Football. ‘O Jogo Bonito.’ The ‘Beautiful Game’. It is the vivacious personality of the world. Wherever you are there will always be a game going on at some level nearby. It may be 22 professional adults running around a stadium acting like kids, or perhaps 2 kids kicking a ball between jumpers for goalposts imitating their favourite professional adults. Either way they all share an infectious affection for football. But, did you ever wonder why we love it so much? This is what gives me the kicks….
I love that football is a school of continued education that has no wrong answers. I love the art of ball skills. The science of tactics. The mathematics of statistics. The philosophy of coaches. The economics of boardrooms. The technology of accessories. The music of debate.
I love that wearing the shirt and parading the colours is as important to the players as it is the supporters. I love that the players are supporters and that the supporters also play. I love that the badge invokes passion and necessitates dedication by all.
I love the dynamism of match day. The buzzing electricity. The player pointing and scarf waving is full bodied, the motivational advice and harmonic chanting is wholehearted.
I love the movement of the ball, how it’s caressed between players, and the way it rises and falls during the game just as the fans do in the stands and the luck of each team does over the course of a season.
The thing I love most about football is the way it unites everyone collectively regardless of religion, race, geography, gender, or politics. For an hour and a half on a Saturday afternoon an acre of turf becomes an alter where anyone is welcome to worship. Life’s worries are forgotten, at least until the final whistle, and everyone is invited to revel in the glory that is the shared celebration of society. Stadiums become cathedrals where idols are glorified and local parks turn in to battlefields where hearts are worn on sleeves and names are emblazed on backs.
7 billion people across 7 seas in 7 continents, and I don’t think any of them hasn’t heard of football or kicked a ball. More 8 year olds recognise a picture David Beckham than of Jesus, whilst the majority of people have heard of Maradona, Pele, and Zidane.
There are 2 million professional male football teams in the world (not including women, youths, reserves, or amateurs) and everyone has a favourite. 2 billion eyes watch football every day; they may not share the the team they love, but they do share the love for their team. A worthy fan applauds skill, cheers goals, bemoans defeats, never gives up believing or loses the pride of loving their chosen team.
Being the modern multi billion pound industry that football is, it comes with inevitable and regrettable scars that threaten to turn ‘the beautiful game’ in to an ugly one. From the minor issues of play acting and professional fouls, to the major ones of racism and match fixing; it all exists in football and potentially always will. It raises questions about how any sane individual can therefore ethically love football? Well, surprisingly it’s these negative controversies that provoke us, one large football family around the world, not to lose faith in a seemingly flawed sport, but to cure it’s diseases. We seem to be finally standing up to the bullies at FIFA and the cheats that corrupt our game.
Put simply, football is the most extensive, addictive, and diverse culture there has ever been and will ever be. As the great Bill Shankly said, “‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude….
….I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”