I find football really boring – it has no appeal to me whatsoever. Now and again, I’ll watch the odd game – the important ones – in a pitiful attempt to seem normal, but I’m still left with the feeling that I’ve wasted an hour and a half of my life for no substantive reason. I just get absolutely no enjoyment out of it, and can’t really understand how anyone else can.
Football seems such a frustrating game to me, such an enormous waste of effort. It seems amazing to me that people can give so much of their time to following the game when goal-less draws seem common-place and hardly anybody from their local team actually comes from the area. I know loads of people who have season-tickets, and to me that seems a rather heroic investment – I can’t even comprehend how one can afford to spend that amount of money on a football team. It isn’t just the tickets; there are the constant kit-changes, the merchandise, and the fact that you have to purchase extra TV channels to watch the games. I realise that people obtain lots of enjoyment out of it, but it seems to be such a demanding hobby, and cost of it seems be expanding exponentially.
The very presence of football brings me physical pain, and with the World Cup now rearing its intrusive head it’s going to be inescapable; every pub will have it on their big screen, England flags will be hung in people’s windows, it will be on every TV channel, the news will be clogged up with news about footballer’s injuries, their hissy-fits, wives and girlfriends – frankly it will be unbearable. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people who actually play football. At least if you’re involved in the game it is obviously less boring and you become physically fitter in the process, not to mention obnoxiously rich if you’re a professional. It is the inconvenience of the game that annoys me about it. Football fans seem to have no consideration for the rest of us; they seem to believe that football is of such huge importance that everything else should accommodate the sport.
For instance, listen to the gravitas in the voices of those who discuss it – specifically commentators. When a key member of the England squad is injured one would think they were discussing a war in the Middle East or the world banking crisis – I mean, let’s try to maintain some level of perspective! Remember the daily updates about David Beckham’s ankle? Now we have bulletins about Wayne Rooney’s inability to control his temper. Footballers undoubtedly have great talent, and I’m not diminishing that, but they are not renowned for their intelligence and there is far too much latitude given to them, which is insulting when one considers the amount they are paid. Who contributes to their huge pay-packets? Poorly paid fans – it’s the same old story.
Football is also still considered to be a working-class game, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Nowadays, one has to be paid a lot more than the average working-class person to attend the games, and when one can one has to endure the indignity of being herded into cage-like structures like wild dogs. As early as Robert Noonan’s ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’, he described the game as having replaced religion as the opium of the masses. Was Noonan’s claim right? There is some substance to his argument, since football sometimes dominates the news to the exclusion of other – more important – matters which directly impact our lives.
Football does have a coercive effect; everybody knows at least one person who devotes their life to following their favourite team, arranging every part of their existence around match scheduling, and so on. Such fans live vicariously through the achievements of the team and the players within it, and since football never stops nowadays – the seasons seem to go on all year – there is little time to think of anything else. In reality, of course, the achievements of a football club have no influence on a person’s life at all, unless they happen to be the ones playing the game. The profits of winning a game are never shared with the fans, there is little investment in the local area by football clubs, and the fans only rarely meet the footballers themselves (and even then their heroes will be surrounded by security). All of the relentless coverage of football can act as a smoke-screen, hiding the information that directly disturbs our lives, allowing our leaders to bury bad deeds beneath the headlines. How much will the government try to get away with while the world cup is underway? A lot, I imagine.
Football is not the only guilty party in this. The whole of celebrity culture is to blame, and I am willing to admit that being a music fans I have occasionally followed the careers of my favourite artists quite ardently, but I have never bathed in the reflected glory of their achievements, and have tried to gain some success of my own. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the success of your heroes, but it seems that with football it has a primal, tribal element, and this reminds of me of the fervour one associates with patriotism. I have always been suspicious of patriotism, because apart from it ‘being the last refuge of a scoundrel’ (Bernard Shaw?), it is so easily exploited by the right-wing – it is certainly no accident that the BNP often try to penetrate football fan-clubs. Patriotism scares me, and the kind of passion football fans have for their teams can too often tip into aggression.
Being a Liverpudlian, I support Liverpool (largely because of the part of the city I’m from) and I do feel pleased when they do well. I can put it into perspective, however; if the team wins or loses it has no impact on my life whatsoever. It is more easy for me relate to the achievements of the man I mentioned earlier – Robert Noonan – who wrote one of the most enduring working-class books of all time, despite living in desperate poverty and suffering from consumption. His book directly led to the Labour Movement and that has benefitted every generation since. Football is simply a game; it may be enjoyable to play and watch, but that’s all.