Anyone who knows me knows that I love football. It has been my main interest since I was about 9 years old. If you look back through the posts on this blog, you’ll see that the largest category is ‘Football’ and many of the posts are about Nottingham Forest. Given the rollercoaster season (Copyright, National Bureau of Press Clichés) they have just endured, why is it that my last football/Forest related post was back in September, before the proverbial really hit the fan?
The answer is simple, even if its reasons are not. I am falling out of love with football.
There are many reasons for this, and some carry greater weight than others.
I want to play football, but the team I currently play for is probably the worst I have ever represented (no offence guys). In a year of playing for them, we have yet to avoid defeat. Sometimes, we struggle to field enough players for a five-a-side league. As a result, our defeats are pretty heavy and even if you aren’t the kind who needs to win, this wears you down after a while. Add in the fact that many of our opponents are less than gracious victors, and some make no attempt to hide the fact that they see matches against us as a great opportunity to boost their goal difference, stir in a little unecessary aggression from time to time, sprinkle with idiots who take the whole thing far too seriously and bake in an oven pre-heated to gas mark confrontation-over-mildly-clumsy-challenge, and you have recipe for footballing unhappiness.
The obvious answer would be to hire a sports hall and arrange an informal match between a dozen or so of your mates. However, experience tells me that that just doesn’t work. Try gathering ten or more of your friends together at the same time and you’ll see what I mean. Now try arranging that every week. Initially, people are full of enthusiasm, and then the novelty wears off and the numbers dwindle until there are only a handful left, paying £10+ each for the privilege of a 2-a-side game with lax rules.
Then, there comes the professional game in general. This year in England alone there have been several incidents of racist abuse, a couple between players and then a few between fans and players. It’s hard to unequivocally love a sport which manages to behave with so little dignity.
There’s something about the way the professional game is going which fills me with a sense of disillusionment. The introduction of Financial Fair Play rules is something which should be encouraged to an extent (anything which stops clubs getting into ridiculous debt and then walking out of it having paid the players in full and screwed over their suppliers and the likes of St John’s Ambulance can only be a good thing), but when combined with the impending Elite Player Performance Plan it all looks like the rules (inadvertantly) will merely reinforce the status quo and are essentially authorising the big clubs to pillage those further down the league pyramid in order to reinforce their own positions and make even more money all in the name of producing a better England team. My attitude is simply this : what is the point in investing emotionally and financially in a sport which is no longer really competitive? Many would say it hasn’t been truly competitive for years, but I get the feeling that (unless I have missed something major) English football will become even more predictable and contain even less hope for those of us not at the top table.
The last thing which has disillusioned me in some ways is my own interest in the game. Now if that sounds a little cryptic, let me explain. I am very interested in the theory of football, tactically, physically and so on. As a result, I have found several websites and publications which satisfy this appetite (such as Jonathan Wilson, Zonal Marking, and The Blizzard), but unfortunately they have had an unexpected backlash. Many of these sources make it very clear that English football is living in the Dark Ages and that we should be heading towards the likes of Spain and Barcelona tactically in order to compete. This has left me feeling ever-so-sightly guilty for enjoying a typical blood-and-thunder English Championship match with both teams playing direct, physical football and going at each other hammer and tongs, and for finding the admirably patient football of Spain a touch dull at times. It’s hard to reconcile what you enjoy the most and what you are being told is the best when there is such a disparity between the two. I end up disliking myself for being so easily pleased with unsophisticated football, and then disliking myself more by being so easily persuaded into such intellectual snobbery.