Soccer to me, baby: Why the beautiful game is butt-ugly
Football is to sport what McDonald’s is to food: tasteless, ubiquitous rubbish
You have feet? You have a ball? Congratulations, you’re a footballer.
Foot + ball = football, see. It really is that simple, and it tells us why football is the world’s most popular sport: because anyone can play it.
If that sounds disparaging, that’s because it’s meant to.
The progressive socialist in me says anything that’s accessible to the masses is a good thing. The snob in me says football is sport’s lowest common denominator because it is a laughably low, cringingly common denominator.
I’ve known, in my 52 years, exactly one able-bodied person who was unco-ordinated enough not to be able to play football. He could trip over his own feet while lying flat on his back.
Everybody else, in my experience, has been able to kick a ball well enough to play football. Or to believe they can play football. It’s a crucial difference that gets ignored every time one or more are gathered in the name of a game of one-bounce.“The beautiful game”? Beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholders, and in this case the beholders must be blind.
Unless your idea of beautiful involves people being paid obscene amounts of money to do a job that achieves bugger nothing for the human race; that elevates those people, completely undeservedly, way beyond the status of doctors, teachers and firefighters; that tells those people it’s OK to feign injury to get an opponent into trouble; that hogs space in the public consciousness that could be put to so much better use; that glorifies an activity that has caused wars between countries and feeds the corrupt monster that is Fifa; that prompts otherwise rational, nice people to become tribal savages.
Football, football lovers, is the butt-ugly game.
Some people play this mad mess of marketing, media and money very well. They’re called Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The rest of the world’s professional footballers are extras in a tedious epic that becomes less watchable with every passing 90 minutes of nothing.
And that’s what almost all football matches are: 90 minutes of nothing.
A man I know has spent most of his 50 years of being alive trying to like olives. Because it feels to him like everybody else does. He’s still trying. I have a similar relationship with football.I’ve endured so many 90 minutes of nothing trying to like football that I’m terrified to try and count them: I would absolutely want my 17 years, 10 months, 36 weeks, five days, 22 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds back.
In the course of all that time I’ve played too much football — right back, big left boot, vicious tackle — watched too much football — including a Boca Juniors game at La Bombenara in Buenos Aires — marvelled at the characters of particular footballers — like Ferenc Puskás, Carles Puyol and Gianluiji Buffon — and fallen sound asleep way too many times while peering at the puerile pursuit of pointy-toed pontificating.
And still, I’m trying to like football. In fact, I’m writing this in a noisy bar wearing a T-shirt featuring a photograph of Diego Maradona in a cap like Fidel Castro’s and smoking a cigar.Thing is, I like Cuba (I’ve been there) and cigars, and the idea of somebody like Maradona punching a hole in something like England’s eminently punchable self-righteousness fills me with warmth.
Football? For its own sake? Meh.
I do have a team — Barcelona. But only because they were on the right side during the Spanish Civil War. Besides, as a proper football tragic told me once: “Ah, for chrissake, that doesn’t count; everybody is a bloody Barcelona supporter.”
He really is a tragic. Arsenal. Poor bastard.
Football has been part of my life since I was a small, fat kid watching my brother play — decent enough midfielder to pull a provincial jersey over his head — reading Roy of the Rovers, Hotshot Hamish and Billy’s Boots and trying to tell which team was which on black and white television.
Rodney Bush is a relation by marriage. I went to school with Wayne Williams. Don’t know who they are? Look it up. Also, google Ossie Ardiles, Tottenham Hotspur and the Falklands War. I kid you not.
Point is, don’t tell me I know nothing about football just because I tell you it’s a useless excuse for a sport. I know too much. I wish I knew less.
Football is to sport what McDonald’s is to food: tasteless, ubiquitous rubbish.
You like McDonald’s as much as you do football? Now there’s a surprise.