Thursday 3 October 2013

An Overseas Exile’s Story

Chester fans are scattered all over the globe. Tony Banks, who is now based in Texas, reflects on how a life spent globetrotting has affected cheering on his beloved Blues.

Being an overseas Blues exile is, believe it or not, just as frustrating as being a UK exile but with the added problem of time-zones!

I first started supporting Chester as a six-year-old when my father took me to Sealand Road and now, 58 years on, I am still proud to follow ‘The Blues’. In my time as a supporter I have seen the team go from blue and white to green and yellow and back to blue and white as home colours -  preferring of course the blue and white.

I have seen Chester play some majestic football over the years as well as some pretty poor stuff. Unfortunately, I missed the first part of the Peter Hauser era when the really good attacking football was played. I was living in Mombasa as a teenager – imagine the situation with no TV or radio, except Lorenzo Marques out of Mozambique (subject to weather conditions). The only way my father and I could keep up to date was by cycling a couple of miles on Sunday morning to buy the Mombasa Times newspaper with all the UK results from the Saturday games. Even before I got back on my bike to go home, I would have looked to see the Chester result. There were a few unhappy rides home.

Times have changed over the years and I clearly remember listening in Ghana and the Cote D’Ivoire to the BBC World Service live on a Saturday afternoon in the early 1980’s to the live commentary of a game followed by Sports Report. This was a quantum leap – live football and live results; but still no TV action.

More recently, with the advent of personal computers and the internet, it has become so much easier to keep in touch. When I was in Japan, with a +9 hour time difference, it meant staying up until ‘silly o’clock’ on a Sunday morning to keep up with the Live Text service from Chester FC. That was never a chore – it was always a pleasure win, draw or lose. Many thanks to the guys who run that service.

Now in Houston, the clock has swung the other way and I am now -6 hours different which means getting up on Saturday morning, a nice cup of tea and then log on to Text Service before the game starts. This is a bit more civilised than in Asia.

Who knows where technology will take us? In the next few years we may have live ‘streamed’ Chester FC matches so that exiles like me can watch the club that they love and hold dear.

It can be surprising how many people know of Chester FC around the world. I have worn my Chester FC shirt in many countries and it is remarkable how many people have commented and started telling me the story of Chester City’s demise and the meteoric rise of Chester FC - including nationals from Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, to say nothing of those in UK towns. It really is a nice feeling and it makes me proud to be a remote part of that club!

This season has not had the best of starts after 3 brilliant years, but the further up the pyramid we go, the more challenging it is. We should not jump to conclusions, but the one thing we should all do is get behind our club and the manager (arguably the best we have ever had) and whether at the game or following from afar, give our full support.

Nothing will make me change my loyalties, I am a Chester FC supporter through and through – and very proud of it.


Tony Banks

(Alias ‘TonyB in Houston’, for those of you who use the Live Text Service)
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