I'm not from Preston, so I never understood why I must "hate" Blackpool FC . In this house, hating Blackpool is not good for marital / family harmony, as my husband is from Blackpool and Monkey has been to Wembley with him. Nor does my husband "hate" PNE either. It generates a bit of banter, but that's it. We are reunited in a greater dislike of another Lancashire (Burnley) but truly, I don't "hate" them.
Rivalries also develop through "familiarity breeds contempt"- you don't play your rivals as you're in different divisions so the next local team you play regularly does instead. Hence my dislike of Burnley although Francis Stanley Ternent has a lot to answer for (Look him up if you must; try a recording of his voice .... *winces*).
Some are less easy to fathom. One of my regular readers won't like this, but I could cheerfully never attend a match involving Gillingham ever again. For many years, whenever PNE changed division, Gillingham came with us. Matches involving the teams were turgid affairs and Gillingham were responsible for my two worst football moments. The first was a play-off semi final defeat at Priestfield in 1999 where I shouted myself hoarse in frustration for 90 minutes. The second was the first game of the 2001-2002 season - you know, the one where hope springs eternal. We got thrashed 5-0. I left at 4-0, and I got sunburn for good measure. In the UK, many such rivalries are rooted in the bad days of hooliganism.
In Spain, they have their own word for the passion generated by rivalries. Morbo. It doesn't translate into English well, although Phil Ball in his brilliant book "Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football" tries. The rivalries to beat all rivalries in Spain is between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid; huge rivals as well as two of the biggest teams in the world. The basis of their rivalry goes way beyond football - FC Barcelona is often seen as the flagship of the Catalan people who want independence from Spain, whereas Real is seen to represent the Spanish state and, in Franco's days, the Generalisimo's team. God help anyone that leaves one club for the other. The last one that did, Luis Figo, had half a pig's head (how?) and several mobile phones (why?) thrown at him at the Nou Camp when the teams met for the first time after his transfer.
I guess these rivalries make football interesting for the neutral and important for the passionate fan. But I have a problem with them. It is that these rivalries foster incredible hatred. "Hate" is a word I try not to use these days now that I have small children with pin-sharp selective hearing and an ability to copy more finely honed than Xerox. As an adult, you can use the word to other adults and know it won't get taken the wrong way. As a mother with children learning the ways of the world, hate is too emotive a term. I may not be perfect at it, but I try not to say it. It doesn't stop them using the word from time to time - Monkey, in his mock teenager stroppy moments when tired after school, has been known to shout "I hate you" at me from the back of the car when I have dared to refuse his myriad demands. He gets reminded that you say "I don't like you" - and then I tell him I don't like him much sometimes, but everyone has moments like that.
Julia bemoaned in her post last week. The picture on her post says it all - a small child, making an obscene gesture clearly aimed at rival supporters, dressed in a replica kit.
The FA's Respect campaign aims to address all unacceptable behaviour, on and off the pitch, at all levels of the game and the hatred that these rivalries stir up is part of the football culture that is unpalatable to most (I hope!). It deserves to succeed so our children can enjoy the game that many of us love without encountering unnecessary hatred like this.
Football is, by its very nature, a tribal and passionate game, whether it is played at the local park or at Wembley. Let's keep the passion, lose the hatred and hope our children enjoy healthy rivalries in football that are tolerant and yes, respectful.
(The link to Morbo on Amazon is not an affiliate link; I just think the book is a brilliant read.)