Tag Archives: football

On Making Sport Less Boring

I have very little time for sport and know little about it – though a working knowledge of cricket is a useful survival mechanism in a house where the person in charge is obsessed with the game. So I have no particular argument with attempts to make cricket and football more interesting.

We learn that FIFA, the world football governing body, wants to make the goal posts higher and wider because people are becoming bored with goalless draws, especially Americans. That is, according to an apparently serious piece on R4’s Today programme.

On the same day the new boss of the England and Wales Cricket Board wants test matches to run over four days, rather than five. Again, Americans have difficulty getting their heads around matches that last five days and end in a draw.

Yes, yes, I know, the first is an April Fool. The second appears to be serious, and is on the ECB’s official website. Both seem eminently sensible to someone like me, who cannot conceive of sitting through a five-day test match and can’t see the point of watching 22 people kicking a ball around a field to no great consequence. Who cares which one is the April Fool?


On Football, And Yobbery

Apparently some Chelsea fans have been filmed racially abusing a black man on the Paris Metro. And attacking him.

This has caused shock and condemnation in the world of football. The word ‘unacceptable’ is being used. ‘Unacceptable’ is one of those verbal signifiers that means, we don’t approve of this but we don’t know what to do about it. So we’ll just say it is unacceptable. That will do.

Most football fans are probably decent enough people. Some are not. I have been to two football matches in my life, which is two too many. One was in about 1967. Chelsea against Newcastle. Dull game, but I was astonished at the verbal abuse from fans. Someone gets hacked down by a Chelsea player. ‘He’s a good bloke, no reason to penalise him.’ Someone gets hacked down by a Newcastle player. ‘Send him off.’

The second was when I was living in Cardiff, a ‘local Derby’ with Swansea. At their stadium. We walked out of the train station, heavily escorted by police, and went through a sort of caged tunnel to the stadium. Why? Because we had come from Cardiff, and otherwise the Swansea supporters would attack us.

I cannot begin to understand why I would be moved to attack, to harm, a fellow human being because he – or she? – supported another football team. I do not get it, this brutal tribal violence.

This is normal. You have to assume that a significant proportion of football fans are violent, racist scum. The game is run by mercenaries, populated by mercenaries, played by mercenaries. People with no allegiance to the clubs they play for, or the communities that those clubs exist in.

Just money, another example of too much money corrupting. (Yes I know, the quote is about the love of money. Do not lecture me about the Bible. It as Ash Wednesday.)

As it happens, some weeks after that Cardiff/Swansea Derby, I was at Twickenham, watching England vs South Africa. Sitting next to a very pleasant South African. We talked. ‘That was a good run by your guy.’ ‘That was a good try.’ Can’t remember who won, and it doesn’t really matter.

I know which game I prefer.

Violent, racist scum. Organised yobbery, driven by obscene amounts of money. The beautiful game.

On Football

France play Germany in the World Cup tonight. Some family history… In 1966 my mother arranged to take our family holiday on the west coast of France in July. The implications sank in on my father rather late in the day.

He was reduced to sneaking off to bars to watch the games while we went to the beach. He watched the final along with a crowd of Frenchmen, all of whom were cheering on Germany. At one stage he found one who was willing to speak to him – my father is of the generation who communicated with foreigners by shouting at them in English.

Why the Germans? Ah, monsieur, but the English team went through at the expense of France earlier in the World Cup. This was, as I said, 1966. A mere two decades before, the French had good reason to cheer les Anglais, rather than les Boches. My father chose not to point this out. Perhaps the French have short memories.