Football fans are everywhere, especially at university. It seems to be the only personality trait of a good sixty percent of the people you meet.
And while they go on and on about their favourite team conceding a goal in added time, your only tactic is to awkwardly mention every team and player you remember, just to have something to say. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As a self-proclaimed football fanatic, I know how annoying we can be. So today I’m here to not only help you get through those pesky conversations, but perhaps also impress a few people with your knowledge along the way.
Let’s start with the basics: the top leagues
Firstly, we have Spanish La Liga, currently topped by Real Madrid who have been in good form so far this season, despite finishing 10 points behind Barcelona last season.
Then there’s the German Bundesliga, which has been won by Bayern Munich for the past 11 years. Right now, though, Leverkusen is at the top.
In France we have Ligue 1, where underdogs Monaco FC have had a great start to the season. They are closely followed by Nice, with only one less point.
Going over to Italy and Serie A, we’ll find Milan on top with 21 points after eight games played. Their main rivals, Inter, are two points behind after a disappointing draw this weekend.
And then, arguably the best league in the world, the English Premier League. Up until yesterday it had been topped by last year’s winners Manchester City, but after last night’s loss to Arsenal, and their first two consecutive losses in the league since 2018, they are now 3rd. Instead, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are both on 20 points, with the same goal difference, yet Tottenham take the number one spot for having scored more goals.
Finally, the only thing you need to know about Allsvenskan is that AIK is currently dangerously close to relegation, but maybe use that fact sparingly, since we know how those conversations can go.
If there’s one thing that runs football, it’s money
Money, money, money. We can’t escape it, can we? If you only take away one thing from this, it should be that you can always, and I truly mean always, complain about money in football, and we will eat it up every time. Whether it’s about players moving to the Saudi League for ridiculous amounts of money, or clubs like Chelsea spending 1 billion pounds in less than two years, only to end up losing most of their games, money is at the heart of it all.
Conversation starters to use
“VAR ruins football, doesn’t it?” In the past few seasons, every football fan has had their dreams crushed by VAR, video assistant referees, known for making some controversial decisions. Mention it and your job is done, because then you can simply nod along and watch as they get increasingly more frustrated. This also works great with the referees on the pitch.
“Who do you think will win the Champions League?” This is a great way to get to know more about the person you’re talking to. If they say their own team, and it’s not Manchester City, Real Madrid, or maybe Bayern Munich, they’re delusional. If they ask you for your answer, Manchester City is always your best bet. You might as well throw in a little sigh in there for dramatic effect.
“Crazy how Arsenal haven’t been in the Champions League for six years, huh?” As an Arsenal fan this hurts as much as it excites me. Tactically, this is quite a good line to use even when you’re not talking to an Arsenal fan specifically. Why? Because good chances are that the people you will meet supports either Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham or Liverpool, and nothing annoys them as much as seeing a rival succeed.
“They have to stop time wasting!” This phrase is to be used when you’re actively watching football with other people and works the best every time a player from the opposite team your friend or the person you’re watching with supports, goes down after a tackle. It doesn’t matter if the player is actually injured, all that you should be focused on is the time on the clock running away from you.
What is football without the stars, am I right? But as the world changes, so do the current best footballers too. Europe’s current best will no longer be Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar. As more and more old stars move out of the spotlight, in search for, you guessed it, more money, new wonderkids emerge. As a mere mortal you would think that a few hundred million each year would be more than enough, but what a silly thought! Us business and economics students surely know to never turn down free money. I mean if we cared about morality, wouldn’t we have chosen to study that instead?
So then, who do you need to keep an eye on? I’ll give you the holy trinity of youngsters that are reigning supreme right now, but I’ll warn you, don’t check their ages unless you want to be sent into an anxious spiral about how old you are. Seriously, it’s not worth it. But if you truly can’t resist, at least don’t check how much money they’re making, because if their ages didn’t set you off, this definitely will.
Let’s start with the Norwegian that we never quite seem to escape these days, Erling Haaland. Breaking the goal scoring record in the Premier League in his first season, Haaland has truly made everyone that isn’t a Manchester City fan miserable (and considering they have about four real fans, that’s a lot of people). Yet, the worst thing about him has to be how likeable his personality is. He seems humble for how annoyingly good he is, and his post-match interviews are a treat to watch due to his bluntness and undeniable charisma.
Next up is Jude Bellingham. New signing for Real Madrid, and what a signing it has been. He usually plays as a central midfielder but has been playing more attacking football at Real Madrid. This change in positioning has led to him now having scored the most goals in La Liga so far this season, with a staggering eight goals in nine games.
Lastly, I do of course have to mention Bukayo Saka. Here’s another thing that you can use to test the football fan you’re talking to, because if they say anything bad about this guy, they’re most likely not a good person. He’s one of the most likeable players at the moment, both for his unbelievable talent, but also for how incredibly nice he is. At just 22 years old, he has been named England’s Player of the Year twice in a row and has for a few years consistently been one of Arsenal’s best players.
The three of them have all been nominated for the Ballon d’or this year, the grand prize for footballers. However, Lionel Messi still seems to be the favourite for the win, mainly because of his country Argentina winning the World Cup in 2022. The winner will be revealed at the end of the month.
Granted, there is so much more I could tell you, but we would be here all afternoon. I hope this crash course at least taught you something valuable to use the next time you meet someone who can’t shut up about football. If you use these tips, then you might at least sound like you know what you’re talking about. And if you run out of material, don’t forget that your safest bet is always to retort back to how money ruins football, bad refereeing, and how agonising it is to watch Manchester City win everything.
Who knows, maybe I’ll be the crazy football fan you find yourself having to use these conversation starters on? Well, toodeloo for the time being!