Football has long been regarded now as the new rock music,the cool thing that everyone wants to be associated with. Whether it be Brand Beckham and his wee pal Tom Cruise,or Shakira loved up with Gerard Pique,the game-and the attention it receives-is a phenomenon. Few top footballers are ever seen without a piece of eye candy these days-Abi Clancy,for instance,may never have discovered what a warm,genuine person Peter Crouch is had they both been born thirty or forty years earlier-but it is all to the good.
Because let’s face it,thirty or forty years ago,the average football fan-that’s you and me,folks,and our pals-were looked upon with disdain and contempt. Mention that you were a football supporter in polite society and you might as well not have existed. We were herded by the police wherever we went,charged ridiculous prices by British Rail for “Football Specials” on rolling stock which would have been bettet preserved for the TV productions to use on “Downton Abbey”.Or even “1917”
I remember,even as recently as 1994,getting,erm,no thanks whatsoever from my then girlfriend and her parents for taking their cricket-loving privately educated son to see his first game. He had told me,when he found out that I was Celtic daft,that he really loved Everton but it doesn’t matter anyway as football wasn’t really a thing in their family. So I took him to Wimbledon v Everton for his 16th. Went over to Caterham to pick him up and took him back afterwards. Bought him his first pints of Guinness too,in The Fox and Hounds-now a good Celtic pub.
Everton were three up at half-time,and won 3-2. We were in the wrong bloody end for the goals,but it didn’t wreck his day! Brilliant stuff,and that’s what football is all about. The anticipation,the routine of meeting pals or family,the predictions,the beer,the camaraderie. Oh,the whole kit and caboodle,to the extent that the actual game becomes something of a sideshow.
Except that it doesn’t! We kick every ball,we shout-‘Man on!’-and a lot worse at the players. We cheer every piece of brilliance or even adequacy depending on who you are watching,and then we talk about it afterwards in the pub,probably the following day and definitely the next time we meet up.
And the special,treasured moments? Well,we can talk about them any time and all the time! Because that’s what football was to us when we were growing up,and to us it still is. We were and are Football Supporters,despite all the shite that we had to endure,the sneers from our peers,the treatment by the authorities,the frankly Third World facilities that existed in most grounds.
We were Football Supporters. And we supported football. Literally. Without us paying our money and giving up a lot of time,the game that we love would have collapsed.
The problem is that football is no longer interested in the dinosaurs like us. They have consigned their dark and distant days of ramshackle stadia and cowpatch bogs to a footnote in history and embraced the glam and glitz of the 21st Century,despite having taken ninety-odd years to even make it into the 20th Century. Remember how we all sat slack-jawed in the early 80s watching American Football on Channel 4,amazed at the facilities on offer and wondered why we couldn’t get them here?
Wonder no more. We got that,everything except the cheerleaders and the mobile beer taps. We even got the multi-camera coverage of the games. But forty years ago,it cost me £2 to watch Johnnie Doyle and co put Real Madrid to the sword. I’d be lucky to get change from a fifty for the corresponding fixture nowadays. It probably cost me ten bob for the scarf I was wearing that night too,the only thing any football supporter in those days needed to identify him as just that. Now,we have a superstore offering a plethora of replica jerseys-why the hell do we need three jerseys a season,and why do we have to change ALL of them every year?-and the number of fans who feel naked without one when they enter a ground never ceases to amaze me.
And at £60 a pop for a piece of cheap nylon,I’ll stick to my scarf,thank you very much!
Football is now very much a global sport,and the explosion in income for the top clubs has been based on that. Teams go on tours to faraway lands,eager to allow absentee fans pay through the nose to watch a meaningless pre-season friendly against another top team from thousands of miles away with the same idea. Some sovereign states have even entered the arena by investing billions into underperforming clubs from big cities,like Paris St Germain and Manchester City. The latter can be beautiful on the eye,and in David Silva they have probably my favourite non-Celt this century,but it all detracts from the ethos of the game. That glory is achieved on merit and not on who can afford to buy the best players. Success used to be cyclical due to a number of factors converging or diverging at the same time,now it is a self-perpetuating exponential curve,with the rich clubs getting richer through their success on the pitch,and those riches enabling them to buy in order to maintain that success. And so it goes…
But does it? Or will,to paraphrase a 1980s NME journalist,football eat itself? I think we are on the verge of just that,beginning with the ludicrous decision to give the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. That a country with such an appalling record on human rights was even allowed to put itself forward is bad enough. That they expect players to play in temperatures of 40C is simply crazy stuff. But that hasn’t stopped Qatar using this Award as a means to further their ambitions in the game,no sir. This week,they play host to-wait for it…
The Spanish Supercopa!!!
Honestly,I had to check the date when I read this stuff. Spain’s top four teams-Atletico,Real,Barcelona and Valencia-are playing a mini-tournament over there in a three year deal worth €40m a season. It has really captured the interest of the Spanish public too-to the extent that the four clubs have sold less than one thousand tickets between them. And I can see a similar enthusiasm for a World Cup in a country which will ‘relax’ its strict laws against alcohol,but hardly to the extent of setting up fan zones and letting people enjoy themselves. Ferried to and fro from a fleet of luxury cruise ships anchored offshore.
Lisbon in 2017 it ain’t,lads. No staggering home from Pink Street at 6am if any of you are daft enough to go.
Is this the first sign that the fans are finally fed up with the money-go-round? What about another ridiculous notion,this one from closer to home. Fancy going to the South Wales Derby,Cardiff City against Swansea? As you might have guessed,it is live on Sky at noon on Sunday. And the police in Wales have said that it is a high risk game,and have acted accordingly.
So Swansea fans will only be allowed tickets if they travel on designated coaches which will leave Swansea at 745am. The cities are only about fifty miles apart,so I have no idea what the fans are expected to do for three hours before kick off. I doubt they will be allowed into the local Wetherspoon early-opener,that’s for sure. The worst part,of course,is that plenty of Swansea fans live in Cardiff in the first place,so they face a 200-mile journey just to watch a match being played out their back door!
The game nowadays is riddled with examples like the above,where quite simply a lust for money has taken over the agenda to the exclusion of all that once had it termed The Beautiful Game. We welcomed the bright new dawn of attractive new stadia,with modern and up to date facilities,even as we bemoaned the hike in prices and the fact that we had to sit to watch a game which is designed to get people on their feet. But it wasn’t all good in The Good Old Days- the fact that you were allowed to take a carry-out into the ground only made up for the shocking toilets,for instance. That what toilets there were available were actually a health hazard-and situated next to the pie stalls at Celtic Park!-was just how it was. There was little or no attempt to clean it up,make it a more user friendly experience. You went tae the fitba for the reasons I stated above,but what you had to endure during the game made you question your sanity at times.
Yes,football has sold its soul. That much is clear to me. Sporting achievement and financial advancement go hand in hand,with the latter taking the lead. And Celtic,like every other club,is jostling for a place in the first class compartment of The Megabucks Express,even as the conductor queries the validity of our ticket. And everyone on board has forgotten one simple fact-that football is nothing without the fans! Looking at the above examples-and there are a great many more,of course-you have to wonder if it is really worth the effort.
Above article by BMCUWP. Don’t sell your soul for money,folks. Send us an article instead,and we’ll print it FOR FREE as Article of the Day!