In the world of football, there exists a community of fans whose love for the sport knows no bounds. Forza Football aims to give these fans a voice through a series of interviews. Today we meet Anton (29), who supports Swedish side Örgryte from Gothenburg.
Anton was introduced to the club by his father, with whom he went to his first games as a Örgryte fan. When he was 12, he got himself a season ticket and started going with friends instead. "Örgryte is of great importance in my life, especially in my teenage years. Older people from my school noticed me in the stadium and later we became a group of four that visited the game. It was my whole identity, my life. I was the guy who went to Örgryte games with the older guys from school. It was a way for me to find respect for myself, to be comfortable with myself and find respect from other people that I maybe didn't have if I didn't follow a football team", he says.
"When I started following them, they were very good. From 2001 they started signing some Brazilian players and they were the first Swedish club to do so. They came close to winning the league on several occasions. It was a great time to follow, we were rising, and rivals were declining." In 2004 it went downhill for the club. Finances were bad, and they relegated before going back up later. In 2011, disaster struck. "They went into bankruptcy in February of that year, and we got relegated to the third division. This was my lowest point as a fan. I still remember the day."
Until Anton turned 18, his life fully revolved around the club. "It sounds strange", he says when he thinks about it. Anton had other passions like fashion, design, and music, too, but all these hobbies became influenced by his love for Örgryte. "My clothing style became influenced by it, and now I work as a digital designer, which began with me being a graphic designer to make banners and flags for the tifo group." Because of his talent for designing, he got the chance to start a study abroad, making it harder for Anton to keep on being so invested with the team. "I kept on following the club, but my involvement with the fan base decreased. I thought by myself that it was better for me to do something more productive. I found new friends who weren't really into football, so I became less involved. Still, the bankruptcy was a big blow. It was a big part of my life."
It wasn't until 2022 that Anton fully came back to it. Örgryte started winning again, climbing up the league table and showing promising results. Anton decided he wanted to be a part of it. He even bought season tickets again. There was positivity around the club from the media as well. However, that didn't last long. "It quickly went downhill again with the sporting director and the coach both getting the sack. Chaos returned, and the media also wrote negatively again. You're always wondering what happens if we go down again. Will we go back up? Constantly having that feeling is tough."
Anton explains that in addition to supporting Örgryte, he also supports English outfit Tottenham Hotspur in a bid to cope with the negativity surrounding Örgryte. "But when they both do bad, like they do now, it only makes things worse." And when things aren't looking good, Anton knows he best avoids social media and podcasts.
Anton tries not to take his family down in his bad mood, but that's easier said than done. "I've tried to explain it to my girlfriend. I feel ridiculous when I say I feel bad because of a small team that plays in the Swedish second division, but it's the truth. They can make my mood totally swift. I can suddenly get quiet or angry, which leads to my girlfriend thinking: have I done something wrong? I feel a bit ashamed that I'm turning 30 and I still have these emotions. It influences me so much. I can get emotionally low. It affects me for a long time. Now my girlfriend understands me, but she sometimes gets frustrated and says: 'Come on, it's just a game. Leave it'. I understand her when she says that, but it's difficult to explain how my hobby is so influencing for my mental health. For example, she likes knitting, but doesn't get depressed when one of the sweatshirts she makes is ruined."
In the end, football should serve as a way of connecting and this is what Anton is slowly but surely learning now when he goes to games with his father, with whom he attends games nowadays like he used to at the beginning of his journey. "Before games I go and grab some beers with my father, which is a good method to get the nerves down a bit and remind me what all of this is about: getting together with my father and have a nice chat before going to the game", he describes as the ultimate football experience.