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RIGHT TO REPLY: Footie is a Force For Good, Not Bad

I would never think of myself as jingoistic. I’m rarely involved in casual violence and I’m perhaps too skint and too ugly to be overly involved with lager or tits. But I love the world cup and I love football, so I thought I’d issue my riposte to an article on this site a short while ago and discuss the merits of a game in the stocks. I’m not naïve enough to suggest that football is anything but, at best, a circus and, at worst, a moral cess pit. Its governing body FIFA is disconcertingly opaque and the human rights violations on many of the workers building this year’s tournament border on the grotesque. But my argument would be that football is an overwhelming force for good and brings a tremendous amount of happiness to billions of people around the world.

When people are deciding which stick to beat football with, it is often a straight choice between the wages of the players and the perceived intellectual deficiencies of those who follow the sport. Irrespective of the fact that neither of these sticks have BSkyB written on them and those who own most of a controlling stake in the game often escape the brunt of the criticism, both of these issues smack of a class divide. Despite the obscene level of money that swills around the top level of the game, football largely remains the preserve of the working class. And when people are heard decrying the amount of money many of the top players make, the overwhelming implication is that the money hasn’t been legitimately earned and this attitude is largely prejudicial. Many, particularly those in the middle class, resent seeing Wayne Rooney earn the money he does; yet it’s difficult to envisage him copping the same abuse if he spoke in received pronunciation, dressed differently and was seen to be with the right sort of clique.What rarely gets a mention is that he operates at the elite level of a game loved and played by millions worldwide, the people who sanction salaries like his are invariably very savvy businessmen; he is paid that money because he is worth that money.

The good news for me is that it is now socially acceptable to like football. I’m too young to remember the eighties and the well publicised spates of football hooligans, that led to England being banned from European football in 1985, but whilst the Iron Lady used her iron fists to pummel much of this country into the ground, she also “revolutionised” what it meant to be a football fan in this country. This pre-conceived notion that all football fans are cretins is nonsense. Football draws its support from far reaches of every community within which it sits; and it matters enormously to a lot of people. I don’t subscribe to the idea that players ought to be role models.It would suit the narrative of bashing the world cup if Uruguay now had a spate of children biting eachother but that will not happen. As much as certain players are revered, fans, by and large, support teams and not players.

I’ve supported Darlington FC for the past ten years and in that time I must’ve seen upwards of 150 players turn out for us. The club went bankrupt, was dissolved and reformed as a new entity and virtually nothing remained of the original club, bar the badge. But watching Darlo has been the one constant throughout the past decade of my life. Whereas virtually every other aspect of my life has changed beyond recognition, it’s strangely comforting to know that I will always have a team to watch on a Saturday when everything else may be entirely different from ten years previous. Following my club has given me some of my most important and enjoyable experiences of my life. So by all means watch Jeremy Kyle as opposed to James Rodriguez but don’t let your disdain for one tournament colour your view of an entire sport.

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