The Home Game

Thirty-six years ago today, in an age before the Sky-sponsored belittling of a great competition, Enfield FC played an FA Cup replay
at White Hart Lane. 35,244 people went, a bigger attendance than the match against Arsenal that season.
The majority of Enfield fans (including us) were also Spurs fans. And that night Spurs fans – wherever they came from – supported Enfield.

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The Home Game

Outside the station afterwards, the beautiful deaf girl I was so, so mad about shouted at me, told me I was a fucking bastard, told the whole of Enfield I was a fucking bastard. I don’t know if she was standing there through chance or careful, pained planning. I do know we never saw each other again. I think back and I wonder if I’d actually invited her to the game at all, or if I had but she’d said no and all her regrets, all her life’s raw exclusions had coalesced into this roaring rage. I can still picture her – and the tears behind her screams. I can still picture her long black hair, her white skin. I can still hear her voice. And I wonder if I deserved what she gave me.

It’s funny, isn’t it, that I can’t remember? And it’s funny I can’t remember any of the match itself. I only know Enfield lost 3-0 because I’ve just looked it up. I do remember the decanting of what felt like the whole of my little isitinLondonreally? hometown up the Liverpool Street line to our other home, our big home, our glorious, proper home, I remember a magical coming-together of our Enfieldness and our Tottenhamness, our tightness and our expansiveness, our limits and our dreams. On a normal matchday we belonged at White Hart Lane. Tonight we were rough, barbarian invaders, pushing aside our other, softly arrogant ghostselves. Our usual grandnesses – our significances – felt illusory. Tonight we belonged here less and we belonged here more than we ever had. So many came – so many who had never even seen a match before – because they were proud, in some unspoken, blazing way, of our grubby piece of England. And so many of us came because we knew – just this once – that we were part of something beyond class and geography and history. And because we too were proud. Doubly proud.

Outside the station afterwards, I walked arm in arm with another beautiful girl. I saw her again last week, thirty-six years later, and we shared Turkish food and our contempt for – and pride in – our old town. We said goodbye and on the bus back here I sat down next to a girl – long black haired and pure white skinned – and I wished, just for a moment, I was nineteen again and I was at home.

Postscript

That season, Spurs won the FA Cup. Thousands of us from Enfield were at Wembley to watch Steve Perryman lift the trophy.

 

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