Steward Angus has been supporting the Cherries for years, despite living in Dubai as the team have worked their way up the leagues. Travelling around the world for work means his love for the club has spread across the continents, but there's always a way to support the boys no matter where the destination.
It’s another weekend in Dubai. My family is enjoying the late afternoon sun at our favourite beach club, casually playing football at the water’s edge.
As the sun begins to set behind the Burj Al Arab, my mind begins to wander 3,400 miles away. I glance at my watch and tell the family “The boys will be warming up at the Vitality”. That is our signal to pack the car and leg it home to turn on the TV.
The Saturday matches are shown at 7pm here in the United Arab Emirates, which is a great time to watch football. All the games are televised here, but many of the matches are with Arabic commentary.
Growing up in Northbourne as a child of the 80s, I followed the Cherries, but I admit it was more of a passing interest than a passion. As a boy, I did enjoy being taken to occasional matches by my dad or neighbours, but it was really only after I moved to Dubai 20 years ago that I really began to follow the club, perhaps out of nostalgia for my home country and town.
As I followed the team more closely, it became obvious that something special was happening. I was gripped by stories of buckets on the beach, battling against point deductions, the Great Escape and then the climb through the divisions against all odds. There was only one problem – I couldn’t find a way to watch any of the games!
For me, many of those great moments in recent years were spent staring at the BBC website pressing the “refresh” button. I remember following that match against Grimsby in 2009 in a Sydney hotel room at 3am. My screams of excitement must have woken up the whole of Sydney when Fletch scored that goal.
Similarly, I was in my hotel room in Istanbul when we won promotion to the Premier League against Bolton. I had to share my joy with someone, so wandered down to the hotel bar where I met two other Cherries fans doing the same thing!
I spend much of my time travelling with business to every continent. I have found football a great way to strike up a conversation in any country in the world – nobody knows more about the Premier League than a Singapore taxi driver!
But, for many years, my attempts to reach out fell flat when I mentioned my home town club. Now, this has changed. I am now given a smile of respect around the world by Kenyan concierges and Brazilian baristas alike. Every Singaporean taxi driver now knows Eddie Howe!
To me, AFC Bournemouth is more than a football club. It is a great story of hard work, dedication and standing up for each other to create one of most unexpected stories in sporting history.
“Together anything is possible” is a motto for all of us in our daily lives. We have been very lucky to meet the chairman and some of the players during their recent training visits to Dubai – their commitment to hard work and down-to-earth humility is a role model which extends beyond football.
I am proud that my son, born in Dubai when the club’s future was in jeopardy, has chosen to support the Cherries. This has been quite challenging in a country where most of the boys support Manchester United or Liverpool, but again he now has the respect of all his school mates!
I was delighted to be able to take him to his first Cherries game last season at home to Everton. It was a wonderful experience and brought back memories of being taken to games as a young boy myself. I also realised that the friendly welcome of the fans, staff and stewards were all part of the recipe that has created such success of the club in recent years.
So, it is Saturday 7pm again – we have braved the Dubai traffic and are happily back in front of the TV. I cannot understand the Arabic commentary, but I recognise the 100% effort being given by those familiar faces in red and black.
From 3,400 miles away, I can hear the noise of the crowd singing and the crescendo of those yellow rattles as Wee Man twists and breaks down the left wing. And I feel a twinge of nostalgia and pride that I am sharing one of the greatest sporting stories of our age.