I spoke at great length to a man on the way home from the Man United vs. West Brom game last Sunday. He was an elder gentleman, eager to discuss his life and stories of years gone by.

He told me about his family, his job, his pets, to name just a few topics. We spoke about the great United teams of yesteryear, from Best and Charlton through to Ronaldo and Rooney. He told me about how his passion in life was a Saturday afternoon with his friends stood on the terraces on a sunny Manchester day, watching the boys in red, quote, '...rip the shit out of the oppo.'

And then he told me about the last five years of his life. He lives alone, but meets his son at Old Trafford for every game. He lost his job, and can't afford to keep up the repayments on his mortgage. He sold his car to keep the bailiffs off his back. But still holds his season ticket of 40 years, and travels with the local Supporters' Club up to the game each weekend.

Stupidity? Possibly. Complete financial madness? Absolutely. But does he care? Not a single iota.

For my new friend believes wholeheartedly in United. Nothing else matters in his life, other than the regular weekly trips to Old Trafford. He's lived across the country - born in Salford, moved to Sheffield, worked in London for 20 years, moved down to Cornwall and now is back just outside London, yet has missed just a handful of games throughout the lifespan of his season ticket. It's a story that, in some form, resonates with so many other people.

He doesn't care about anything else in life for 90 minutes over a weekend. It's his release from all the horrible incidents building up around his life. He can have fun, watch his team, and love his life with no qualms, before returning home to continue another dreaded week. I asked him a very simple question: 'So are United like a religion to you then?'

He looked at me, thought it voer and smiled, before following up with 'They're the only thing that I believe in and they keep me going. So yes.' An honest answer that got me thinking - is it physically possible to have a religion, that isn't 'religious', in the sense of the word? Can you believe in something so much that it becomes the fundamental ethos of your life?

The term 'religion' is defined as 'a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.' My friend has such a strong belief in United, and his life is planned around a football club. Not a church, or a Mosque, or any other traditional religious object.

He believes in Man United, like he would a religion. He goes to Old Trafford once a week, like he would a church. He chants and sings with his friends, like he would pray. He enjoys a laugh and a smile discussing the word of United, like he would do with a congregation. He thinks about United throughout the week, like he would subconsciously think about morals and views. He sees Sir Alex Ferguson as an untouchable figurehead to the club; someone who has defined not only a generation, but a complete organisation, like he would a Godly figure.

In a way, he has a point - football can be seen as a religion. But what do you think? Can it really be deemed as a religion, or is it just a belief that doesn't run deep enough to be classified as a true, uninterrupted, ever-powerful belief?

You can come and say hello on Twitter - I'm @Adam9309. You can also let me know your thoughts via the comments box below!

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Comment by love sir ryan on March 13, 2012 at 11:27

A very good article posing a very good question.

But for me - no, football should not be seen as a religion.  It is more a highly passionate hobby.  I have been a United supporter for very many years and follow them religiously - but it is not my religion.  There is a difference.

We should all be aware that football is a sport and not to be taken so seriously that it becomes our entire meaning in life.  How sad would that be?  Life offers many beautiful things and we should endeavour to enjoy and embrace every aspect, not just football.  If our team wins, then great - savour the moment.  If not, it is not worth fights, tears of despair etc - get over it.  It is just a game.

Players and managers come and go.  Yes, it is okay to love them, applaud them and call them our 'heroes' - but it is not right to worship them as God-like beings.  Most would not want this anyway, I'm sure.  And, actually, how many can really be deemed to be good examples to our kids?

I feel a little sorry for the man that inspired your article.  Not because of all the bad luck he has had in his life, but for his blinkered existence.  At least by being a United fan he should reap some joy for his sole focus in life, but what if he had happened to support some other, less successful team?  Perhaps he would then have realised there is more to life than just football?

Comment by WorldClass on March 13, 2012 at 8:01

Simply yes,people get obsessed with the ritual and are prepared to fight over it without comprimise.... Football goes beyond rational thought and invites you to take a leap of faith in your team... the only difference? My team is not a gigment of someone else imaginations, my hopes an dreams and placed upon the shoulders and tangable men....


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