Cardiff, Wales, UK – Everton Football Club. Those three words probably don’t mean a lot to many.
But to me, they are three of the most important words anyone could write.
Formed in 1878, the Everton Football Club was a founding member of the (English) Football League a decade later.
Everton, based in the city of Liverpool, now competes in the Premier League, which is the top tier of English football.
I think they’re the best team in the world, but if you ask any neutral football fans, they would disagree with me.
Being an Evertonian – a lifelong supporter of the club – has always been a huge part of my identity.
It makes me who I am today. It’s a way of life.
And I owe that all to one special person: my dad.
By bringing me up as an Evertonian, and exposing me to the highs and lows of supporting such a historic football team, Dad has given me the greatest gift anyone ever could.
He introduced me to a community, and a family, that I will be part of for the rest of my life.
Dad made me part of something really big, and gave me an identity. Goodison Park, the stadium where Everton plays, is a home now for me and for us.
While I am grateful to him for making me an Evertonian, I am also so thankful to the Everton Football Club for providing the backbone of the special relationship I have with Dad.
As a 19-year-old girl, there’s not much I have in common with my dad. But the thing we do have – our love for Everton – is so strong that it doesn’t matter about anything else.
Living four hours drive from Goodison Park makes the times that we are able to go to watch a live match all the more special.
We tend to go alone, although sometimes my brother and Mum will come, too. But mostly, it’s our special day.
We’ve built up our own little routine for match days. We listen to a podcast about the upcoming match, stop at our favorite service stations for a Greggs bacon roll or donut, try to find free parking down side streets in Liverpool, go to the club merchandise shop and browse the newest clothing ranges, buy a match day program, find our seats and take in the atmosphere as we eagerly anticipate the sound of the Z Cars that signal the players’ entrance onto the pitch, ready for the match to begin.
Whether we win or lose, days at Goodison Park are always times when I feel happiest, and there is no one I would rather share that with than my dad.
Of course, since I love the football club and the players, I want us to win games and trophies.
But for me, it goes much deeper than just the players’ success on the pitch.
I would rather Everton lose every single game it ever plays than for me to lose that special relationship with Dad.
And trust me, that’s a pretty bold statement coming from a fan as avid as myself!
Sometimes people look at football fans as fanatic as I am and just don’t understand our passion. When I’m screaming and crying as I celebrate a goal, or mourning the loss of a game, I’ve been called silly or dramatic.
I’ve heard too many times to count that “it’s just a game” or “it’s just a football team” and that “it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.”
But the point is: it DOES matter in the grand scheme of things. It’s NOT just a game. It’s NOT just a football team.
It’s so much more than that.
Supporting a football team is a way to feel connected, not just to the team itself, but also to the people who introduced you to it. Sharing a passion for a team is a lifelong connection.
And I am so grateful that I get to share it with Dad.
Holly Hostettler-Davies is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International.