I am 24 years old and I have been a Leeds fan for just about all of those 24 years. I have been living in Israel on and off for the past 7 years and now live here permanently.
The 2007-08 Play Offs were the hardest time. I had watched both legs of the semi-final against Carlisle by myself in a dingy internet cafe in Jerusalem. The first leg was pretty miserable, but when Jonny Howson scored in the 90th minute of the second leg to send us into the final, I nearly exploded. I jumped out my seat, screamed something totally incomprehensible and started kissing the badge on my Leeds shirt. From across the room, a man I hadn’t even noticed until that point turned to me and said in broken English, ‘Did Chelsea win?’ That burst my bubble pretty quickly, especially when it turned out he had never heard of Carlisle and only had a vague idea who Leeds United were!
I resolved at that moment that I would find somewhere more suitable to watch the final. I started calling round the bars of Jerusalem to see if any of them would be showing the biggest game of the season. I got a resounding no and quite a lot of laughter from just about everyone I spoke to. ‘We only show Premier League games’ I was told over and over again. One man told me that if I could get a group of 20 people to watch the game then he would put it on in his bar. Seeing as I was pretty sure that I was the only Leeds fan in the whole country, this seemed highly unlikely.
Eventually, a bar in Tel Aviv confirmed they would have a TV showing the Leeds game. Even though I would need to travel a couple of hours to get there, a real bar with real beer and a real television seemed too good an opportunity to turn down. I got to the bar about an hour before kick off, expecting to be the only person there. I assumed I was just imagining it when from down the street I could hear ‘Marching on Together’ being sung but sure enough, when I opened the door, I was greeted with the sight of over 150 Leeds fans who had taken over the bar and who had been drinking since the early morning.
I was in total shock! Where had all these people been during the season and for the semi-finals?? Why was I only meeting them now?? I got chatting to the people around me and discovered that there was a large following all around Israel. I even met a man who had gone to watch Leeds games with my grandfather in the 1950s. I was in absolute heaven. There was singing, drinking and a lot of mickey-taking of the one Doncaster fan sitting in the corner. Unfortunately, he had the last laugh and after an awful performance, we lost 1-0 and would remain stuck in League One for another year.
After drowning my sorrows and resolving that next year would definitely be our year, I left the bar with phone numbers and email addresses of people who wanted to ensure I would never watch another Leeds game by myself again. I am still in touch with a lot of these people. We send each other constant emails with highlights clips, transfer rumours and general Leeds United gossip. Next time a bar owner wants me to bring him 20 people to watch a Leeds game, I know I have people I can rely on to come join me!
I now work for a sports statistics company and by total coincidence, my boss is a massive Leeds fan too and has the office decorated with massive flags along with pictures of Bremner, Radebe and even inexplicably one of Gunnar Halle. Whilst everyone else in the office is discussing who’s going to win the Premiership or La Liga we discuss if Mowatt, Murphy and Austin can work as a three in midfield. Although we don’t have much in common with the fans of the Premier League teams in the office, the one thing we can all do together is laugh at the Man United fan who works in the next office!