If there’s something that non-football fans miss out on, it’s the degree of passion football followers feel for their favorite footballers or tacticians. The adoration feels as though the player or gaffer is part of your own extended family. The strong bond -often resulting in an anonymous and long distanced friendship-is comparable to none. In fact, apart from football, no other walk of life boasts of the same level of relationship between player and audience.

While we may extend admiration and love to music artists and actors, it still isn’t as strong and intimate as that shown towards players. So why do we feel this strongly about our footie idols? Because the football we gaze at each weekend is another strand in the twist and turns of our lives.

A stellar performance leads to happiness while a dire performance is like a dagger in the heart of the fans’ souls. Overall, they contribute immensely to the club’s titles and honors in several seasons. Thus, it is in the heart of such accomplishments that these fanatical football relationships are typically built.

It often struck me how bizarre this relationship is. I mean, certainly, you don’t know the player personally, and yet it feels as if you do. It feels like your fav footballer has been forever in your life. Like a rich uncle, perhaps, who shows up on birthdays and holidays bringing you all types of gifts from abroad and a reassuring type of presence.

It is natural to hold in high regard those people who contribute to our special memories. Fantastic saves by a goalkeeper, skillful play by a speedy winger, defence-splitting passes by a midfield maestro, good commanding, and organization by a resolute center back. Obviously, these feelings are to some extent a delve into nostalgia. A recollection of the good, happier times.

However, can fan-player affection survive in the current social-media era? Before social media, fans knew very little regarding the life of players outside football and relied on mainstream press coverage. There was no proof of insulting Tweets from a few years ago or compromising videos of drinking parties or hotel room romps. Your adoration of a player was based on what you saw with your own eyes on match day.

In the social media world, today’s star becomes tomorrow’s villain and the next day’s hero once again. Thus, fans are hesitant to choose their legends or heroes because at any moment Facebook posts or Tweets about their fav player can surface to show past indiscretions and nobody wants to associate with people who err. Everybody is now skeptical and hard-bitten. When you broadcast your adoration for a certain player on social media, be prepared for derision and counter-arguments regarding the said player. It is for this reason that some opt not to forge those feelings towards any footie star to avoid being mocked.

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It is important that the strong ties between fans and footballers remain a key aspect of the game. It should not be lost in the divisive social media scene. Football played by largely anonymous footballers, with whom we lack any esteem or regard for, who we can talk about with no reverence, would be equal to a diminished sport.

The writer is a Wazito FC midfielder and the longest-serving player at the club. You can follow him on Twitter.

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