Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why football saddens me

Through the eyes of a 7 year old the football bungs "scandal" makes no sense at all.

"The Bolton manager was on the news. He was going to be manager of England. And he's done something bad, what has he done Daddy?"

I tried to explain, but couldn't. But then the wider world of professional football doesn't make much sense any more. The lads have Top Trumps cards with transfer fees on.

You try and encourage a basic sense of fair play. Don't cheat, don't gloat, don't foul, enjoy success, live with defeat, I say. It is good to be loyal to your mates and support your team. I'm glad they seem to be coping with this.

I can explain to a tearful 5 year old why Craig "I love this place and owe everything to Mark Hughes" Bellamy has left Blackburn Rovers for Liverpool. We understand that although I have a rude name for Lucas Neill "football genius" - irony intended - I don't want him to leave. They know too that Shefki Kuqi was a blunt instrument, but he never stopped trying.

Football has always been like this, players coming and going; we get over it, but there's something deeply wrong and missing from the soul of the game these days.

At an under 7's football tournament this summer there were parents from other schools screaming and shouting like they were Stuart Pearce, or Sam Allardyce. All the usual Andy Grayisms "drop deep", "hit him", "switch it". It was horrible. Our lot - St Mary's Marple Bridge - were much more sedate. Our number even included an ex-pro footballer and a national martial arts coach (so I fancied our chances if it kicked off). But they know about enjoyment and sport and exercise and encouragement so we just tried to cheer with moderate enthusiasm. They didn't concede a goal all day, and won the cup. The losing team's kids were in tears. No kid should feel that sense of failure. It's meant to be enjoyable.

I've no real conclusion to these unrelated tales, just a sense of sadness. I long for tales of heroism and examples of skill. Who are Hyde United playing this weekend?

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