Friday, 13 June 2014

13/06/14 - World Cup, etc

I was in two minds about sending this out. I wrote it a week ago, and since then have become increasingly irritated by the constant anti-football sentiment on social media (which, admittedly, I am guilty of to an extent), feeling that I’m contributing to an unnecessary tide of killjoyism. (I know I’m being a bit of a prick about it, bursting everyone’s enjoyment bubble by whining unnecessarily. By way of penance, maybe this’ll be useful to you? http://itskickingoff.com/)
But then I thought… sod it, no-one’ll read it anyway, you’ll just scroll down to the funny videos an’ that. So here we go…


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So, the World Cup has started. You might have spotted it. Lager sales are up, flags abound, and the pubs are full of people with faded greeny-blue bulldog tattoos on their forearms. Nations across the globe forget their troubles and join together in celebrating the superior kicking skills of their well-coiffed heroes.

So, you’re excited, yeah? Raring to go? Yay football, woo! Come on you [insert colour of strip]!
Fuck it, I don’t like football. And I’m going to tell you why.
Now, this won’t just be an ill-advised, discriminatory anti-football rant – you’ve heard it all before. Indeed, I did just such a thing in JuicyPips a few years ago and really annoyed a lot of people. Sorry about that. I’ll try to be logical.

For the sake of getting it out of the way, though, here are some broad and general things that I don’t like about football (again, that you’ve heard a million times before from various anti-football bores, sorry again): the relentless laddishness and yobbery, astonishingly rich young men complaining about not getting enough millions for doing something for a living that – let’s face it – they really enjoy, the culture on the pitch that sees players diving to the ground and weeping in the hope of gaining a spurious free kick rather than actually just fucking getting on with the game, the inherent racism, misogyny and homophobia of a significant chunk of the fans, the constant spitting, the fact that football fans often immediately discount you as irrelevant and without value if they ask who you support and you say ‘actually, I don’t follow football’… and so on. Oh, and the fact that newsreaders will always say ‘if you don’t want to know the football scores, look away now’, and yet will happily blurt out ‘Lewis Hamilton won the Grand Prix today’ without giving you any warning to cover your ears. This all contributes to a general dislike of the sport, but it’s not the main reason.

No, the real reason I hate football is this: if you get bullied a lot at school, you’ll quickly identify a clear correlation between the group of people who are making your life a misery, and the group of people who are always playing and talking about football. Most of them exist within the crossover of that Venn diagram. I’m not saying all footballers or football fans are bullies; nevertheless, the association is undeniable. At least, it was in my school. They’re smug, superior in sporting prowess, trading intelligence or social decency for the ability to accurately kick a small air-filled sphere and know that ‘offside’ doesn’t mean ‘off the side of the pitch’ (which, to be fair, I didn’t think was a bad guess considering that no-one had ever explained it to me). The football kids were the popular kids. Not that I particularly yearned to be popular, but it really pissed me off that if you weren’t into football, you weren’t worth talking to. As you may have guessed, I still have a large and angry bee in my bonnet about this.

There are numerous occasions when I've enjoyed football. I loved Euro ’96 – Shearer’s relentless goal-scoring, Gazza’s improbable chipping, the emotional rollercoaster of the penalties – all subsequently chronicled rather well in the BBC’s largely forgotten rom-com-thing ‘My Summer With Des’, too.
My best mate Sam is a full-on football nut, his head is stuffed with the most incredible trivia about any footballer that you care to name from any era. He’s a lifelong Spurs fan, and he lives and breathes the sport. He is proof that football fans can be nice, and I’m sure that there are a lot of other decent football enthusiasts like him. We just have a sort of unspoken arrangement, he doesn’t really talk about football (not that I mind him doing so, he’s very interesting about it), and I try not to bore him about cars. He took me to a game once – a Spurs vs. Fulham match. It was fun, although I stood out like a sore thumb, not cheering at the right time and generally being a bit confused about the rules. But hey, it was a day out. We drank beer and everything.
I actually like the World Cup too, I genuinely do. I love the camaraderie, the all-in-it-togetherness, the enthusiastic pursuit of a common goal. I feel the same about the World Cup as I do about the Olympics – a detached interest at first, but with a keenness for the home team to do well, and an increasing propensity to get swept up in the excitement.

But on the whole, on a personal level, fuck football. Fuck football, fuck the people that play it, fuck the boorish oafs that treat it as the only important thing in the world, and fuck the despicable nature that football reveals in some people.
The sport itself is something I would potentially have a lot of time for – it’s just the people who play it professionally and a certain proportion of the people who watch it that I have a problem with.
You know, sometimes I go back to my home town and I see those same schoolyard bullies in the pub, all grown up, wearing their football shirts, shouting ‘oi oi!’ and ‘laaaaaaad!’ and ‘’ave it!’, and it reminds me of an allegory that Bill Bryson illustrates in one of his books, in which a person may visit their home town to find the high school football hero, still wearing his varsity sweater despite being in his fifties and lacking most of his hair, and looking rather pathetic. The one thing that validated him among his peers as a teenager is now the only thing he has left, and everybody else has moved on.
Sure, those guys are happy enough, playing Sunday league and shouting at Arsenal on the telly, but they’re also still the intolerant, judgemental bullies that they always were. So fuck them too.

…and that’s why I don’t like football.
Still, it amuses me greatly that the symbol of Brasil 2014 looks like a facepalming man. There’s probably something extraordinarily pithy I could say about that, but I’ve said enough. Enjoy the tournament. I’ll try my best to understand what you’re talking about, I really will.



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