Pending next Friday’s Football Association hearing to determine whether or not Queens Park Rangers’ fielding Alejandro Faurlin while the Argentine’s contract was held by a third party is deserving of a mild slap on the wrists or a 15 point deduction, QPR have clinched the 2010-2012 Npower Championship after this afternoon’s 2-0 win at Watford. As a former QPR season ticket holder whose tenure included relegation to what used to be called Division Three, the ‘R’s (possible) return to England’s top flight is as surreal as it is long-awaited, an opinion perhaps held by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Richard Hinds, who attempts to rationalize his far-flung obsession with the W12 club that’s long been in the shadow of Chelsea. “There is something trainspotterishly satisfying about supporting a relatively obscure foreign team,” gushes Hinds (“for the Portland Trail Blazers fan in Wagga Wagga or the Grasshopper Zurich supporter in Ipswich”), though he’s surely more satisfied when the team is actually winning something.
Brian Moore and the pounding theme to The Big Match. A George Best-ian character in the QPR hoops called Stan Bowles, complete with muttonchop sideburns, a multitude of antisocial habits and exquisite skills. A highly exotic (in rural Australian terms) ”QPR Is Magic” scarf brought home by a family friend. Pilgrimages to Loftus Road – OK, not exactly the Westminster Abbey of sport – during London days. The basis of a lifelong addiction. Now, the anguished attempts to follow the misfortunes of QPR have become compelling. At least more so than usual during the 17 long years since the ”Super Hoops” bestowed upon the Premier League their gifts of mid-table mediocrity, bloody managerial executions and a capacity for financial mismanagement that can make the Global Financial Crisis seem like a slight misunderstanding about the receipts at a primary school fete.
Of course, the long-distance sporting love is now much easier. I had been following QPR for eight years before I saw them play a full game live on TV – the 1982 FA Cup final against Tottenham. (Rangers scored a late equaliser and, naturally, Spurs won the replay.) Now pay TV is so hungry for content QPR’s recent blistering (no, really!) 2-2 draw with Cardiff City was shown live. So the once difficult, and inevitably satisfying, measures once required to follow the less renowned foreign clubs have been mostly removed.
This, of course, has not necessarily been good news for some local leagues, who struggle to compete with superior foreign content. (And even QPR). It is a problem Sports Minister Mark Arbib might ponder during the latest review of Australian soccer: Why do some of us still struggle, somewhat, to become fully engaged with the local product? Yet we are celebrating because (surely! please!) a west London minnow is going up.