Me and football; a confession

20 December 2011

It’s something I’ve never been able to grasp or work up an ounce of enthusiasm for. For a bloke, and a  English bloke not good with colours to boot, it’s sometimes even a bit awkward to admit that I can’t get on with football; soccer, that is for those of you on the other side of the big pond.
At one time, I’d shuffle my feet, mumble  and fudge the issue of ‘who do you support?’ These days there’s just a crisp ‘I don’t’ instead, normally met with disbelieving stares. To be brutal, it’s not that I’m indifferent to footie. I actively dislike everything about it, from the overblown punditry to the roars to the bloody evening traffic into Pompey on match nights that makes me get to my geriatrics’ martial arts class late.
Rugby’s different, I can watch that, and I don’t understand myself why I can spend eighty pleasant minutes watching chaps punting the oval ball while just the first few seconds of a football game has me scrabbling madly for the remote in a way that’s reminiscent of the hurried search for the off button as the first bars of the Archers theme tune blast out of the car radio. Maybe it’s because rugby players don’t hug each other quite as enthusiastically as professional footballers do and don’t seem to pretend to take a massive hit and then be as right as rain two minutes later.
In an earlier age, maybe I could have got to grips with what’s described as the beautiful game, although there’s precious little beautiful that I can see in it, back when it was still all about passion and not about tinkling tills. Let’s face it, football is huge business. Even when my youthful mates were trailing off to Fratton Park or the Dell, pockets crammed with ammunition in the form of toilet rolls and overripe fruit, I was by far happier with a book. I still am. I’ve been to two football matches to date, and have no plans to increase the number. I’ve also never watched a Cup Final or a soccer World Cup game on TV. Likewise, I’m planning to keep it that way.
There’s something deeply disturbing about the sight of a football crowd working itself into a lather, or grown men weeping because their team has lost (it’s a game, for crying out loud. If someone has to win, it figures that someone has to lose. Get over it, will you?), or looking for someone in a differently coloured shirt  to punch the living daylights out of for no other reason than, er, they’re wearing a different shirt. The primeval drive that men in a large, excited, angry mob have to burn witches or tear apart those bastards from the next valley is disturbingly close to the surface. These have to be the same xenophobic urges that drove Pogroms, inquisitions and massacres through man’s history and even a glimpse of these forces partially unleashed conjures up visions of brown shirts.
So I’m keeping clear of football. It doesn’t help that it’s riddled with the reek of obscene amounts of money, corruption, skullduggery and the rest of it, and I can’t lose the feeling that fans of Liverpool, Man U, Chelsea, et al are being fleeced for all they’re worth but still keep coming back for more.
Don’t get me wrong. There are things I can get excited, passionate or even furiously angry over. Like Tony Hancock, I’ve been known to get quite worked up over cheese labels. But football’s not one of them, and isn’t going to be.

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