The Beauty of the Beautiful Game

Football is just overpaid wankers running around kicking a ball into a goal. Obviously that is the typical view from someone who doesn’t support the beautiful game. And anyone who says that is right. Most (not all) players are egotistical cocks who are given far too much money for what they do. If you read Ian and Joe’s blogs on the subject, you’ll see everyone has a different humble opinion. If you missed them, one was about a pasty, and the other about Barnsley.

Although I agree with Ian’s view to some extent that fans are fickle, sucking on the teat of greedy fat cats who charge them extortionate amounts of money to exploit their dreams of watching their beloved team, football is also more than that. Joe agrees in saying that football has nothing to do with the individual; it’s all about the brand. Again, true. I couldn’t care less about the player in the shirt; it’s all about the badge on the shirt. BUT IT’S STILL SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!

There are only two things in life that bring people together. One is music, the other is sport. Now, I’m a Liverpool fan (no jokes, please) and football is the only thing in the world that can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and bring me to tears, all at the same.

Football is more than a religion, it’s a lifestyle. I love football. I love the movement of players and the antics of managers. I love the passion in each and every fan. I love the passion for the badge and for club and country. I love the songs we sing and the electricity of noise before the game. I love the way the ball moves and the players connect in unison. Football brings people together, across religious divides, geographical divides, and political divides. For 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, people can forget about whatever might be going on in their lives and come together in such frightening numbers and passion. Give me something else that can do that on a weekly basis?

I remember my first Liverpool game as a kid; Liverpool FC vs. Derby County at Anfield in the 1998/99 season. At the tender age of 8, with a newly bought Liverpool scarf around my neck on a crisp autumn afternoon, my Dad took me on a bus filled with Liverpool fans down to Anfield. Now, if you don’t know Anfield, it’s situated in the middle of a rundown block of terrace houses (one of the many reasons why I love the place). There’s nothing fancy about the surroundings, it’s pure, and raw. It takes about 20 minutes to walk up to the ground, weaving in and out of gridlocked traffic, passing by propped up stands selling tacky memorabilia and match day programmes. There’s a buzz around the place, a certain amount of electricity charged by ever optimistic and passionate supporters. This is all before you’ve even made it into the ground. When you finally make it in, it invigorates your senses to a sensational level. There’s the sight of your favourite players, the smell and taste of freshly cooked chips, the touch of annoyingly hard plastic seats, and the sound of the tanoid system blaring out the games starting line up. Then you sing your heart out until you go blue in the face, riding the roller-coaster of emotions through a game of magic and despair.

90 minutes later we lost 2-1 courtesy of the greatest ever Costa Rican player to every grace the Premier League, Paulo Wanchope. My Dad apologised for letting my first Liverpool experience end in defeat but I didn’t care. At 8 years old, I didn’t quite understand why I didn’t care that, but now I do; blinding love for my brand. If that makes me a fool then so be it. After the game, everyone files out of the ground, heading back to their cars for the long journey home. Yes, they might moan and complain about the referee, the incompetent manager and the player who had an absolute shocker but what do they do? They come back next Saturday and do it all again. Why? Because life is football and football is life. And that is why it’s called the beautiful game.

Elliot Needham

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