I like football. I like football a lot. I’ve given the beautiful game hours and hours. I played football on the street as a kid for hour after hour. If I wasn’t kicking a ball I was watching every match I could see on television. Or I was hanging around doing keepie ups on the pitches in case someone didn’t turn up for one of the pub teams playing on Sunday mornings and could use the skills of a very keen eight year old. From the age of ten I was watching Hyde United – my local semi-pro side then at about thirteen I started going to Old Trafford and seeing my heroes play in the red shirts on a Saturday. It’s been in me all my life.
Though there are a lot of things I don’t like about football. Most of them will be the same things you don’t like, if you hate football. The real and in some cases the perceived greed of the players. The play acting, cheating and lack of respect of the players. The managers who have perfect recall of an incident that didn’t go their way and selective amnesia of the ones that went their way. The bloated, self-important impossibly inept bearucrats who run the game nationally and globally. The saturated, twisted hyperbolic media coverage. The bitterness, anger and bile the fans direct to fans of the opposition, opposing players and on occasion their own players, and fellow supporters.
I think all these things have morphed into a growing disdain for the game I love. I don’t know who to blame- probably Thatcher or Murdoch. Probably both.
It’s got to the stage where I don’t want to talk about football with people I don’t know well. I don’t want to have an argument about football. That’s what it always turns into, a stupid row where no one will ever concede a point. A futile, boring period of my life I could be using for something more productive like smashing a brick into my face. I even forced myself not to tweet or facebook about football. People would take offence at something I said, or some one else in response to my tweets or status updates. Threats of violence would be taking place on facebook between friends or people who ‘like me’.
Tonight though I broke my silence. During an extraordinary game between Spurs and Arsenal – I felt I had to say something. Tonight between two teams I don’t care about, sat on my sofa, enthralled in a pulsating 3-3 draw I felt something. Something football hasn’t given me for a long time. The feeling I had scoring a goal on the patch of grass outside our house in 1982. The feeling I felt when Hyde scored against Stalybridge one Boxing day in the mid 80′s. The overwhelming gut churning tingle I remember the first time I climbed up the steps of the Stretford End and saw the green, green grass of Old Trafford. Joy.
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