I don’t know when it first came in. I’m sure I saw an @real… Twitter account before the human running the White House brought it to my attention. In sport, the “real fan” has possibly been around a bit longer.
Years ago I made a comment on Twitter about the football team I support. I think it was in the Dark Days of when Liverpool had Roy Hodgson as a manager. It was during that era that I came close to leaving before the full time whistle for what would have been the first and only and time, and I was going to leave at half time of the home match against Blackpool.
I tweeted something, only to get a reply from someone in South Africa claiming that I wasn’t a real fan. As far as I was concerned, I paid my money and went to pretty much every home match which gave me both a right and a knowledge to an opinion as a fan who was definitely supporting his team through the bad times.
Today I go to Anfield and I see tourists with iPads more interested in taking than selfies than watching the match or supporting the team. They just want to be there and, to be fair, the club probably want them their too. I pay my money at the beginning of the season and will more often walk to the stadium, go straight to my seat, watch the match and go home. I don’t go to the stadium, by a load of merchandise, go in and buy a pizza and a couple of beers and go home after the match, just to have my place taken by someone else who will repeat that the following week.
On 10th March, before a home fixture against Burnley, West Ham fans will rally against the current owners of their club. Fans have the right to protest and it is not as if West Ham’s fortunes since moving to the London Stadium have greatly vindicated the move there. Things haven’t gone as well as was hoped since West Ham left the cherished Boleyn Ground, and fans are feeling that they have been mis-sold a grand vision.
The problem is that the group of fans calling organising the protest are called The Real West Ham Fans Action Group. It’s as if to say that not being in opposition to the move to the London Stadium does not make you a real fan, and that’s a rather subjective call to make.
We see the term “real” bandied about in other arenas too. I’m thinking primarily when we see “real women” alluding to women of a certain size and certain physical attributes, while not adding any weight of authenticity to women of other shapes and sizes and their non-physical characteristics.
Everyone has an opinion on the subject, and I don’t think that there’s anyone who has a right to decide what constitutes a “real fan” or a “real woman” for that matter. I’m tempted to say that it’s a mind set thing and if you think you’re the real deal, you probably are, whether that’s as a Donald Trump, a woman or a simple football fan.