It is still uncertain when the game of football first came into being, and I suspect that such uncertainty will continue until the end of time, but one thing is certain men, and now women, love to play with their balls. It doesn’t matter shape they are, what density, or what material they may be made of, they simply want to play with them up until the lights go out or one or two more bodies lie prostrate, and maybe unconscious on the ground.
One of these games though is slightly special, as it has traveled round the world many times over and to this day it can still grip entire nations with it’s power. That game is football, the beautiful game, as, some say, the Brazilians first called it, and every four years, allowing for world war interruptions, international football teams gather together at an agreed location, to see who is the best in the world.
Called quite simply The World Cup, it is one of the most important events within the sporting calendar, and, bringing together the best of association football talents in the world, it is touted as one of the finest sporting spectacles of all time.
So why is it that I say… I wonder…
Why do I question is of “The Beautiful game” and why is it that I ma prepared to upset so many of it’s followers by bringing it crashing down to the ground.
To put it quite bluntly it is because I regard it as a socially divisive game which brings far to many individual down to the level of half crazed animals, and if you read on you will see why.
Once you cut away all the hype and hyperbole surrounding a game of organised professional or amateur football, what do you actually see. On a patch of grass or whatever two teams confront each other in a battle over territory, and the main instrument at their disposal is theirs and each others bodies, and a bag full of air. They move around each other carefully, sussing out each others weaknesses, and try their damnedest to invade each other most precious territory’s by trying to score a goal. Should such an event occur, often once or twice during a tense 90 min tome period, the vanquisher’s celebrate their “victory”, while the vanquished try and work out how to give back the same or higher degree of discomfort and pain.
Mean while, on the sidelines or surrounding the pitch if it is a big stadium, we see the fans or supporters. Herded together like a giant herd of agitated wildebeest, they bellow out their support for the team of their choice while, as often as possible, vilifying the fans of the opposition who, not unnaturally try and do the same.
Sound good so far, doesn’t it, after all such gladiatorial and hunting contests have been around since we first emerged from the slime. So what’s the problem. Everyone has a good time, everyone has a good sing-song or chant, and, very often at the end of a game, the victors walk of with the prize
Al that is true but look at the first of the two video’s I have provided. Do the contents of the video back up the notion of a beautiful game. The supporters of one team are herded through a packed railway station while the supporters of the other team do all they can to inflict greatest pain. Guttural chants and swear words fill the air as the two packs face each other, and all that separates them is a thin and desperately stressed out police line.
I any other context we would say that such scenes were more suited to our cave men ancestors, or to packs of wild animals driven insane by a lack of water or food, so why is it that we allow such scenes in the name of football, and still call it a beautiful game
Even worse though in my eyes, is the dangerous build up of unreleased tension on the pitch and in the terraces due to the players having to abide by the rules. The rules of football are as curious as they are inflammatory, as the game is supposed to be a non contact sport, despite, at times , the incredibly high stakes and tensions involved. So it is that we see footballers stalking each other, and blocking each other so as to avoid a loss of territory, while at the same time trying to obey the rules. The result of this tension, pure high strung tension which, in a big game, has no place to go to but into the stands.
The two packs of supporters get more restless. They get louder, and their taunting of the opposite packs increases exponentially, and thus the ultimate transformation occurs. When they left their house such fans were human, as they congregated and then amassed towards the stadium, they were still in part human, but once inside their ancient animal roots rise up to the surface and roar.
I sit any wonder then that the hooligan is born? Is it any wonder that they behave like animals, although I think that’s being rude to most animals? And is it any wonder why such confrontations can rapidly spin out of of control?
Some might say that what I have said is an exaggeration, and it is true that such incidents do not always occur, but I have witnessed a child with his granddad herded up against a railway platform fence, prior to what the local supporters humorously referred to as suitable transport to their appointed pen in the ground. I saw the confusion and near terror in his eyes as he looked around him, and all I can say is thank God his Granddad was there with a comforting hand.
That being said the game, as a spectacle, can be exhilarating, as can be seem in the second video (sorry all you Man Utd fans),and the levels of skill on the pitch can be a sight for sore eyes, but I still maintain that, as a social phenomenon, it’s dangers far outstrip any positives that can occur
In total contrast I end this post by comparing the game of football with the game of rugby union, as I can think of no greater comparative divide. Rugby is, without doubt, a contact sport. With very little protection other than their own bodies, the two opposing teams crash into each other which a passion beyond compare. They to have a ball, a pointed ball which has to be thrown backwards before they can go forwards. They to have a territorial and gladiatorial battle, and yes, on the pitch flare up occur, buy what of the supporters in the stands.
As one “hard-man” professional footballer recently commented after watching a tense game of international rugby
“It’s so very different to football, people are drinking beer, but the fans intermingle happily. There is no swearing at the players, there is no hurling of abuse, and whole families come to have a a good time.”
Might this be because the excess tension is released on the pitch as numerous bodies collide?. You can actually hear the release of tension in the stands when big hits occurs, as a big WHOooofff! of expelled air can be heard around the ground. There is still excitement, there is still rivalry between fans, but, though as ever there are one or exceptions to the rule, there is always that safety valve so as to let of steam
So there you go folks, that is my stance of football. As ever, please feel free to prove me wrong, but I’ll leave you with a quote which, though sounding quite stupid, might actually, in context be almost wise
“If you closed your eyes, you couldn’t tell the difference between the two sides” –
See what I mean