Hashtag United comes to Herne Bay

I’d heard of Hashtag United before the game, and their internet foundations. But not that they appealed to almost all the national cohort of 16-year-olds, who were at the game in their hundreds.

I’d arrived early and took a seat on the back row, thinking it would be just me and a few diehards out on a Tuesday night. Then they started to arrive. By the time the match kicked off I was the responsible adult surrounded by a mass of underage drinkers.

“Are you a scout?” asked a blond kid of about 16 as I got my camera out.

Like a lot of men who were terrified of other teenagers in their youth, I’m still terrified of teenagers in my mid-forties. They’re smarter than I am, better dressed than I am, and look better in front of girls. The potential to look stupid is off the scale. And this kid, with his floppy hair that wasn’t receding, and his designer sunglasses, was their leader.

“I am, yes,” I said, playing a straight bat. “But not for players. I’m watching how they play.”

This got them interested until I said I was watching Herne Bay, not Hashtag.

But they were friendly, and interested, and polite. So I wanted desperately to seem friendly too and fit in.

I guessed they were from Herne Bay, which would put them in my son’s school. But they said they were from across north Kent and there to watch Hashtag, which they started watching in the days when it was just the idea of footballing YouTuber Spencer Owen.

In hindsight this was good news for my son, because I was ready to tell them his name, class, and that they should go say hello to him Wednesday morning.

They all seemed to watch the game closely until half time. That’s when the crowd of girls they were with announced they were bored while the boys all united to persuade the one who looked oldest to go to the bar.

Self-conscious in front of the gang, I’d ditched the camera and stuck to notes, except for set pieces, which were unwatchable anyway because it was so dark. I managed some notes, including an almost completely indecipherable map of player positions, and it was a good game. I wasn’t sure I learned much ahead of our game against Herne Bay in the third week of the season though.

The teens left before full time, which came after Hashtag nicked it with a late winner. My faith in the next generation buoyed a bit, I filed out quite chipper, with a KSI song on the tannoy that I recognised from my son’s collection. Which capped off an evening that felt a bit like the lavish birthday party of a spoiled yet unseen teenager.

Best player: Kieron Campbell (Herne Bay)

Herne Bay v Hashtag United
Tuesday 3 August 2021
Score: 1-2