Tag Archives: Football

Parental Advisory

Happy and Glorious for now…..

Yes I got suckered in.  Admit it you did too.  All the chat about the low expectations of the England football team perversely got my hopes up.  I blame David Beckham too.  I was quite happily ignoring all the build up to Brazil until his journey of self-discovery  up the Amazon, and  who could resist a  beautiful man bearing his soul as he exposed that H&M underwear model bod.  Well I am only human.

So I was in, I couldn’t get enough of the stories from the Favelas.  Of the mum Rosie who provided so much love and fun for her children whilst living on the rubbish dump that also the workplace.   I was very humbled by the simple easter egg hunt of hens’ eggs wrapped in  old newspaper she created that resulted in unmistakable glee from her children.   Despite living in abject poverty their smiles lit up the screen when describing the game and the full belly from the feast afterwards.  It is easy to generalise but we seem to dissatisfied so easily by our lot in the first world. Spoilt in fact.  Each of us little emperors stamping our foot when the smallest whims don’t go in our favour.

I had paid such scant attention to the World Cup this year I found myself on the wrong side of the politics too.  An expression on Facebook of my mounting excitement found me told in no uncertain terms that this World Cup was an abomination to the poor of Brazil who couldn’t eat a football to survive.  A quick lesson via very funny British comedian (but on US tv)  outlining everything that was wrong with Fifa soon put me straight.

I do wonder how Fifa can get away with it, especially the Budweiser Bill.  It does all look “a bit arrogant”  Fifa official.

But despite all of this, the night of the first England match I was football crazy again.   The previous matches had been so exciting, so full of drama and goals I was getting lured in. Brazil, Mexico, Holland, Spain, France, Ivory Coast.  Every night  a mouth-watering prospect that didn’t disappoint.  N and I had been faithfully completing the wall chart.    Already I couldn’t imagine a night without a game.  I certainly didn’t want to miss a minute of our first match even at 11.00 on a Saturday  night.  My  expectations were low but in my heart, well before that first whistle anyhow, my hopes were flying high.

Surely  Roy’s young team would rise the occasion and do us proud.

So we lost the first match.  This is England, we like to make things difficult for ourselves don’t we?  We could come back from this defeat.  We had played well, we were just lucky and it was with these thoughts I prepared to watch the match with the children.  H has been enjoying watching football more and I had been sharing with him my wealth of knowledge which was mainly watching One night in Turin the superb documentary about our glorious campaign in Italia 90.  That tournament had started uncertainly too. Everything was going to be ok.    H & N were excited.  We had put a flag up both in the car and the house.  N was flag-waving during the national anthem, which I was singing lustily.  My children had the football bug, and I had encouraged and delighted in it and we were in for a fun happy night.

Well you know how it goes.  Lost again.  My son shouting at tv… Ref Ref how can you not see that as the Uruguay player stuck his arm at Sterling’s windpipe… These Uruguay players are so dirty.   The hope of the Rooney’s equaliser, abject the despair when Suverz scored again with 5 minutes or so to the end of the match.  The desperate last minute ultimately futile English scrabbles to get another goal.  The pleading deals being offered up to an indifferent God during last minutes of injury time.  “I will not have a chocolate again this week if England scored”  The gutting blow in the heart and solar plexus when the final whistle blows.

What was I thinking?  I was used to this torture.   I was a resigned, cynical, battle hardened England (and Leeds) fan.  I knew this would be how the story would end.   But my innocent children, they knew nothing of this, they were babes in arms.  What was I thinking exposing them, nay actively encouraging them, inviting this pain into their lives.   This was a kin to letting my children watch a video nasty.  I monitor my children’s internet use.  I tried very hard to shield my children from any none-age inappropriate viewing.  Hell I have even spoken to my soon to be a teenager son about how corrosive porn would be if he was exposed to it at this tender time of his life.  As I looked at them so down beat and dismayed I felt like I had ensnared them like the most diabolical drug dealer pushing a narcotic high that lasted for the first 20 minutes then would condemn the user to a life of never ending misery.

WHAT WAS  I THINKING?   I had wept for days when my favourite tennis player had been knocked out of Wimbledon at the same age.

I tried to show them the picture of distraught Gerrard being comforted by Suarez after the match as the true message from the game.  As history will attest, Suarez and his teeth has been somewhat discredited since that gesture of good sportmanship.   But it turns out that either my children weren’t quite so involved as I thought during the game, or had already an inbuilt immune system to England losing,  or they were much more resilient that I was at their age.  And now for the first time time since England went home so anonymously  I felt happy that I hadn’t shattered my children’s innocence.    Now then, all I need to know, who is the team to support for the rest of the tournament, Brazil or Germany?

Why I’m not singing any more

It’s the start of the football season and I can’t bear it. Another nine months of matches and results all more important than life and death, once my idea of heaven, now my personal hell.

I used to be in love with the beautiful game. Really I did, and I went into this with my eyes open.  I learnt from an early age there would be agony and ecstasy, that there was pleasure and pain in supporting a team. My dad, a dyed in the wool Leeds fan, sat me down to the 1973 FA Club, with high hopes, Revie’s boys were  favourites, it was going to be a joyful and celebratory 90 minutes. Except of course it wasn’t, was it. Nil nil until Sunderland scored in the second half, and it was their ribbons on the lifted cup not ours. I can still taste the disappointment now.  That was a lesson learnt the hard way, there are no dead certs in football.

But it wasn’t until Italia 90 that my interest grew to a passion. Nessum Dorma, the stadiums, the azzurros and their magnificent shirts the colour of the Adriatic (and the beautiful Paolo Maldini the male equivalent of Helena Christensen). The joy of watching football and drinking beer with family and friends. Young and living in London, I was completely seduced before the warm-up.

And then there was England, Bobby Robson and his legendary team. Lineker, Shilton, Beardsley, Pearce, Walker, Butcher, Platt, Parker et al.  Waddle and that mullet and of course Gazza.  The names trip off the tongue still.  A team who started off pretty ropey, scraping last-minute results but as the tournament progressed they grew closer and better as their tans got deeper and darker.

The drama of that semi-final night in Turin is seared in my soul now, almost part of my dna, that night of what might have been, what could have been. But what I remember more than anything else was that England played with pride, passion, committment, effort. They played their and our hearts out.

The years and tournaments passed, the glorious Euro 1996, with that goal of Gazza’s flicked over Hendry’s head in the bright sunlight. It is locked in my memories forever.  I always kept a watchful eye on Leeds but was the international games, with the country coming together and going football crazy, the red and white springing up in the most unlikely places that I loved most.

Until I took my dad to a Leeds game, Arsenal v Leeds 26 September 2002 for his birthday.   The roar of the Elland Road crowd as we took our seats just before kick-off was a rush like I had never experienced before. I felt the power of crowd, it felt like an animal hunting its prey, watchful, intense, exciting.  It was utterly and totally addictive.  I was completely hooked. Of course Leeds lost that day (4 – 1) and looking back I think it was the beginning of the end for Leeds, the previous game they had beaten the arch rivals Man U, but by the end of the season it took a wonder goal also by Harry Kewell against Arsenal to keep them from relegation.

It was at the end of the 2002/03 that the extent of Leeds’ financial problems were first revealed.  The Champions League Gamble had failed.  Leeds were living the nightmare.  More debt than the rest of the Premier League combined with the exception of Fulham and Chelsea.  Leeds’ troubles are well documented but the slow and steady decline, over the next few seasons, of the once mighty whites was like having your heart ripped out piece by piece.  Death by a thousand cuts.  The worse, most dysfunctional relationship I have ever been in.

Local sons being sold to save the club, I will never forget 28 December 2002, Leeds v Chelsea  when Jonathan Woodgate scored.  I was sat behind two young lads probably no older than 6 or 7.  Woody proudly emblazoned on the back of brand new replica shirts, no doubt very prized presents from Santa.  By the end of that Christmas transfer period, Woody had been sold to Newcastle for 9 million pounds.  Those cherished shirts redundant after only 2 weeks.

Sadly it isn’t just Leeds United Football Club that has experienced a gut-wrenching decline.  The international team is a shadow of its former self.  On paper we have this incredible team, the media goes into a frenzy, you dare to dream, could we do it this year?   But every tournament is more disappointing than the last.  Our so-called sporting heroes look more and more ordinary away as they get richer and richer at home.  Monthly millionaires, they give no appearance of pride, love or passion to be wearing that England shirt. Full of excuses and self-justification. They have destroyed my love of football.

On and now increasingly off the pitch they are a national embarrassment, tabloid fodder, they have no values, no respect for their families, I find it hard to see any redeeming qualities in any of them.  Even the ones you thought were actually ok, it turns out they just had better lawyers and Max Clifford on speed-dial.

The football hierarchy isn’t much better either.  I don’t think there is anyone in football today who would look to Sett Platter and his cronies as a shining example of moral guidance and advice.

Money has utterly corrupted and destroyed football in this country. As the Sky TV money poured in to the new Premier League, wage bills have gone north and the national game has gone south.  The Euro 96 was the last time we reached a semi final of an international tournament.  The last time the team had players brought through from the old league.  It is a very sad fact, clubs now need owners as rich as Croesus in order to be contenders.   The personal wealth and behaviour of footballers make them the equivalent of 18th Century Aristocrats, they are so completely out of our league financially and emotionally, accountable to no-one but themselves. The modern game has been become unsustainable, how can it when the colossal wage bills of the clubs have to be maintained and increased season on season? When only entry  into the highly lucrative European Football can keep a club afloat.  Where the same four or five teams complete yearly for all the silverware.

The peasants revolted in the 18th century when the divisions became too great, I long for a similar revolution in football today.  To bring football back to its grassroots for players and fans alike.  Maybe then I will sing again.

In addition:  I had written this blog before the unrest of the past few days, and now that I come to publish I think football really shows up the divisions in our society.  Tottenham, the starting point of the riot, is one of the poorest areas in the country and yet has the one of richest football clubs.  It is a contrast of Dickensian proportions. Where the most destitute, both financially and aspirationally, are existing cheek by jowl to the very richest.  This can not be the route to social cohesion.