In some ways its never been easier to be a football fan. The sport has grown to encompass all around us. Ministers and princes fight for football to be played in their country. Turn on the tv and you can find a football game on most days of the week. You have Match of the Day, Sky Soccer Saturday, ESPN. You can follow your team through the newspapers, through the radio and of course through the always growing influence of the internet. If your team doesn't make it onto Sky this week you can throw on your computer, hook up to a stream in the US, the Middle East or Asia and find somewhere that's playing it.
Then don't forget the merchandise, you can show your love for your team by snapping up the latest jerseys, hats, scarves, your favorite players boots, even club branded rubber duckies for bath time to really show your support in the tub. And again with the internet you're hooked in to the never ending, always interesting football debate. Right here your average football fan can open up a page and write about the sport he love for tens of people to read it! No training (or talent says you!) required. We are living in the modern age where football is as much a part of our life, maybe even more, than religion, friendship, possibly even family. It's my club, my wife, my kids in that order right?
And yet the more this footballing world grows around me the more my love for the game seems to sap away. Or at least a part of it. With the ongoing debates about racism, every day is filled with a rising shock at the way the real football world works. There has always been racism in the game but I foolishly thought that it was almost stamped out, or at least fought back to countries where maybe the culture had not yet evolved to meet the modern game. And then I hear Sepp Blatter, Gus Poyet and a stream of other players come out and make uninformed and dangerous statements about racism. Paul Ince, Trevor Sinclair and John Barnes all defended John Terry for what he said to Anton Ferdinand when they along with all footballers of all colours, creeds and religions should be condemning any type of racist comment. Yes, when Blatter proved, once again, what an out of touch dinosaur he is there was some backlash, the British journos condemned it and called for his head, there was some half hearted complaints from some leading footballers but even now its starting to die out. The European media barely touched it, the players are getting back to what they do best...
And what is that? Playing football? Maybe not. The modern footballer is as depressing a thought as anything else in this game. They are paid unbelievable sums but money has never bought loyalty. They are as loyal as their agent lets them, they love the fans as much as their PR man tells them to. They put up this public face that is consequently ripped apart by scandal. And when it doesn't go their way they simply throw their toys out of the pram like one Carlos Tevez, a man making the kind of money in a week that you'll never see in ten years who is simply ready to cry and sulk and try and a fight a club and a set of fans who idolised him. The modern footballer has been seperated from football fans, put up on another pedestal and now many think they are Gods among mere mortals, a law unto themselves. There are exceptions, but there should always be a doubt in the back of your mind, is this player really an exception? Or just one with a better PR guy then the rest.
Speaking of laws, can anyone explain to me why nothing has been done to fix the out of date rules that plague football. Watch any big match, hell any match and after the result is decided somebody will blame a ref who missed a handball, sent a player off wrongly, should have given five, no ten penalties to their team! And this is allowed happen because FIFA, and the national FAs are too afraid to rock the boat and try something new. Is video technology the answer? Maybe. Maybe not. But there's literally thousands of other ideas that will help every facet of football if those who ran it just looked past their own greed for one moment and spent some time fixing the game, because I'm tired of not talking about the players but talking about the refs and what mistakes where made and what results could have, should have, would have been different.
Is this the growing belief amongst football fans?
But lastly, the real thing hurting my love for this game, is the fans. When Patrice Evra accused Luis Suarez of making racist comments there was one sensible response "Wow, thats horrible, hopefully its a misunderstanding, but if not the FA need to take this matter seriously and deal with it.". But thats not what we got, instead on one side you had a group calling Suarez a racist with no evidence and on the other side you had a vile group of people, who lied, cried and abused. I've seen some comments on Twitter that almost made me want to log off or delete it, never to return. Not to me, but to people giving well thought out arguements. The response they received, insults, threats, is this what football fans are? An unruly mob? So loyal to their own clubs that they will treat anyone who questions one of their own with the most disgusting abuse that I've ever seen. If this is what being a modern fan is about, I want off.
But there is hope, foolishly maybe. Today club football returns and for ninety minutes I will turn off Twitter, Facebook and everything else. I'll put down the papers, forget about Blatter, corruption and opposition fans. I'll get behind my teams praying for a win, kicking every ball with them, heading every clearance. Living through them, loving every moment. And for ninety minutes my love of football will be right there for everyone to see and I wouldn't change it for a second. We'll always love this game, for all of its flaws, because when the players are on the pitch with that pigs bladder there's nothhing else like it. This is modern football.
One other thing, despite this rant of anger and outrage at football, I will say there have been few times I have been happier with football then when Ireland qualified for the Euros. The current team is a great bunch, not unbelievably talented but hard working and loyal. The success they've had is unbelievable. And I must admit when Trappatoni gave his interview on the Friday night with tears of happiness streaming down his face, I wasn't far behind them. The team won't be going to Polkraine to make up the numbers. Win? The chances are unbelievably slim but we will give anyone a game and with a bit of luck who knows how far the team can go. The players, the manager and the fans deserve this. Come on you boys in green!!
If you've liked what you read or feel the need to abuse me on Twitter you can: @David_TPL
And of course, comments, criticisms and contempt is always greeted with a smile (and an arguement back) down below in the comment section.
Enjoy the weekend football, because Monday it'll all be back to serious business.
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