The Ugly Game

Look, this blog is about football, so apologies to any sportophobes. But there’s a big competition going on in Qatar between 32 teams who’ve won the right (out of 120 countries) to fight play for the Football World Cup.

There’s a lot not to like about football, eh.  (‘Soccer’ in our enlightened land.)  (And this from one who couldn’t be a bigger sports fan.)  This blog rarely spotlights sport, but for once sport must be spotted.

Because, how can it be called the ‘beautiful game’ when

  • every few moments a player goes down clutching an ankle, grimacing and writhing in pain?
  • referees regularly award free kicks and (worse) penalties to players who have dived to the ground without having been touched?
  • players gang-bush a ref who’s made a decision they don’t like (or hasn’t made a decision they think he should have made)?
  • a player who scores a goal then careers around like a child, shirt off, claiming wild acclaim?
  • after a goal, players mob by the corner flag and do a childish, inflammatory, unsporting little hornpipe?
  • penalty goals scored are lauded with all the same over-reaction, even though it was only a point-blank shot which the goalie had no chance saving?
  • commentators use epithets like “sumptuous” and “miraculous” and “glorious” to describe unremarkable goals?
  • players like Messi and Kane and Beckham and Maradona are lionised as miracle players when most of the time they’re ordinary and even anonymous?

And don’t let me start on penalty shoot-outs to decide a drawn match after extra time.  Why should one team, having played to an exhausting, heroic impasse, end up a random loser?  (Sorry, I did start.)

Football players – even the nice ones – become cheats, hollywoods and prima donnas on the pitch; referees become random and easily deceived officials; VAR takes up so much time, to produce wrong decisions, and disrupt any flow the game had; Harry Kane is lauded as top goal scorer of all time when half his goals were from penalties, and only about three players on any given pitch at any given time get chances to shoot at goal anyway.  It’s so unlaudable a record.

And then there’s the whole corrupt politics behind the game … and not the least by the current World Cup hosts.

“Beautiful” game?  I don’t think so.  That’s like calling Chinese gooseberries “kiwifruit”, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “democratic”, or New Zealand “Godzone”.

Yet … what a comp!  What a Cup.  What a spectacle it’s been!

Despite the ugliness of it all, it’s been beautiful to watch.  The drama!  The exquisitely crafted goals.  The competitiveness.  The melting pot of peoples.  The commentaries.  (“Morocco have the wind in their sails!”  “Destiny lies at the feet of Luka Modric!”  “A wave of Dutch orange rose to meet him!”)
I hate the cheating and the unsportingness, despise the pretentious antics, scorn the gasconade.  But damned if the drama don’t just trump it all.

Give us more of the ugly game.

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