Football – The (Not So?) Beautiful Game
For those, like myself, who have grown up accustom to the concept of football and finance going hand-in-hand, you may have somebody in your life that resembles my Father. My Dad was a pure-blooded football fan, with a love for the game just like you and I. He was football mad. But nowadays, his interests have become completely nulled; supporting our boyhood club, Aston Villa, has become a chore, the Premier League (in his eyes) is a monstrous mutation of the ‘true’ English game and Sky Sports is an enterprise that has seen watching football become a boring regularity – rather than a novelty.
But I have always seen football nowadays as being at its peak. For me, the game has never been played at such a generally high standard, with league football here in England being a prime example. In an attempt to show me the true ‘glory days’ of the English upper tier, my Dad played me a match from the 1970s on YouTube – Arsenal vs Derby County. As he sat there, completely infatuated by what unfolded before us, I watched on in disbelief. The so-called ‘pitch’ was 90% mud, the stands seemed an over-crowded nightmare and the standard of football was lesser than that seen on your local Sunday League pitch. It was infuriating to watch the ball launched defence-to-defence without any sense of creating something remotely aesthetically pleasing.
In the modern day however, it is a completely different story. The game thrives on skilfulness, pace, technique and creativity, something that cannot be said for the majority of matches that came before the 1990s (excluding the likes of the Total Football-playing Dutch sides, the iconic Brazil teams of the 1970s and other footballing mavericks). I have always believed that the beautiful game is more beautiful now than it ever has been.
On the pitch – this statement is without doubt correct. But off the pitch?
Of course not.
The situation was summed up rather refreshingly by PSG’s Marco Verratti, who recently received a staggering valuation himself: “I am not worth €100 million. We are just playing football. These amounts of money make me laugh. No one is worth that much”.
The transfer market is just one example of just how money-based the world of football has become. Don’t get me wrong, nobody enjoys watching deadline day unfold more than myself – it is one of the most exciting and unpredictable days in the footballing calendar. But the little Italian is right, it has definitely gone too far. Modern valuations of players are now almost comical – but the wicked influence of money doesn’t end there.
It has also been confirmed recently that Premier League teams will now look to host sleeve sponsors as well as those already presented on the torso of the strip. The heavily-mocked kits of Scandinavia, that are completely smothered with the names and slogans of local businesses don’t seem like a such a ludicrous idea within the current day and age here in England. Survival in the upper echelons of the English tiers is hugely dependent on financial capabilities, so those clubs that don’t necessarily have the merchandise output of some of the ‘superclubs’ that are amongst our ranks must do whatever is necessary to compete – even if it means tarnishing the most iconic aspect of any football club – the kit.
Footbal therefore, known previously as ‘the working man’s game’, is becoming increasingly distanced from those that make it so special. Football without the fans, is indeed, nothing, but is that only the view of those in the stands?
Nobody loves the sport more than myself. It has been my only true passion ever since I was able to climb the steps of the Holte End but maybe, just like much of our society, the time has come for it to stop being a tradition, novelty, and something that should be enjoyed for little expense – and become a business. But, if that perspective were to be taken, I suppose this is an inevitable process. It was bound to happen eventually.
Despite this, I believe football will only lose its identity if we allow it to. We as the fans are the heartbeat of the beautiful game, regardless of what it means to those in the ivory towers. Money has no place on the terraces – you can’t sponsor the unbridled emotions, invest in last-minute winners or partner the roar of the crowd, so if we as a unit ensure that it never loses its magic, the game of football will forever be ours – and indeed, beautiful.