The Two Footballs

Notes towards an article

15th January 2002

What’s wrong with soccer is soccer (and what’s right with rugby is rugby).
It is too often said that the problems with soccer are social. I would rather say the
trouble with soccer is soccer. The game is riddled with violence, corruption,
thuggery, vicious alcoholism, vulgar consumerism, road rage, sexual incontinence,
sheer oafishness. It provides the worst examples for young men and women to
copy.
– Football everywhere fosters a vicious culture of petulant cheating and hooliganism.
This is untrue of American football or Rugby.
– The game of association football itself is riddled with corruption (bungs).
– Footie offers society a set of thoroughly embarrassing role models whether it is the
self-importance of Alex Ferguson and his stupendous ego, the trivial consumerism of
the Beckhams, or the sexual and violent delinquency of too many members of even
the national squad. (Could have fun with this bit).
– It is ridiculous to suggest the game itself is really ‘beautiful’. Most matches consist
of 90 scrappy minutes of low grade tension based on anxiety for one’s
tribe sometimes interrupted by a moment’s drama.
– It is a poor game because too frustrating – the scores are too low (usually 1-0 is all
you can expect) so every decision by the referee becomes over important and a
potential flashpoint. In Rugby, by contrast, you can have many penalties given
against you and still win (England had six scrum penalties given against them in their
recent final). Remedy – MOVE (ie widen) the goalposts.
– Football does not really generate team spirit but a primitive egotism that would be
stamped out of any rugby (or cricket) team with swift sarcasm.
– Football’s appeal is really to the mob, not to individuals. It is almost fascist in
nature. What attracts people to football is the opportunity to hate.
Bottom line: Possibly, Rugby football offers some form of hope for the future where
soccer only offers despair.

My quotes:
“I was painting the garage when England were beating Germany 5-1…”
“I believe football should be illegal in the cricket season…”
“Cricket and Rugby still teach sportsmanship of a sort. Football only encourages
realpolitik – win by any means, even handling the ball into the net. The real
insincerity is this. If St Gary Lineker of Walkers Crisps had used his godly hand to
win a World Cup, the England supporters would have smothered it in kisses”. “Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell’s inverted football snobbery is an agency to
undermine higher culture and its ideal. By such simple subterfuge, they also conceal
their own ignorance. T Blair could not win big money on Who Wants To Be A
Millionaire because after getting the names of Mick Jagger’s band right, he’d
probably be stumped by the question on Mozart”.

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