Oh it’s a funny old game ennit? Eh!
Fucking hilarious! Like a one man stand up show. Benny Hill meets Bill Hicks and they both make us all laugh like we’re dead. We are all dead aren’t we? HAHAHA. We’ve just been resurrected and Jimmy Carr is telling us all jokes about Alan Carr – not the funny one. The one that died of cancer. But now the other Alan Carr’s arrived and he’s just written a sitcom with Richard Pryor and Alan Bennett about the life of John Cleese. That funny!
Well it’s not funny. But it is a game. It’s football. The national sport. The thing that seems to command more passion and dedication in this country than the reality of things like the economy. Like eating and drinking. Like shelter and society.
I’ve steered clear of football for a while now. Mainly because football is so ubiquitous in the news that it’s wallpaper. Things change in the news. Celebrities come and go. Natural disasters strike, governments blah their shit and the press collectively cream themselves over one scandal or the other all the time. But football is forever. It’s like paving stones in a street, I mean. How often do you look down and think
“look all those paving stones? How did they get there? There are gazillions of them. They’re everywhere. Blimey. I’m having a panic attack thinking about the interconnection of them all”
Unless you got spiked with LSD and you’ve been caught out going to the shops for something pointless like windolene (no-one? Oh!?) I’d guess you almost NEVER think about how integral paving stones are to our lives. Football has the same relationship with news. It swills around and gets spat out of the mouth of the press every morning and the reader absorbs it all without even noticing that much.
But it’s been a busy few weeks even for football. Ubiquity on the back pages has spread to scandal on the front ones. We’ve had Harry Redknapp confessing to being unable to read or write. Not only that but a court believed him and he was found not guilty of tax evasion. Not only that but he only fucking managed to do it just in time to be hailed as the saviour of english football. WHY? Because Fabio Capello ONLY quit as England boss. EH? BUT WE’VE GOT EUROS IN A FEW MONTHS. Shit yeah. He only walked because he couldn’t make John Terry Captain. WHY? Cos’ John Terry only got charged with racial abuse on Anton Ferdinand . Jesus! Yeah. And that’s not the half of it. Suarez got banned for being a daft racist to Evra! NO?! What happened there? Well Suarez only refused to shake Evra’s hand and still hasn’t apologised for calling him “negrito” in a game. Really? Yeah, And get this. Tevezis back at Man city. But he reckons Mancini treated him like a DOG! Really? Oh yeah, and Speed died. Oh!
On it rolls. Like a shitty soap opera – sitting on the edge of anything resembling reality. A world where someone who claims to be unable to read and write is being touted as the genius who will lead the country to glory. A world where winning a few consecutive games with a ball actually is considered glory. A world where someone throws a hissy fit because they get banned for a few matches for something that would normally have someone sacked on the spot. A world where a manager walks out because they can’t effectively reward someone for having criminal charges hanging over them. A world where someone has such a complete lack of perspective that they think being paid 200 grand a week and then frozen out of a team for refusing to play is being treated like an animal.
The thing is. I’m not one of those people who hate football. I LOVE football. I love playing it. I love watching it. I even support a team. I go and see them, have done for 20 years. I can more than hold my own in those pub debates about who should play up front alongside Rooney or who blabblabla needs to bring in to step up and do blblblblbaaaaaah blabble. The magic of football is that you can usually throw a bunch of strangers together at some event, a wedding, a conference, a blind date – and the chances are that, whatever else they might not have in common, they can usually fall back on the beautiful game as some sort of lukewarm icebreaker. I know it’s shallow but jesus. if it’s a choice between telling someone what I do for a living for the umpteenth time or debating whether Mick McCarthy is a decent manager I’d rather go with Mickey talking anytime.
But FFS. It.is.only.game. Football is not more important than life and death. It’s something people do. For fun. There is only one thing in the world that is elevating football to this completely false pedestal and that it the obsession of the press. Once upon a time I used to check news on my team daily. I even used to submit articles to a football blog. Now I can’t even bring myself to read the back pages in the morning. And why do I need to? Anything happens in football and it spreads like wildfire. It’s usually all over the front pages … headlines screaming about Capello. Or it’s all over Twitter. With knuckle scraping racists vomiting abuse at the accounts of players like Evra and commentators like Collymore because they happen to be black. If Tevez lacks perspective maybe it’s because he’s been elevated to the status of a demigod by a drooling bunch of sport hacks and then demonised to the point of being Beelzebub himself by the very same hacks because he started to actually believe what they were saying in the first place. I mean even as I’m writing this there’s Harry, on the telly, talking up a part-time role as England manager. Looking a bit like my 90 year old nan. I only turned the news on to see the weather now it’s all Harry Redknapp and Glasgow rangers going into administration. Going into administration because they don’t want to pay a 9 million tax bill. That’s less than Tevez’s annual fucking salary!
Of all this the only thing deserving of attention is the racism claims. But even then the press are couching it as a “debate”. There is no need for debate here. There’s no need to draw a saga out for months on end unless you want to bleed the story dry and give even a hint of justification to the scum who think it’s OK. The one’s who think it’s “banter” and start sentences with “I’m not racist but” or say “some of my best friends are black” – yeah. Best friends who hate your guts really because you’re an embarrassing racist. Football was close to stamping that out, if the press want to do one thing here they should make sure it doesn’t come back – and judging by what I’ve read directed at black footballers on twitter – we still have a long way to go.