Hardcore Ultras

I’ve missed the last two games, the last ditch win at Hampton & Richmond, and Saturday’s defeat at Burgess Hill. The win over Leatherhead feels like ages ago, and I’ve been eagerly looking forward to attending a Hamlet match. It’s funny how quickly you can get into following a club.

I’ve tried to arouse interest in a couple of friends, people who like going to football matches, but the response has mainly been that they think the standard will be too low. People imagine it will be like watching some pub blokes have a kickabout on Clapham Common.

It’s a misconception I’ve tried to debunk (with very limited success), because I myself was pleasantly surprised by what I found at this level.

Far from cloggers hoofing aimlessly, Gavin Rose’s men play an attractive style, combining some decent distribution, ambitious forward runs, and occasionally some incisive passing in attacking midfield.

There are still one or two people I might convince, and fortunately I’ve had company for the games I’ve attended thus far. I can attest to their having enjoyed the experience more than they expected.

I wonder what the consensus among the more established Dulwich fanbase is, regarding new supporters. After the Leatherhead game, several commented on the much improved atmosphere, compared to that produced by the bumper 1500+ crowd at the Billericay game three days prior.

I suppose the majority will sit somewhere between wanting to retain a concentrated bloc of vocal fans, and wanting more fans putting money into the club. I expect there is room to cater for both concerns, as long as the more vocal supporters get to stand together and, hopefully, attract new like-minded fans also.

I didn’t arrive at Dulwich for the atmosphere or the politics, personally. It was mainly about enjoying football without all of the commercialism and hyperbole.

Still, the nature of the fanbase is a big bonus factor for me. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting into non-league football is the self-awareness and grounded sensibility at the heart of the fan culture.

Unlike what can often be found in the higher echelons of football fandom, and contrary to the militantly politicised image that journalists want to portray of Hamlet fans, you always understand that people are having a laugh with it.

Hamlet fans are passionate alright, in supporting the team and, as we’ve seen recently, in promoting progressive attitudes and pitching in to help those in need.

But while they tell you of the inevitability of luxury automated communism, they’ll be dancing around having a party, half taking the piss out of themselves. Not wearing black hooded jackets and making throat slitting gestures.

Unless we’re playing Tooting and Mitcham, obviously.

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