I have a love / hate relationship with football. For as much as I love the beautiful game and the unrivalled joy and excitement it brings, there numerous reasons why I detest it.
Little, if anything, can compare to the emotional attachment that comes with football. On an almost religious level, football has the ability to make a good day bad and bad day good. An insane reality given that all it comes down to is twenty two men running round a field kicking a ball.
Nevertheless, that is the reality and such emotional attachment means one has no choice but to take the rough with smooth. For example, in this moment, I find football extremely irritating. I loathe the culture it’s embedded in, yet I am unable to detach myself from it due to my unconscious emotional attachment to the sport.
The twenty four hour media circus that surrounds football is the object of my hatred. No longer can you merely watch a game of football and not be privy to all sorts of nonsense splurging out of journalists, commentators, pundits, footballers, managers and referees mouths. I can just about handle spats between players and managers but it is the rest of the aforementioned clowns that get me. Impartiality has deserted the supposed analysis that comes with every kick of a football match due to the fierce tribal nature of ex-football professionals turned pundits. Their loyalty to their former clubs is intrinsic with every piece of analysis they convey.
Some of you may suggest that my current disillusionment with football is down to Manchester City’s recent blip in form and unfortunate refereeing decisions. I can assure you it’s not. After all, I am used to disappointment when it comes to football. For the best part of my life, City have been slumming away in English football obscurity. I am hardened to disappointment so the odd defeat here and there barely scratches the surface.
As mentioned, it is the media which gets under my skin. There seems to be some insistence that there is always a story out there when, in reality, there isn’t. Recently, the BBC ran a story entitled “Andreas Villas-Boas says he doesn’t need help at Chelsea”. Somehow, a story was made out of this but all that would have happened is that a journalist would have asked Villas-Boas whether he needs help and he would have denied it. It’s a non-starter: the story is started and finished in the headline itself. Quite how this turned into a 477 word article is beyond me.
Then there are the contradictions. Take Mario Balotelli: every time he steps on the pitch all of his rather harmless, eccentric shenanigans, such as handing out money in a Santa suit or using a school toilet in Rusholme, are brought up and cast in a negative light. The relevance to his footballing ability is nonexistent yet it is forced upon you, as a spectator, relentlessly by the media.
On the contrary, take Ryan Giggs. Every time he plays no one breathes a word about his eight year affair with his sister-in-law even though this amounts to be far worse than anything Balotelli has done. Then again, it is right that they don’t mention it as it bears no relevance to his footballing ability. It just seems to suit the media to stay quiet on Giggs’s affair. Perhaps it is because he was the golden boy, who could do no wrong, a few years ago when he won the BBC Sport Personality of the Year and the media do not want to be perceived as being wrong: cynical, perhaps, but definitely food for thought.
So when I say I have a love / hate relationship with football, I really mean it. Nothing can beat the excitement on match day, the build up to a game, the atmosphere, the emotion, the joy, the anger, the addiction. What I really love is the game of football. What I really hate is everything else that comes with it.
I had a dream the other night. It was a dream where Man City won the FA Cup. That was it: nothing more, nothing less, a game of football without the trimmings, without the drivel and, most importantly, without the hype. It was the team I love, playing football, pure and simple. If only that were a reality the world of football may be a better place.
Words by Rob Toole