Jean Paul Sartre: Condemned to be Fulham

Jean Paul Sartre – Condemned to be Fulham

“I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100.” – Woody Allen

It is my firm belief that each individual football club has a unique character. Whether that character developed as a result of the clubs players, managers and fans, or exists merely as a prerequisite of their geographical position I am unsure - though I imagine that the truth lies somewhere between both camps. Just like pubs, restaurants and theatres, football clubs are social hubs. Their existence feeds a hungry majority, and as such their primary purpose is to serve their society. However, in recent years – foreign and native money has bled into football, initiating the mutation from football clubs as a societal service to demonstratively, greedy companies, introducing new lottery-esque taxes onto their community.

Amidst this endless sea of filth and fortune, however, there is one tiny spec of light. It’s Fulham F.C. Now please don’t be misled by my metaphorical use of light and dark. If this was a serious article, I’d be using one of the AFC’s or Wycombe as an example of fan-owned clubs, sheathing the sword of financial instability in favour of remaining an actual football club. What I am in fact talking about is ‘vibe’. If you’re a young ruffian like me, you’ll be familiar with my use of this word. If you’re elderly and have already fallen behind, please exit the internet – it is not meant for you.

Many of you probably already know (as I continue the trend of bringing my readership their own previously garnered information), Craven Cottage is the only top flight football stadium in England with a neutral & family stand. Now with other London grounds like White Hart Lane effectively selling out every week I often imagined that Fulham’s ‘Neutral’ stand must be frequently inundated with rogue Fulham fans, bothering all of the children. Then it struck me that I’d never actually met a Fulham fan.

Building upon this bewildering discovery I decided to investigate Fulham’s general attendance figures in the hope of finding some sort of correlation. I was shocked to find that Craven Cottages accumulative attendance figures were over 30,000,000 and were placed 31st for the UK’s all time attendance figures list. Where were all the Fulham fans? Being a citizen of London I found it remarkable to think that I’d never come across one. Was it possible that Fulham F.C didn’t actually have any fans? Or perhaps that by some swift and complex turn of events I had never crossed paths with a Cottager? As you can imagine, at this point I began to think about Jean Paul Sartre.

As the first academic or philosopher to actively accept the label of existentialism, Jean Paul Sartre was a staunch believer of the idea that “existence precedes essence”. The Godless Frenchman vehemently opposed the idea of pre-existing truth or essence being found in aspects of our materialistic world. In a similar vein to Jacques Derrida’s undefinable ‘deconstruction’, Sartre refused to call existentialism a ‘system’ or an ‘institution’, rather leaning towards the term ‘movement’ whilst defining his thoughts. A man of few belongings, Sartre believed whole-heartedly that life experience was the only truth, and that ‘essence’ might only be found in the surrounding world when the individual placed it there. Was it possible, therefore, that by this vein of thinking – I’d never met a Fulham fan because all Fulham fans refuse to announce themselves as overtaken by materialistic enterprises? Were all Fulham fans also staunch existentialists?

It would make sense. Just look at the way the whole club is run. Fulham at home is just a nice day out. There’s a place for families as well as individuals. You can eat gourmet sausages and organic ketchup. When they win it’s just nice. When they lose, nobody really cares. Even Martin Jol doesn’t care. The Fulham board have recently and publicly expressed their full support and backing for Jol, which was nice but ultimately didn’t matter. Before they did that nobody was worried, and honestly people probably still aren’t. Even the term ‘threat of relegation’ doesn’t seem to apply to Fulham. Not because they couldn’t be relegated but simply because it doesn’t appear to exist as a threat, more just an apathetic possibility. The club is inundated with players and staff from Nordic countries and Northern Europe generally – what bad things ever happen there? People from Sweden and Norway are stereotypically relaxed and quiet, just like Fulham. They live in the dark and they don’t even care.

The reality is that at Fulham, existence does precede essence. There is no real reason for anyone ever being there, but since they are – they might as well have a nice time. Fulham fans (or according to this article: People who have found themselves in Fulham) would never associate themselves instinctively or actively with a football club. The club is not inherently part of them and as such they would never attempt to define themselves via use of it.

I believe that were Jean Paul Sartre alive and in living in London, he’d probably support Fulham. Having said that, “three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do”. John Paul Sartre.

Joe Devine

Illustration by Alice Devine

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