Book Review – Please Don’t Take Me Home: A Lovestory with Fulham Football Club by Simone Abitante
With global coverage of the English Premier League, and the reach of social media, you are just as likely to see fans wearing the colours of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and United in the bars of Beijing, New York, Sydney and Tokyo, as you would back in London, Liverpool and Manchester. Given the effort that these Clubs put into attracting overseas fans, i.e. with trips to play in friendlies and tournaments abroad, it was a pleasant surprise to read Please Don’t Take Me Home: A Lovestory with Fulham Football Club, a story of an Italian who has come to love the club from Craven Cottage – who despite recent years in the Premier League, cannot be considered one of the ‘big hitters’ in English football.
Simone Abitante like many Italians is football crazy. Born in November 1975, he first attended games in the 1980s watching his local team, Vicenza, graduating to his first season ticket at the club in 1991. Around that time Abitante was exposed to the English First Division and its clubs as they transitioned into the Premier League. Abitante’s hometown side I Biancorossi, won the Italian Cup in 1996/97 which meant that the club entered the European Cup Winners Cup the following season. Incredibly the little known team from North East Italy reached the Semi-Final and were beaten 3-2 on aggregate by Chelsea – so beginning Abitante’s dislike for Fulham’s West London rivals from Stamford Bridge.
He initially came to London in November 2000 and was looking for a team to support. He read in the Metro newspaper about Fulham then in the Football League First Division (now the Championship) who ran away with the title to gain promotion to the Premier League.
From here the book details events from that point to the end of the 2019/20 season as Fulham beat Brentford 2-1 in the Championship Play-off Final with COVID ensuring it was played at an empty Wembley Stadium.
It very much has the feel of a diary format as Abitante travels to and from London as his work and personal situation changes. Like any diary, it is written with passion and honesty, whether about the good times or the bad. From a football perspective, the reader gets to feel Abitante’s joy at attending his first game at the Cottage and on each occasion as he takes friend and family to the ground by the Thames. The Italian’s support coincides with Fulham’s longest stretch in the Premier League (2001/02 to 2013/14), a European trophy (UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2002) and reaching the UEFA Europa League Final in 2009/10 and in the last few season, the yo-yo existence as the club bounces between the Premier League and the Championship.
With Abitante moving around Europe as his jobs change, and in the years when Fulham are playing in the Championship, he has at times a battle to watch and get information via the internet about The Whites, something readers who have been in the same situation can sympathise with. However, his passion for the club remains steadfast, whether Abitante is attending games at the Cottage or hundreds of miles away, and that comes across to the reader in his writing.
As well as his love for Fulham and football, you can add, family and friends to those things most dear to Abitante’s heart. And he talks with real love about his relationships with those close to him, none more so than two friends, Umberto Scomparin and Giampaolo Bonato, who died tragically young and to whom this book is dedicated.
The book closes with Fulham beating Brentford at an empty Wembley Stadium due to the Global pandemic and Abitante dreaming of returning to the Cottage to see the club back in the Premier League. What he also manages to capture is the strangeness of the time that COVID created and there is something haunting about his return to Italy in May 2020:
Bergamo’s airport is almost empty. I’ve never seen it like this. I’m used to a crowded and bust terminal while this time you could hear the echo of your voice if you screamed. Also the flight is so unusual, just a few masked passengers. Surreal, this is the word.
Thankfully, the world has returned to some sort of reality, whilst Fulham continue with the ‘normaility’ of being relegated once more from the Championship, only to return again for the 2022/23 season. One can only hope that Abitante will once again get back to the Cottage to see The Whites once more in the top flight of English football.
(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. March 2022. Hardcover: 224 pages)
Buy the book here: Please Don’t Take Me Home