanted to see the match. What did it matter the club I support? I told her all the same. She gave me a choice of three pubs. I picked one.

So I asked the chic concierge for a nice pub to see the match. She asked me what club I supported. I thought it was an odd question. I just wanted to see the match. What did it matter the club I support? I told her all the same. She gave me a choice of three pubs. I picked one.When I got to the pub, I understood why she asked me what club I supported. All the jerseys in sight were Manchester United. It was a mini Stretford End in there. It may have been my unease, but I thought I saw all the eyes checking out everyone who came in. Luckily, I wore my Man United jersey. The one that read ‘One Blood.’ Some lad loved it. He bought me a beer.

When I got to the pub, I understood why she asked me what club I supported. All the jerseys in sight were Manchester United. It was a mini Stretford End in there. It may have been my unease, but I thought I saw all the eyes checking out everyone who came in. Luckily, I wore my Man United jersey. The one that read ‘One Blood.’ Some lad loved it. He bought me a beer.I imagined what would have happened if I’d worn a Liverpool jersey in there. There might have been some slow singing and a procession in Lagos.

I imagined what would have happened if I’d worn a Liverpool jersey in there. There might have been some slow singing and a procession in Lagos.These experiences make me ask if it is ever possible to have employees as devoted as fans. Right now, all the football fans in the world are scouring sports sites for the players their clubs are buying next. Most employees read news about their companies with disinterest. And they certainly don’t share it on WhatsApp groups.

These experiences make me ask if it is ever possible to have employees as devoted as fans. Right now, all the football fans in the world are scouring sports sites for the players their clubs are buying next. Most employees read news about their companies with disinterest. And they certainly don’t share it on WhatsApp groups.How could a company go about building such levels of devotion? Is it even possible? What would such a company look like?

How could a company go about building such levels of devotion? Is it even possible? What would such a company look like?Oh well.

Oh well.Right. Here’s a quiz I picked up at Old Trafford:

Right. Here’s a quiz I picked up at Old Trafford:

Liverpool has a port, right? But there’s a ship that’s never sailed into it. What is the name of the ship?

Answer: The Premiership!

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