Football/Soccer

Kenny Archer: Support teams in team sports and individuals in individual sports

Lewis Hamilton (right) with his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas after team orders gave the former victory in the Russian Grand Prix.

REGULAR readers – hi, mum! – may recall my view that real sports require the involvement of balls of some sort.

I make an exception for boxing (because they'd knock my, er, teeth in otherwise) and there's no denying that motorsport takes balls.

Motorsport, and motorcycling in particular, has never grabbed me in the way it does my dad and my brother, however.

The last North West 200 I attended was in 1980 (obviously as a babe-in-arms) because I was tired of it clashing with the FA Cup Final, which was then one of the rare live matches you could be guaranteed to see on TV.

Another aspect that I couldn't really get my head round was the individual element of motorsport.

People tend to support one rider or driver – but what happens when he or she gets injured or worse? Do you just stop watching? Or switch your allegiance to someone else, who you previously rooted against?

Surely that wouldn't feel right, making you like the unspeakable sort of person who switches their soccer support from one club to another.

Just as your club is your club is your club, right or wrong, good or bad, equally you shouldn't get too attached to one particular player.

For starters, it's always a gamble in getting a player's name on the back of your shirt. My choices began to be such a jinx, with the individuals concerned leaving Liverpool FC almost immediately after the letters cooled, that I should have started getting the names of the worst players on my jerseys.

When you're twice the age of the player it doesn't seem right either.

Having said that, I'm tempted to get 'Alexander-Arnold' for my son, because he has the same 'AA' initials and – hey! – value for money.

I still maintain that 'Archer 7' was a good choice, even if certain mates ridiculed me for that.

A former colleague's son, on holiday in Portugal, spotted the early potential of Cristiano Ronaldo at Sporting Lisbon, and was fortunate that the player moved to the club the boy supported, Manchester United. I don't know whether he still believes he's so great.

The attachment of some supporters to high-profile players, no matter what their club, is just one of the troubling aspects of modern soccer, a sport in which increasingly loyalty is of less importance than salary, or success.

Those caveats about individual attachment should apply to other sports too. Barry Sheene made me think Suzuki were the best bikes – but then he jumped ship to the hated Yamaha, the brand also ridden by his rival Kenny Roberts.

In life I've been a loyal Toyota man since 2002 - but I'd drop them for Mercedes if I could afford to do so.

But even weirder than those who change soccer allegiance are those people who follow (at an increasingly long distance, then slightly closer, then long again, then, well, you get the idea…) a certain make of car in Formula One motor racing.

I can just about comprehend Ferrari fanatics, given the appeal of their blood red livery and the prancing pony symbol, or whatever it's called, in the same way that I keep considering switching my overdraft to Lloyds Bank.

However, anything else makes little sense, not least because the other teams seem to keep changing their colour schemes.

Ironically, the greatest problem I have is the travesty that is 'team orders'.

I understand that Formula One is mostly about promoting the names and wares of manufacturers, although that idea seems rather far-fetched, given that few of us could afford to buy one of those yokes, never mind being able to park it up on a kerb.

Besides, even the fumiest of petrol-heads, those who could recite a full, chronological list of Formula One world champions, would struggle to do the same for the annual winners of the manufacturers' championship, and probably not without thinking of the driver's name first.

Realistically, motorsport is about the rider/ driver, not the make of car (although the quality of that obviously plays its part) which makes the practice of 'team orders' all the more annoying, especially when they benefit boring Lewis Hamilton.

The reigning world champions is well on course for a fifth world title, but was helped on his way at the weekend as his team, Mercedes, ordered his team-mate Valtteri Bottas to let Hamilton through to win the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

Sure, Hamilton isn't assured of the title yet, and arguably Mercedes are more concerned about him winning the high profile drivers' championship than the 'who else really cares?!' constructors' equivalent.

Yet it still stinks worse than burning rubber.

If Hamilton truly is the best driver (and he probably is) then let him prove it on his own merits, not being waved through (albeit reluctantly) by a team-mate.

Given how much certain drivers or riders hate the guts of their team-mates, those orders can be particularly hard to stomach.

Team orders have long been part of Formula One but that doesn't make them right – and at times they have been banned from the sport.

Jonathan Rea and Carl Frampton are great guys and top sportsmen, as quick as they are on the track or with their fists to acknowledge the input of the people in their support teams.

However, people support them as individuals, not Kawasaki and MTK.

I have three team orders – don't switch, don't follow individuals in team sports, and don't follow brands in individual sports.

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