Saturday morning

Football bores me. As an English man I am familiar with the game having played with other kids when I was young. It permeated the culture so totally that it seems impossible that I could not know about it. The team that I supported ( nominally only ) I chose because my older brother, football mad, said it was the one to follow. This happened when I was five or six years old and knew even less than now.

In the ensuing fifty years I have never been to see ‘my team’ play a game. I have watched them play on television many times, feeling elated when they won and mildly upset when they lost. Recently, however, I have lost all interest in even following their results. This process of detachment began some time ago, it was mild at first but became overwhelming as time went on.

In the beginning it was the merry-go-round of managers, the seeming arbitrary nature of the owner’s decision to sack a manager and appoint another. This though was a minor annoyance when placed against the antics of the players. The ridiculous amounts of money paid to these petulant, badly behaved children for kicking a football around, and occasionally rolling around on the ground pretending to be hurt. It seemed to me that there should be a minimum behaviour requirement when a person is paid so highly. Perhaps a signed document undertaking not to gang-rape or drink-drive.

The last straw for me was when the current bunch of overpaid, foreign, idiots took exception to the sacking of one of the medical staff that they liked. The result of this tantrum, it can hardly be called anything else, was that the team almost got relegated from the premier division because the players wouldn’t play properly until the manager was fired. They took this game to a dangerous level, the team finished in the lowest position for many seasons, the owner caved in and sacked the manager just in time to prevent the drop.

This disgusted me completely. The supporters, I mean the real ones, had to watch their beloved team sink towards oblivion week by week, as the players disregarded their support and gave no value to the overpriced tickets that these people paid for every week. The context is important here. Football is religion to many people in this country, there is nothing that I care about as much, apart from maybe my childrens’ lives. Supporters talk about little else, the last game their team played determines whether they are happy or not until the next. How the team is doing is the barometer.

To give an idea of how little I understand this, I stopped ‘following’ this team after nearly fifty years like switching off a light switch. It bothers me slightly that I still hear stuff, but that is unavoidable in this country. Football fans discuss their obsession in public without embarrassment. It seems that they don’t care who knows how they feel, or how they are polluting other people’s space. So, I know that the team are still winning, I know where their sacked former manager is working now. I know also that a lot of the shamefully behaved morons who threatened the stability of the club have now left and are playing elsewhere for even greater sums of money. Almost like their childish ways are condoned.

The reason I decided to write this is because I drew the short straw today and had to spend my Saturday morning standing on top of a freezing, windswept hill watching my middle daughter’s football team play. What they play bears only a very slight resemblance to the full game. At this age they play five on each team, and many of them haven’t yet grasped the concept of holding positions and passing the ball. They chase around in a seemingly random way, sometimes the ball ends up in the goal and sometimes it ends up somewhere else. This is not a criticism, they are young kids and have a lot to learn, this is OK. There is something fun and exciting about watching them play. When the drills they have practised in training work out it is like magic. All the cogs mesh, passes reach their intended target and the girls look so happy. It hardly seems to matter that they have conceded eight goals, they have scored a few too and that’s great.

Seeing my daughter perform her skills well is beautiful, especially as it happens rarely. She spends most of the time daydreaming, only waking up when it is too late or nearly. When I ask her what she likes about football her answer is that she likes playing with her friends. It wouldn’t matter what they were doing as long as she was with her friends. This is apparent when I watch the game, an enthusiasm unpolluted by winning. Giving three cheers to the opposing team at the end of the game whatever the result.

Almost worth putting up with listening to the fathers standing around discussing their teams performance in the last game, almost but not quite. I will go again because my daughter likes to see me there, but I think I will stand a little further away to avoid further contamination.

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