Wednesday, 15 August 2012

With a very bitter taste.... football returns

The knowledge of a new football season starting less than a week away usually has me dreaming and eagerly anticipating all the things that might be. Hot on the tails of a long summer religiously studying transfer rumours and club news, watching friendlies and looking out for potential weaknesses in rival teams, the excitement would usually build as the new season is upon us.

I do not have the same excitement as I usually would for this upcoming season however. I always watch the Community Shield game and I appreciate it is essentially a friendly game but it always feels like a good season opener. The game between Chelsea and Manchester City left a sour taste in my mouth and summed up my general feelings around football at the moment. My main issue it seems is that I am suffering from an Olympic hangover. Two weeks of feel good sporting action that celebrate the diversity, spirit and ultimate sportsmanship in human beings have left me eager for more. My faith was restored in British people as I lined the streets and stadiums and joined in when celebrating the achievements of some of the most humble people one can ever encounter. Many of these athletes do not gain acclaim for the work they do and the sacrifices they have to make and they certainly do not gain monetary reward for their efforts (in the most part). The people of London, and those who joined us from all over the world to watch the spectacle, did so with a smile on their face and one could not fail to be inspired by what unfolded around us. A collective spirit from the athletes, to the workers, to the volunteers, to the people was formed and there was no escape from the feel good factor.

As the games come to a close on Sunday evening I reflected upon what I had seen in the Community Shield at Villa Park earlier in the day. I attempted to think of some simple words to describe what went on; hate, bile, anger, frustration, vile, misery. Villa Park turned into a hate filled arena during a game that was formed to celebrate football, celebrate a new season, celebrate the football community, a game designed to give something back to the people. Chants of ‘racist, racist, racist’ echoed around the stadium rather inevitably at John Terry, Fans goaded each other, the referee was treated to a chorus of ‘wanker, wanker, wanker’ by the Chelsea fans aggrieved at a sending off for a two football lunge by Ivanovic. The stadium soon turned into a hate filled arena to directly contrast to that of the Olympic games where sport was celebrated and all those who took part were championed.


I love football. In my opinion the essence of the game is like no other and it is the best sport in the world. It captivates me and delivers true theatre as you truly never know what will happen next in any given moment. There is a raw passion in football and the atmosphere in stadiums makes it very, very special. The balance has been tipped however and football is rotting from within (once again). The Olympics in London has only served to embarrass football and football fans and Villa Park on Sunday was an example of this. Men with children stood in the crowd shouting and swearing as opposed to supporting and this is the way things are at the moment. Football has become hateful and vile and has become a parody of itself. It is reflected on the pitch with players acting out disdain- see the much publicised John Terry vs. Anton Ferdinand case.

Is this really what we pay money for? It is enough to make me want to turn it off. Football has gone too far and is out of control. The players are earning a grotesque and unjustifiable amount of money and are now so detached from the everyday person it is hard to truly support those who represent our clubs. Look at Robin Van Persie for instance, Arsenal Football Club stood by him through very dark times, through an accusation of rape, through many injured years where he was consistently injured for half a season each season and rewarded him handsomely with high wages. Robin was happy to pick up the money then and stay in the treatment room, he was happy to be a part of Arsenal and hoped to show the fans what he could do rather than flattering to deceive. Robin was a cult hero before becoming a fans favourite when he finally got himself match fit and completed just over a season injury free. Arsenal fans would now be able to see the best of him. Sadly Robin had other ideas. Robin declared this summer that the club does not meet his ambitions and he wants to leave. Robin, in a badly worded statement that patronised Arsenal supporters and alienated himself perhaps forever, served to screw Arsenal over for all their patience and support through difficult years as his statement cut his ‘value’ dramatically. Fundamentally Robin is looking for more money whether it being at Arsenal or one of the richest clubs in the world. There are not many heroes left in football and the disconnect between players and fans means that football is rotting at the core. Of course they are not all the same and in the lower divisions players are generally closer to fans and the community. The problems lies in the fact that the greatest theatre is in the top division and this arena has become a hateful place for both players and fans alike. Other sports have shown the way this summer and given footballers and fans a lot to think about. Of course passion is part of football but when you are sitting in the stands listening to grown men chant about how Arsene Wenger is a paedophile, fans chanting about a players mother or wife, chanting about the death of family member, hissing as if to replicate the gas chambers used at Auschwitz etc, one has to really question the sanity in what is unfolding. To see children being influenced by adults who partake in such sadness really is a step too far and not enough is being done to rectify the problem.

Once the league season kicks off much of the Olympics will be forgotten, heroes like Mo and Ennis will be largely put aside in favour of back page news of footballers doing the dirty on team mates and racist accusations. Football is beautiful however in essence and I still love it and of course I will be watching. To put it simply, things have been put in perspective this summer and I am certainly not as excited as I normally would be about a new season and I am sure I am not the only one. Football needs some new blood and needs to rediscover the people, the fans and supporters and inspire a young generation otherwise it will continue to slowly rot and only the masochistic will be left to watch it.

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