Do you remember the first time? Why actual football is so rarely what makes us fall in love with the game

Formative football experiences are curious. Contrary to myth, they seem to pass without the football mattering too much. You don’t fall in love with players, do you? Maybe you do later, but not straight away. No, in the beginning it’s sensory. The green of the pitch through the bodies. The smell of the cut grass. The feeling of being one among many.

In Fever Pitch, among his many other recollections, Nick Hornby remembered his father taking him to Highbury for his first game, to watch an Arsenal team win by a single penalty-rebound to nil. A few weeks later, his dad would take him down Tottenham High Street, to watch Bill Nicholson’s Spurs at White Hart Lane.

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