393 - Football is a rotten game | Scoins.net | DJS

393 - Football is a rotten game

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The so-called 'beautiful game' is, I'm afraid, not even good-looking. ¹  I refer to soccer, association football; I disagree with everyone who tells me I ought to know what 'football' means and that there is only one such game of that name; they need to get out (of the country, but it's a bit late now) more. Association football is played by 250 million players in 200 countries. It has the highest tv audience in the world. ²

I'm afraid I do not think football is a good game. For several reasons, but most of all because I see it as making cheating acceptable. Apparently, judging from commentary, one 'earns' a foul (free kick, penalty, etc). Every decision by the match officials is disputed and it seems to me that this disagreement is largely automatic. I call that a bad game.

Now, some of this behaviour has been worse and there are, I hope, counter-examples to anything I choose to point at, so it doesn't happen all of the time. But just the occasional exception does not disprove whatever is considered normal and acceptable. Having tried to watch matches at national and international level, I am often disappointed, having decided to watch in the hope of seeing excellence in sport. What I see each time is cynical. Cheating, it would appear, is okay when my side gets away with it, but not when yours does. For an example, look at France v Australia in the 2018 world cup. Better still, don't bother; Aussies like their sport hard but fair, possibly gladiatorial, so the Gallic shrugs at a successful conning of the officials (and a consequent win) doesn't exactly wash well. 

The politest term is gamesmanship and I want none of it.

 I can understand that some people feel the need to be tribal, especially if the team they are supporting is the one that applies to where they live. I accept that being a supporter (and at the match) can engender passions that do not otherwise occur in the normal week. But I do not excuse rage, nor abuse, nor violence. I would approve of celebration of good play (by the opposition). I am not at all happy that the police perception of a football crowd is that of a threat to public order and my own perception of the terraces is that being at a match is an unsafe activity. There is far too much attached alcohol; we observed several times that the pubs outside St James's (that's Newcastle) were full and very noisy at ten in the morning of a match; one assumed therefore that by the time the match began there would be no margin remaining for any self-control — and that such behaviour, therefore, was not only normal but deliberate.

Part of the problem is the desperation to win. That is fuelled by money, but it is also a fundamental to the so-called culture of football. Winning is apparently so important that one will do anything to make it occur. 'Whatever it takes' very easily encompasses cheating and so it becomes part of the game. 

And that, precisely, is where the game loses my support. When football decrees that cheating is acceptable, I want nothing to do with it. There are several other sports that bring people into competition and often competition for a ball. Basketball is very difficult to play without collision with others and there is a rule that basketball should be a non-contact sport. In hockey, one cannot tackle from behind so if chasing a player who has the ball you have to overtake to an extent so as not to be penalised for a bad tackle. In rugby, which celebrates being a contact sport, the very degree of contact means that people are surprisingly careful to make that contact safe; in this game the referee is given significant respect and has a profound effect of the standard of play in a game. These examples do not make these sports unwatchable. Mind, there's nothing about basketball that appeals to me. The element of close physical competition does not demand disregard for the rules. Fair competition doesn't prevent people being passionate, and a typical rugby crowd will react badly to perceptions that the game as they understand it is not being played correctly, but the respect for the rules and the officials generally trumps those aspects of society that mean 'win at any cost'. The cynical foul in rugby is still a sufficient cause for me to (probably) abandon a game. This, for me, is the point at which a sport is seen to fail.

I enjoyed some of the Ladies (football) World Cup: people hit the ground, rolled over and got straight back into play. Towards the end of the competition I saw the same flaws as occur in the men's game and, sure enough, found myself reaching for the off switch. The ladies game showed skills, I could see what was being attempted. In the men's game I don't see that and this, very quickly means that, however many times I may try to watch a game, I rarely get beyond ten minutes.


For some, football is damn nearly a religion. If you're a dedicated fan, the belief in My Team is high and the hope starts building on Thursday and peaks during the match. A win leaves a high that may fade on Wednesday, just in time for the build-up of hope for the next match. Yet surely, across a number of seasons, the losses will roughly equate to the wins. If draws were neutral in score and emotion then the total effect is equal joy and misery. More, across the nation, if my joy is at the expense of your misery, this is a zero-sum game. It would be very much better if football gave joy despite a lost match, if a draw could be looked upon as something of a win for both sides; then we would have a net gain across a year.

I grew up in Tyneside and my perception was that a section of the 'supporters' were looking for emotional release each weekend. Sadly, that released emotion was too often rage and my perception was that there were people who went to matches with the specific aim to do damage, to have a fight, to get drunk, to not-care. This is see preserved in our binge culture and I am tempted to blame both the drink industry and the football industry for this prevalent attitude.

I find the volume of spend on football quite horrendous. Yes, I know it is seen as choice and I do hope that this is exactly right. A season ticket is, 2021, between £350 and  £800. It's not much less to watch every game on tv. Your season ticket is for home games and away games will cost, typically £20-30 per game, though the league itself says the average ticket price was £14.08 in 2015. So if you go to every match, just the tickets will be a bit more than twice your season ticket. Then you add for travel, and, while you'd have eaten and drunk if you'd stayed at home, the choices of food and drink are probably going to be more than you'd have spent otherwise. If you go to the pub, even if to the pub to watch the game, I expect you'd have drunk less if you'd done something different. I can see that just watching home matches and joining in with the passion of the neighbouring fans might well imply a budget of £1k per year and easily twice that if you went to even half the away matches. How costs rise thereafter depends, I think on how you travel (club coach? Own car?), how far you succumb to the demon drink and the extent to which you see the need for club clothing (etc, etc).

I cannot imagine finding anything vicarious worthy of such outlay. I have difficulty thinking of matters participatory that might run up such costs and still be acceptable. If I were to run in a race every weekend I might spend a similar amount across a year and I might even persuade myself of the value of an equivalent amount of travel. But that would suggest that, as a competitor, I was also nudging into the standard of those who might well be subsidised to attend a meeting. And, in order to be able to race every week, one would be training daily and directing so much of waking life to the sport that it would seem that the sport rules one's life. This then, is what the football fan describes.

I don't get it. Really, I don't. I want to do it myself. Yes, I might appreciate sight of a true expert, but not often.


But it is the acceptability of cheating that crosses the line.  I think I can go further; as we have come to recognise that some will look at their heroes (footballers, no doubt) as role models and at their chosen sport as some sort of aspirant objective, if we applaud or even only tolerate cheating–the doing anything to win—then we don't actually win at all; we lose as a society.

We have had this exemplified by recent politicians, who succeed in denying things they have said or done, whose opinions and decisions are as durable as the next spell of weather and for whom words like honesty, integrity and probity are labels they'll cheerfully claim to uphold, while simultaneously demonstrating utter disregard for the proper meaning of those words. And we let them get away with it, because somehow we've decided to agree that winning is all and how you get to win is, apparently, irrelevant.


I'm sorry, but I don't want to be in that world. I choose, therefore to not-watch football. I choose to decry politicians in general and in specifics and I choose to live by other standards.


DJS 20220912





Top pic: Blue shirt pulling white shirt. Chiellini pulling Saka

[1]  White strip on ground. from https://soccer.nbcsports.com/2017/05/28/epic-fake-injury-mars-hungarian-league-title-match/. This is Lazovic trying to 'earn a foul'.

[2]  Cheating. Review page. https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=football+players+cheating&&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwjJ-aCQsI_6AhUbg84BHYQEBGkQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=football+players+cheating&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQAzoECAAQQzoFCAAQgAQ6BggAEB4QBToGCAAQHhAIUKwSWJYkYL8uaABwAHgAgAFPiAHgBZIBAjExmAEAoAEBqgELZ3dzLXdpei1pbWfAAQE&sclient=img&ei=SDYfY8m1EJuGur4PhImQyAY&bih=574&biw=716#imgrc=6nNkaizdMVeSkM

[3]  https://www.vice.com/en/article/nek83w/is-cheating-in-soccer-more-acceptable-in-some-countries-than-others

[4] https://www.tuxtra.co.uk/the-real-cost-of-being-a-football-fan

[5] football is a religion.  Essays

https://tamarasfootballmosaic.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/football-as-a-religion/

 https://www.ukessays.com/essays/religion/classifying-sport-as-religious-in-postmodern-times-religion-essay.php

https://www.termpaperwarehouse.com/essay-on/Sport-And-Religion/312119   pretty good, 2000 words

https://www.termpaperwarehouse.com/essay-on/Argumentative-Essay-Can-Sport-Be-A-Religion/A87EA2CF8398120E not quite as good.

...and others. I'm not going to compete. Winning is not that important and I would rather you read these than for me to write very much the same and not as well. Actually, judging by the number of essays, I'd giess this has been set as an essay topic quite often. Actually, having now read some of those essays, there is little competition, since they are surprisingly awful.

One might consider what makes a religion, and their good and bad points both now and historically.

Then one should consider what aspects of any sport fulfill thiose criteria, particularly football. And then to wonder what aspects of religion are displaced by sport, so that the social aspects of religion (and Christianity in particular) are displaced by sport (again, specifically football).

We might easily deny that football has any theology. But then what is theology, but old stuff written about intentions of the believers? If that is true, then there are endless column miles written every week. Football is folllwed with great devotion.

Religions in general have caused many wars and an awful lot of death, arguably more than any other cause of war. Religions have done very little good and an awful lot of harm to women. And gays, LGBTQ..., etc. Football does more good (about gender) than religion, no contest.

There's a decent variety of respnse on Quora. https://www.quora.com/Is-football-somehow-related-to-religion.





1. HE Bates newspaper article 1952. http://www.hebatescompanion.com/sites/default/files/cx131.Pdf. Stuart Hall used it fro 1958 in commentary. Also Pelé's autobiography, 1977. 

2.  Funnily enough, football is top dog almost whichever version is played. In the US, more than a million play (American football) and 70,000 are professional; it has the highest attendances and the greatest revenue. Aussie Rules is the highest spectator sport in Oz, and Gaelic football has the biggest attendances in Ireland. Rugby football is the most popular sport in NZ, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa (and called just 'football').


(wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Footbal

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