For Jack Casley
I still don't hate Swindon, but I'm working on it. The first time I came to Oxford was two years ago, unfortunately during the non-football season. All I could do was bike myself until I-am-not-going-to-write-his-name Stadium and peek through the fence to admire our perfect pitch. I did go to the club shop and bought a nice mug, but that was all. Two years later and here I am, writing this humble testimony of a Brazilian's love for the Yellows. How did that happen? I am currently writing a book called The Queen in Boots: 200 days of English Football. Living in Oxford, I have decided to see some matches and write about a club now (temporarily) at Conference Level. First match: a friendly, and a 2x1 win over Bornemouth. Good start. Then another friendly, this time a draw with Wycombe, 1x1. By then I still couldn`t understand all the songs, but this time I could grasp the fans' passion and heard “If you hate Swindon, stand up” for the first time.” But I didn't move an inch.
Next step... researching and reading about the club, discovering its rich and interesting past: two successive promotions, Milk Cup, Robert Maxwell and you know who. After e-mailing the club, Chris Williams gave me a special tour of Oxford United, talking openly about the club's challenges with a true fan insight. That was all it took for me to embark in the Yellow Submarine. When I visited Oxford Learning United and saw the wonderful work Ed Duckham does with boys and girls from local schools I caught Yellows' Fever...
So here I was, on a very cold Tuesday night (for Brazilian standards at least), hoping Jim Smith's boys could hammer Salisbury for good. I went disguised as a Brazilian writer, but It took all my will power not to celebrate our second goal, when Duffy scored a penalty kick with flair and class. Wise Ambrose had given me this prophetic tip: people don't celebrate in the press section, they just clap.
Flamengo has been my passion for 47 well lived years. It is the most popular Brazilian football team, and we supporters, 35 million and counting, call ourselves “the red and black nation.” We were national champions five times and even beat Liverpool 3x0 in the 1981 Toyota Cup. So, when I came to England I hoped to support a popular club, probably in the Premier League. But after watching some Premier League matches I couldn't feel anything towards any of these powerful and very rich clubs. As the old Beatles song says “Can't buy me love”...
When I visited Oxford United I was struck by professionalism combined with true fan enthusiasm. That cold night against Salisbury I interviewed our first professional player, Jack Casley, 81, just minutes before the start of the match. After all these years, his eyes still shine when he talks about the Yellows. That is why I am quite sure, poor Swindon, next time I am going to stand up.