The latest instalment of our international supporter blogs comes from Dale Sheppard, a young fan following our fortunes from Sydney, Australia.
My AFCB story is one of an avid second generation fan separated by half the globe. I also want to share how my love for AFCB and football is emphasised by the profound impact beyond the pitch.
As a 20-year-old, I’ve streamlined my interests and hobbies as I grow. In this process AFC Bournemouth has increasingly asserted itself. Not only the endless entertainment (and stress) but the power of football beyond the pitch.
I adopted AFCB from my dad in the recent Championship days, keeping the family support flowing from my grandfather, a season ticket holder of many years, before my grandparents came out to Sydney in the mid-2000s.
Due to time differences, I watch games in the morning (2am is a distinctly unfriendly time to be watching games). Without checking scores, I can harness the emotional roller-coaster of a 'live' game.
My very first true live football match was Barcelona at the Camp Nou last November. I vividly remember the vibrant green pitch and seeing snatches of chaos walking through the tunnels, the slingshot heart-rate of finding our entrance, then walking into the Camp Nou. The cacophony of noise, colour and beautifully chaotic fan hit us. It was an experience to remind you just how alive you can feel. Football brought together 99,000 people to share the experience.
My next match was Bournemouth against Brighton in December 2018 - quite a spoilt start to live football! From one of 99,000 in the Camp Nou to the second row of the Vitality Steve Fletcher Stand - so intimate.
You'll understand when I say, you lose yourself in the match. Life is of little concern when something so captivating (and important) is before you. The emotional ride is stimulating!
Recently, I won an AFC Bournemouth newsletter competition (the things you don't expect to win!) - the prize was a signed pair of Joshua King's boots. My new prized possessions further my love story with the club, so soon after seeing a game live.
They also physically showcase the club's impact beyond the pitch, serving as a handy segway to my next point.
Having played football since the age of five, I have had more injuries than I can count, so can empathise with the modern-day footballer when they experience long-term injuries.
Watching two of my idols, Junior Stanislas and Callum Wilson, play that day against Brighton was special. They were competing at the highest level right before my eyes, having overcome some lengthy injuries. The emotions of the Vitality Stadium allowed me to properly understand the motivation I, and no doubt the wider fan community, receive from players.
Another highly memorable moment was watching Steve Cook give his shirt to a small boy after the Brighton game. If I had received that shirt I think I may have proposed, however, he broke my heart by giving it to a boy of around eight, just two metres away from me.
The look on the boy's face was beyond happiness. He was basically non-responsive, somewhere between star-struck, overwhelmed and ecstatic! I’m sure that he will treasure the moment and jersey forever, and that's what football is about! It surpasses the pitch and has a positive impact upon the lives of people, something AFC Bournemouth's tagline 'Together, Anything is Possible' clearly recognises.
It's beyond the little boy though, that interaction was one of the most significant of my life, and it didn't even include me. It illustrated the power of football to me. As memories fade, emotions remain. That little boy will never forget the emotions of that moment, and neither will I.