Today the MFW platform is handed over to a Swedish Canary, Calle Höjer, who wrote to us with a touching tale of how began his love of the Canaries of Norwich….
Most stories usually begin by setting the scene and this piece is not going to be an exception. Especially seeing how the scene and circumstance is what sets it apart from the typical love story.
It was 1999 and spring came early that year in the west of middle Sweden. ‘Good riddance to the snow!’ a thirteen year old boy exclaimed as he grabbed the worn out football and headed out to the patch of grass located just a throw-in away from his childhood home.
Together with his brother and friends they kicked the leather about for hours on end celebrating goals by kissing a non-existent ring just like Patrick Kluivert or by imitating the nonchalant model pose of Brian Laudrup.
That thirteen-year-old boy was me. The town where the above passage took place was Degerfors – a small industrial community best known for their ironworks and football team. This detail is by no means insignificant and will be explained later.
Looking back at the adolescent me, it is somewhat embarrassing to admit that I allowed myself to wear the kits of Chelsea, Liverpool and Netherlands as a little boy all the way up to the above described spring day in March.
Like many young boys and girls out there, football jerseys were the cornerstone of my wardrobe at the time and it still pains me to look through old photo albums and seeing myself dressed in red, blue or orange. I blame it on the ignorance of youth.
If I can be excused, as a kid the allure of supporting the successful teams of the late 90s was standard. It was the ‘safe’ choice and there were bragging rights to be collected amongst classmates when Gianluca Vialli secured yet another three points or when Michael Owen scored his first senior goal.
The story behind the Holland kit has a more complicated history and was harder to defend being Swedish – but that is neither here nor there.
Needless to say I was passionate about football in general and English football in particular. My taste was just not yet fully developed.
Ed wrote a great piece on MyFootballWriter in September, stylishly putting across the case why it is always club over country for him and even though I wholeheartedly subscribe to his preference, the sentence where he is trying to make sense of it stuck to me “… making a choice about which football club to support is very much one that is ours to make…”
He went on to make the analogy of an ever-lasting marriage and while this is apt, I take issue with the notion that club sympathies are a matter of choice. To continue his analogy of love and marriage, these things have a tendency to choose you – not the other way around.
At least that was the case for me. The idea that it would have been down to choice seems almost sadistic if it was in any way optional that my weekend spirits would entirely be dictated by the outcome of the game day involving our beloved Canaries.
Anyway. Back to clueless me in 1999 Sweden.
Our usual routine was to play football for as long as our stamina, hunger, weather or any combination of these factors allowed. Then we would hurry up inside and boot up the Commodore Amiga computer and continue being immersed in the game of football, only this time in the simulated role of a manager. This was the usual routine and this particular day was no exception.
This is where Norwich City entered into my life, picked me by the scruff of the neck and has kept me spellbound ever since.
I still remember it clear as day. The pale grey Commodore computer with the opening screen of The Manager booted up. It was a very simple football manager simulator compared to the equivalent games of this day (it was released 1992) and when choosing which team to manage it simply offered a carousel of badges rotating from left to right with no other details apart from the club emblem and name.
It was there and then, while scrolling through the Owls, Lions, Wolves, Swans, Rams and Blades of the English leagues that it appeared to me that they all seemed so dull and non-original with different shades of blue, black and red. Hence, when the yellow and green canary popped up, it appeared as a stark contrast to the other teams and I was already intrigued.
In hindsight I believe it was love at first sight. Ed’s true love analogy again lends itself nicely here with the significant other standing out in a crowd of regulars. Maybe I was simply more susceptible this particular day but I’d like to think that I simply had not yet found “the one”. Until then.
If the club emblem and colours poked my curiosity in the first place, a childish joy swept over me when browsing the team sheet. The names had a certain oddity to them (perhaps not to a native English speakers) such as Butterworth, Culverhouse, Sutch, Woodthorpe, Fleck and, best of all, Robert Ullathorne who, for some reason, was programmed as a striker in this particular game.
There was something extremely likeable about this club and I took them to heart without looking back.
So what significance did my hometown Degerfors play in all this?
Well, later when having developed an interest in all things yellow and green, I stumbled across a curious coincidence that rocked my world, namely that our local footballing legend Ulf Ottosson made a brief loan spell at Carrow Road in 1997.
He unfortunately failed to impress Mike Walker and earn himself a full contract, which made his spell just that, brief, but that made very little difference to me who took this as further evidence that me and Norwich City were meant to be.
I closely started following the progress of the club, which was helped by the fact that The Championship aired on national TV during this time. My first few seasons didn’t offer much excitement or success with mid-table mediocrity, but then came the 2001-2002 season.
By then, the 15 year old me had finished many a season playing as Norwich City on the Amiga and already considered it ‘my club’. It was here my father (somewhat confusingly both a Spurs and Liverpool fan himself) intervened, either in a stroke of genius or entirely by chance, and promised to purchase a Canary jersey for me if we won promotion.
This promise added an extra edge to my following and now I also had a literal material gain in the club doing well. You could imagine my smugness when we beat Wolves 3-2 on aggregate to proceed to the play-off final at the Millenium Stadium.
You all know of course that I remained kit-less after that heart-breaking penalty loss against Birmingham and little did I know then that the ups and ultimately down of that season would remain a very accurate reflection of the following fifteen years of following the club.
And truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Again going back to the love analogy (really stretching it thin now, I know) you absolutely need the lows in order to appreciate the ups. Since then I’ve witnessed narrow defeats away at Turf Moor on a rainy day as well as the odd FA Cup joy at home.
Naturally I cannot attend as many matches as I would like, so I suppose my following is more like that of a long distance relationship, but nonetheless my heart aches for the club in a way that neither my local team nor national team can ever come close to replicating. In fact, very few things in life can.
Today, on any given match day you will find me cheering on our beloved Canaries from afar, dressed up in the proper yellow and green kit I never wore as a child.
Thanks to Calle for getting in touch and we look forward to future tales of Canaries from afar.