QUEENS PARK RANGERS: MORE THAN JUST A CLUB TO ME
It’s been just over two weeks since that amazing miracle at Wembley, and my goodness what a couple of weeks it has been. The euphoria that has followed in the wake of that “BOBBY DAZZLER” has had many Queens Park Rangers fans on cloud nine for as long they can remember. Even the QPR owners, staff and players have all shared in this amazing outpouring of emotions. Players have expressed themselves through various interviews and social media outlets. Same with the owners and staff. Fans alike have also used the power of social media and meetings in various “watering holes” around the world to talk, enjoy, and bask in the clubs glory.
As for me, well life for me has moved on. The joy that I shared that day in the waves of emotions and anxiety as I sat in front of my television with my spouse, my 6 year old son, and a friend from my work in the small town of Lacey, Washington will always live with me. Waking up at 5:30 am to prepare for a match that kicked off at 6:55 am was nothing really for me, since I have been doing that all season long and for years on end now. To me, Rangers mean that much to me and so much more. Before the game I felt very excited as I viewed the celebratory atmosphere thru the eyes of many QPR fans as they paraded around London and Wembley Stadium. Seeing the vast magnitude of pictures, postings and videos definitely had me proud to be a fan of this wonderful club. And yet, I still had an emptiness in me that felt like I was falling thru a bottomless pit. Because the pre-game euphoria was occurring around 6 am Pacific Standard Time in an empty living room the United States; not 1 pm or 2 pm British Standard Time with 47,000+ family members.
To me, QPR is just more than a club. Of course, many have said that before. But here me out for a moment. When I say that Rangers are more than a club to me and that QPR is like a family to me; that is because it well and truly is. Where I reside, I stand alone as a Rangers fan. And although there are many other fans groups in my country (like the California Rs or the Michigan QPR supporters) there is not a single one where I live. I share my joy for my club with simply my family who try and understand, and with strangers who would rather cheer on brand names like Man United or the other Blue and White scum that reside in London. But more importantly, I consider QPR like a family to me because of how many of the supporters have took me in as one of their own. As I wrote in a previously article titled “Supporting Queens Park Rangers: An American Perspective”, I fell in love with the club back in 2005 because of the atmosphere, the surroundings, and the friendliness that I encountered on my first trip ever to London and Loftus Road Stadium. To me it wasn’t about supporting some brand or glory hunting with a top 5 club. Instead to me, it was about the support, the atmosphere, and the amazing QPR fans that I have had the pleasure of encountering for the last nine or so years.
I mentioned how amazing the power of social media was earlier in the jubilation of the win at Wembley. Well it was this same social media that has allowed me to connect to so many wonderful people. After 2005, I was hooked with the QPR bug. But I did not get on Twitter or Facebook until after my deployment to Afghanistan in 2009. So for those 4 years in between, I read articles, followed news clipping on the internet, and risked watching some very dodgy streams which probably contributed too many of my computers getting viruses. But I didn’t care. Because I needed to see how the club was doing. But then I joined Facebook. And I met some very lovely fans on their thru various pages. Then I joined Twitter. And that is where it all took off! I found it very easy for fans to communicate with me and vice versa. Pretty soon everyone started realizing that I wasn’t just an ex-pat living in the states who supported the club, but an actual American citizen who was madly in love with the club. If I had a dollar (or quid) for every time I was asked “so how did you come about being a QPR fan?” I would be able to afford season tickets for the next 5 or so years! (At Tony Fernandes Premier League prices no less!) Meeting so many fantastic supporters of Rangers only further fueled my love for the club, and has since had me make back to back trips to London from the United States these past 2 years just to watch a match (Sunderland in March 2013, and Millwall in April 2014).
And now, thanks to that same social media, I am able to say I have this amazing family abroad. The day at Wembley will forever live in memory and celebration of many QPR fans; as they all were able to celebrate as one with each other. But all I had was to run around mad in my home hugging my son and spouse and chest bumping the living room wall as ANOTHER BOBBY DAZZLER entered the back of the net. Meanwhile 47,000 family members that I wish I was with on that day went mental on my television screen. An amazing moment like that and I had really no one to celebrate it with. That bottomless pit feeling returned. And ultimately, I felt like an outsider again. Which is why later on I tried to contact many of my friends abroad to join them for a few minutes in celebration on their phones. But no one answered. But I can’t be mad at them; after all, they were full of beer, cider and wine and singing the night away. If I was in their shoes, I would’ve been doing the same.
But that is how much this club means to me. I love this club with all my heart. But more importantly, I love the fans, the supporters. The real reason why I love the club the most though has to do with the fact that I personally have no real family. Apart from my son and my spouse, there is no one else. And for a vast majority of my life, no family really ever existed. Which makes this club and the supporters so special to me. Because the level of love that I have received when I come to London, or when I chat on Twitter or Facebook, or when I call someone in England, is something that I don’t really know or rarely have experienced in my life. That is why it hurt when I couldn’t share that euphoric experience of Wembley with anyone else. Or when no one answered the phone that evening of May 24. That is why it also hurt when people have had a go at me in the past on Twitter for being an outsider, when people question if I am real or not. But if I was to tell you my biggest hurt as a QPR fan and family member, it had to have been this past April when; after months of emails between Tony Fernandes and members of his staff to see about arranging a meeting with him or Harry Redknapp (which was basically agreed upon by him and his staff) I was then subsequently ignored completely by them when I was actually in London this past April. And it hurt the most because there was a QPR flag that I wanted to present and give to Tony Fernandes himself. This was a flag that I flew in Afghanistan during that deployment in 2009. I thought that it would be something wonderful to give to a club that has meant so much to me. But I never got that chance. Mr. Fernandes if you ever read this, well that is why I was so eager to see you for a few minutes of your time.
But besides all that, I still continue to support my club. And I will always be Rangers Till I Die! For now I prepare to be gone this summer for an upcoming military training mission with my unit in the states. So I will miss the World Cup and all QPR related issues in June. But as soon as I return, I look forward to connecting with all of my QPR family in anticipation of another rollercoaster season. Until then, COME ON UUURRRSSS!!!
Rafael J. Fernandez