It was a Saturday afternoon and I’d only been in Somaliland for a few days, having just arrived from Uganda, where I’d been reporting on the mysterious murders of several women.
I was anxious as I walked up a busy road, trying to keep the veil I’m required to wear from blowing in my face.
Security measures are tight for foreigners in Somaliland, but one of the benefits of being a freelancer is that I can walk around freely if I want to.
Still, I was acutely aware of people shooting curious glances my way, and speaking to each other in Somali about the weird looking foreigner dressed in white and blue, hurriedly tramping around town.
I began feeling nervous, but I kept walking as fast as I could. It was only a few minutes to 6 (3pm GMT), Liverpool vs Huddersfield Town was about to start, and I still hadn’t found a place with a TV to watch the game.
I’d been stressing about this for days, even taking to Twitter to find fellow Town fans in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s little capital. “It’s unlikely you’ll find any, but maybe you’ll find a couple of Scousers?” was the only response.
Unperturbed, I set out on Saturday with the hope of finding a bar full of elusive Town fans.
I haven’t always been into football - growing up in Italy I half pretended to be a Roma supporter, and of course I took to the streets to celebrate Italy’s World Cup win in 2016. But I never actually cared.
Then, one day, Jim Chisem, my good friend from university, asked me to start proofreading his weekly Huddersfield Town Supporters Association column.
Every week I would learn bits and pieces about the club’s history, about how the fans stopped the clubs’ demise by raising the necessary funds in 2003, and about the various campaigns Town fans are involved in - supporting food banks , getting more women to the game and generally making football more inclusive.
I always pin the beginning of my love of Huddersfield Town to this, but I now realize Jim had been laying the groundwork for years, luring me in with photos of a dressing gown clad Michael Hefele and grainy YouTube videos of Town legend Andy Booth .
The deal was sealed when I actually visited Huddersfield last summer. Jim showed me around town and pointed out where players had danced on tables with locals to celebrate promotion to the Premier League , before taking me to the stadium and explaining the club’s charmingly bizarre Dizzy Penalties half-time tradition.
It’s because of these little quirks that I love Huddersfield Town: the club actually seems to have a human element to it, a personality.
It’s more than an anonymous money-making entity, which (at least to an uninitiated like me) seems to be the case with many of the bigger Premier League clubs.
I like the fact that fans feel they’re part of the club, and that players always take a few minutes to say thank you and show their appreciation.
That Saturday a couple weeks ago I found a café with a small TV, a few minutes before kick-off.
The only other man in there was a Somali Liverpool fan, who watched me with a mix of curiosity and mirth as I jumped up and cheered to celebrate Lossl’s miraculous penalty save.
As the game continued, another man popped his head through the door, and said, almost apologetically “Ah, it’s hard for Liverpool, without their best player.”
“Actually”, I shot back, “I’m a Huddersfield Town fan”.
Confused, he puffed on his cigarette and walked away.
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