On Boxing Day like many men across the UK I attended a large scale, group therapy session. We stood in a huge circle and were encouraged to express our inner feelings in public, not something us stiff upper lipped types tend to do.
We call this ceremony a "Football Match".
I have come to believe that going to football matches is a great form of therapy and that must be its main attraction. Why else would hundreds of thousands of otherwise sensible grown men troop out onto the terraces shivering in the cold and rain when they could just as easily be sitting in the pub, pint in hand, watching it all on a wide screen TV?
There are three reasons why I and my fellow believers in Football Therapy left our families on Boxing Day and went for our therapy session.
Firstly, the SCREAM. How often do you get the opportunity to scream? I mean really, really scream. Let it all out in one primal howl that practically bursts your lungs? When was the last time you lept in the air, arms aloft, punching the sky, screaming and hugging complete strangers in a big group (apart from immediately after sex of course)?
We live in a repressed world. When you are "grown up" you are supposed to control your emotions. You "behave". Something great happens at work and you say "jolly good show, well done everyone" whereas what you want to do is scream like a banshee and run around the office with your shirt pulled up over your head, fist punching in a piston like motion shouting "get in my son, yessssss". Well at "A Football Therapy Gathering" you are allowed, nah, encouraged to behave in this way and it is very relaxing. Try it. Try it now. You'll enjoy it.
Secondly, the WOMB. When you immerse yourself in the midst of 22,000 fellow believers, you effectively re-enter the womb. You are surrounded on all sides, completely safe. You have no responsibility at all. You don't have to manage the team, yet you know exactly what "should" be done and you let them know in no uncertain terms. A bit like being an investor in a start up company I wold imagine. Take that donkey off, put that striker on. You demand action, but don't worry, you are not responsible so if they lose you can complain bitterly anyway. Relax. It's Not Your Fault. It's Not Your Fault.
Thirdly, the BROTHERHOOD. When you attend a "Football Therapy Weekly Group Meeting" you become part of a band of brothers. There are the 22,000 of you of course. For that moment all unquestionably committed to the same cause (unless a cheeky Manchester United supporter has sneaked into the Fulham end because that's the only way he could get tickets, and then he forgets to jump up a cheer at the right time). But more important is what we called your "Football Hug Group". These are the strangers directly around you, the other season ticket holders whose names you don't know, whose histories have never crossed yours, who you will never meet across a Board room table and yet who you will join in a group hug and cling on to for dear life as the curling free kick lifts over the wall and dips into the top left corner. Or who share your pain and anguish as Chelsea score a late, lucky winner in injury time.
Oh, your Hug Group. How you love them. Shouty Sweary Man and Shouty Sweary Man's Dad in front of you. When he leaps up, points at the linesman and screams "You F...ing Blind Lino????" you know that everything will be okay. Gnarled, Fed-up Bloke AKA "Sit Down "(or "Sidddaaaarnnn") sitting behind you. Grinning Bobble Hatted Clappy Lady to the right. Massive Fat Geezer to the left who really ought to have paid for two seats instead of taking half of yours. This is your Hug Group. You might pass them on the street, but in the heat of the moment, you will rely on them, you will leap up with them, you will join them in a group hug. And remember, your Hug group is a safe group. What happens on the terrrace stays on the terrrace (a fact I neglected to explain to my son when we started attending these sessions, who came home one day and walked into the lounge singing a popular football chant. We have since clarify the point regarding the importance of Football Therapy Confidentiality.)
Imagine how much better you would feel if after a particularly good pitch to a group of VCs, you could leap up and scream at the top of your voice, run around the room with your shirt over your head, hug your accountant and legal team and when the rooky VCs asked those silly questions they ask ("erm, shouldn't you be trying to sell some more stuff, errr?") a big tatooed bloke next to you would leap up, point straight at them and boom "You Don't Know What You're Doing, You Don't Know What You're Doing".
So on any given Saturday, when you see me and my fellow patients gathering at the clinic, don't be confused. We are not out enjoying ourselves and wasting time when we should be at home with our families. We are attending a Football Therapy session and making ourselves Better People.