Thursday Jul 29, 2021  
  11/06/2011: The Modern Game
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Football, or modern football – as people tend to call it these days – is ill. And it doesn’t have a bit of a cold. It’s severely ill. The Italian (!) Super Cup being played in Beijing is only one of the examples of how our favourite sport has become a toy for some, a business for many, and, most importantly – unaffordable, and revolting, for all of those who love(d) the game. Some months ago, FIFA, who have been under investigation recently (again) for fraud and corruption, voted that the weakest dossier – according to their own reports, being Qatar – could host the World Cup. FIFA and UEFA continuously state that they care about football, and that respect is vital, yet these two things seem to be exactly what they are persistently ignoring. They do not care about football, they care about the money that comes from football. And they do not believe respect is important, except if, of course, with respect, they mean hypocrisy.

But also in Italy, and in most countries in Europe, football is being taken over, or has been taken over already, by businessmen, trying to make as much money as possible, ignoring all the true (and truthfully beautiful) facets of what makes this sport so magnificent in the process. A corrupt and dishonest elite is eliminating the lovely smell of hamburgers and beer, and is replacing them with the pompous odour of salmon and champagne. Football fans, all over Europe, are being supressed. Ticket prices are increasing, every year again, while football players earn more in one week than all the spectators in the stadium do together, in their whole lifetime. When it is raining too hard, or when they suffer from a bad hair day, the players do not try hard to win, why would they? When the match is lost, they do not greet the loyal fans who travel hundreds of kilometers to see them play. Football players are merely pawns in a game of money, about money, for people with money. You cannot blame a twenty year-old player but to be slightly arrogant when he is treated like a king every single day, without having achieved anything of true value in life. You cannot blame a player of eighteen years-old, who is getting paid a hundred thousand euros a week, for being a tad pretentious. It is not their fault, that they are blessed with a mix of talent and luck, and that football has become nothing but business.

There is only one person to blame, in my humble opinion, and that is the football fan. Yes, FIFA are corrupt, and yes, UEFA should change their slogan from ‘we care about football’ to ‘we care about money’ – but which large entity is not corrupt? Which government is not corrupt? Which multinational is not corrupt, to some extent? If the football fan would stop paying the costly ticket prices, stop coming to the stadium, stop allowing certain people to take advantage of them, stop traveling to Beijing to see an Italian football match being played – in other words, if the football fan would have any dignity left, whatsoever, the people in charge would be obliged to change their attitude. Instead of complaining about the World Cup being played in Qatar, don’t watch it. Instead of paying 60 euros to see twenty-two pretentious and overpaid teenagers not trying hard, go to a park and play a match among friends.

This is a utopia, obviously, and it would probably mean fighting for a lost cause, yet I dream of a football where true respect stands central, like in the old days. Where men play for honour, and not for money. A football where friends stand together, with adrenaline rushing through their veins, excitement and electricity filling the ground. A football where dads take their sons, where men have balls, not man bags. Where players come to have a beer with fans after the match, instead of driving off in their big cars. Call me foolish, but I prefer to watch my son’s matches, however bad the level of football is, than to watch any kind of Champions League final, or even any (big) game of my favorite football club. Because if it costs me half a month pay, if the players don’t play with their hearts, if the feeling of coherence is not there, if the adrenaline is missing, if the passion is gone, then what on earth would make me want to go to the stadium. This football is mortally ill.

Author: Ali Alkatiri
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