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Friday, 10 February 2012

What is happening to our beautiful game

When I was a kid, football was a simple game. It was something to be cherished and enjoyed. It was about my team being better than yours, our players being more skilful than yours, our stadium being louder than yours. It was something that kept you going through the school week, knowing your team was playing that weekend. If your team won then you’d go into school the next day with a smile on your face, if you lost then you tried to fake being ill so you wouldn’t have to face all the mocking.

But in recent times it feels like football is losing its soul. People are forgetting what the game is all about. It’s a 90-minute match played between 22 men that try to kick a ball into a net, it’s as simple as that. But it’s poisoned; the arguments rage and the insults are never-ending.

Arguing about football is natural and it’s part of the reason we love the game but we should be arguing about who’s the better player, which goal took the more skill or whether a manager played the right team. It shouldn’t be about referees and lambasting them because they made an honest error. It happens to all of us. Players and managers make mistakes all the time but never receive the same criticism as referees.

Then there’s the racism issues, a plague that’s threatening to destroy everything I believe in. It beggars belief to see a football club defending a player for making a racist remark and claiming he’s done nothing wrong or to see a manager defending his crowd from booing a player who was the recipient of a racist remark. What is this? Because it certainly isn’t sport.

Tell me, if a man walked up to another guy in the street and kicked him because “he is black”, would people defend him? Of course not! But because it’s football, fans feel they must defend their players or their team no matter what. Then it results in more arguing, more name-calling, more racist remarks. It’s not pleasant at all.

If one of my players was accused and found guilty of racism or violent conduct or anything along those lines then I’d want him banned and taught a lesson. Ignorance is no excuse, because it was in the “heat of the moment” is no excuse. Tell that to the people who have been tortured and killed because of the colour of their skin. This is football, a game, it was invented so people could have fun.

The problem isn’t a single manager or player or even a club, it’s the staggering mass of people who actually feel something like racism is acceptable because their player did it. The fact that they’ll defend him tooth and nail and not for one second dare to consider the possibility that their player, their hero, was actually in the wrong. It’s understandable to support your players and your club but there’s a line. After all, football is not only a sport, we’re talking about people’s lives.

Money is another evil that is threatening to turn football into a soulless sport. Millions and millions, even billions, of pounds are being exchanged and wasted without anyone battering an eyelid. It’s sad, but will only get worse.

I love arguing about football, who doesn’t, but not like this. You have to ask yourself, what is happening to football? Songs mocking the dead, fans aggressively arguing with each other over a refereeing decision or a four-year-old kid believing calling someone a “negro” is alright because one of his heroes said it.  It’s a sad state of affairs, all the pleasure of football is gradually seeping. Something needs to be done, and quickly.

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