Football is a passion of mine. I call it football because that is its name. It is NOT soccer. The American called it soccer so as not to get it confused with American Football, which predominantly involves the hands. It also shouldn’t be confused with our own Gaelic Bogball. It is football. It was conceived in England and, perfected in South America and processed to its strategic best in Holland. I love its drama, its passion, its artistry and its ability to stun even its harshest critics into a state of awe. Most of the people I know prefer rugby or hurling and, yes, they are both great sports but I just don’t think there is ever going to be the same level of close control skills in any other team sport. Of course, I’m going to get the usual, “ah fuck off, Cap’n. It’s a sissy’s sport” bullshit from people who only look at those professional footballers who give Oscar winning performances when a member of the opposition breathes on them but that is one small and unfortunate facet of the modern game. There is still much beauty to be derived.
People may point the finger at the likes of Christiano Ronaldo or Rivaldo as being drama-queens and forever miss the point because, if you watch those players and witness the utter skill they’ve developed, it really is something to behold even if they’re both wankers who roll around on the ground too much. No true football fan enjoys that shit and we’re not all thugs either so kindly stop generalising when you’re talking about football fans. The game has too often been marred by a small proportion of its supporters. Anyone who has taken the time to watch it, can never call it a shit sport. It’s simply magnificent.
Having said all that, however, it has seen better days. In fact, I think we’ve already seen the best of football because it is a sport truly in decline. The reason for this is not that there is more diving in the game. If anything, there is less these days. It’s not because of the now occasional spate of violence. It is in decline because the money to be made in the game has gone to epic proportions and the footballers themselves are mercenaries who never know when enough is enough.
Yesterday the Arsenal captain, Robin Van Persie, made a statement to the fans that he was not renewing his contract because he didn’t believe the club’s ambitions matched his own. This is, of course, absolute bullshit. He also stated that he is not motivated by money. Easily said when you have just turned down a £130,000.00 per week contract, along with various other sweeteners. Now, before you go thinking, “wait, he turned it down. That must mean he’s not motivated by money.” No, he knows he’ll be offered upwards of £200,000.00 per week at City, Utd, Juventus or Paris Saint Germain. Maybe even Chelsea but surely he wouldn’t go to another London club… would he?
My point here is that footballers are stupid fucking people. Not financially stupid, just generally stupid. The best players have been coveted since a very young age and are, by and large, blinded to reality. We won’t see the likes of Zidane, Zico, Maradonna, Messi, Ronaldo, Pele, and all the other true greats after a while because the richest clubs buy the best players so their youth players seldom get a chance.
This is in the face of clubs who actually try to do something to save football. Clubs like Arsenal, Southampton, Villa, Everton, Utd and, of course, Barcelona are famed for their academies but they are a dying breed. Arsenal, the team Van Persie accuses of having no ambition, have managed to build a new stadium and maintain consistent Champions League football by staying in the top four of the Premier League without lashing out anywhere near the kind of money and wages that the teams around them do. They also consistently invest in developing youth and this wanker accuses them of having no ambition? If anything they are the most ambitious club in the world because they seek to play the right kind of football within realistic financial constraints. What Van Persie actually means is, they don’t have enough money for his liking.
Man City bought the league last year and very nearly blew it anyway. That same season Arsenal, decimated by departures of the likes of Fabregas and Nasri - built a sold midfield, had an unbelievably shaky start to the season but still managed a third placed finish without breaking the bank or their financial rules. One could argue that their achievement in finishing third dwarfs City’s purchase of the league, but that’s another debate. Van Persie was a huge part in that push for third and, in doing so, added significantly to his value. It has been his best season in football because he’s normally injured. He is now almost 29 and past his best as a player and he is looking for one final big payday. I don’t blame him for that but why come out and publically humiliate the club that he claims to love and who made him the player he is? Well, because he’s stupid.
Let me make this clear; I am not an Arsenal supporter. I admire them a lot but I’m a fan of a different club. A club much lower down the food chain. but my point holds true. Very few footballers should be allowed to speak in public. Stewart Downing, when asked about his Aston Villa future at the end of April 2011, said, “I’m perfectly happy at this club. I love the fans and the staff and I will be a Villa player even if we are relegated. They stuck with me and supported me through my injury and I feel I owe them”.
I loved him for that comment. I loved him right up until the day the transfer window opened, six weeks later, and Liverpool came sniffing. Suddenly he is handing in a tranfer request at Villa and is saying, “I got into football to win things and I just don’t feel that’s going to happen at Villa”. Stewart Downing went to Liverpool for 20 million, scored no goals and assisted in the scoring of no goals. Stewart Downing is an idiot.
Christiano Ronaldo, when angling for a move from Utd to Real accused the Utd Hierarchy of keeping him as a slave. Yeah, Christiano; a slave on 180K per week. Christiano Ronaldo is an extremely gifited tosser.
Rangers have now been thrown out of the Scottish Premier League, meaning that that league is now utterly pointless. Man City have gotten their way around FIFA’s financial fair play rules and will continue to do so. Football will start to dwindle because there will be no youth infrastructure and that is simply unsustainable.
We have just seen the end of an enjoyable Euro 2012 tournament and it proves, yet again, that the Spanish and German models work best. Yes, the Italians beat the Germans in the semi final but you have to assume that, if the aging - but sublime - Andrea Pirlo hadn’t been involved, they wouldn’t have done. I will even venture to opine that, had that tie been played over two legs, the Germans would’ve gone through. German domestic football is coming back also.
Money will eventually destroy everything. It has destroyed music, movies and sport and it will destroy everything it is allowed to take over. I still love football but it is becoming a relationship that is more akin to a couple that sometimes acknowledge each other with affection. Those acknowledgements become rarer and rarer with every passing football season. I will leave you with the best football song ever written.