Ivanovic’s dismissal on Sunday has been bizarrely held up as proof that football is ‘vile’ in comparison to the feel-good Olympics.

by Jack Howes

This Saturday, proper football starts. No more pre-season friendlies. No more pre-season tours where players spend more time playing golf, roaming the local nightclubs, doing photoshoots, signing autographs of starstruck South African/Japanese/Chinese fans (insert country offering shedloads of cash for a pre-season fixture against the domestic league champions) and occasionally doing some ‘training’.

No more Community Shields, Capital One Cup first round ties where the topics of conversation aren’t about the football on display but ‘who on earth are Capital One?’ and ‘remember when the League Cup used to be called the Milk Cup? Lol’.

Slightly less of the newspaper transfer mills and website gossip pages. Slightly less of the ‘Agent ITK’ Twitter nonsense where unemployed middle aged men watching poor quality porn, eating cheesy Watsits and quaffing bottles of Relentless (probably) make up palpably false nonsense and watch fans start getting all excited at the thought of signing some Sochaux striker you’ve never previously heard of for £6m.

All this, because football is back!

This year the start of the football season arrives under a five-ringed cloud. This is because the Olympics in London have been a universally acclaimed roaring success. Olympic optimists had even their greatest expectations succeeded, while many determined to ignore the Olympics and bemoaning its cost, size, Seb Coe and Boris Johnson’s ugly mugs being prevalent on our TV screens and swamping of TV schedules found themselves by the second week of the games weeping to endless montages of British success.

This has led to a whole load of hogwash in the media. A whole load of nonsense along the lines of ‘why can’t footballers be more like Olympians’. Rob Beasley in The Sun is the prime example of this largely tabloid trend.  Because of course we all want footballers to take illegal substances, fake crashes, kick officials in the head, even have fans with Parkinson’s Syndrome arrested for ‘not smiling’.

That’s not to say the Olympics weren’t great, or that a lot of the background stories of the athletes wasn’t inspiring. Because they were. Seeing Gemma Gibbons after her victory in the semi-final of the Judo say ‘thank you mum’ (her mum had died several years before) brought a lump to the throat.

Hearing the stories of Olympians who had trained while holding down full time jobs, had to beg for funding, trained long and hard in rain, cold, sleet, snow and only occasionally sunshine was inspiring. It made you think briefly of how you’d wasted your life eating Kettle Chips and watching telly rather than training for the rowing. It made you think of what were you doing as a 15 year old when the people on the box were training all hours at that age in their local swimming pool to a few years down the line finish 7th in the semi-final of the 200m freestyle.

But there is a lot of hypocrisy in this ‘Olympians good, footballers vile’ approach. Articles about athletes in the athlete’s village bonking each other senseless like rabbits on Berlusconi-strength Viagra and cities drains being clogged up by thousands of used condoms are light hearted in tone. It’s seen as ‘letting their hair down’ after years of training and hard work.

But imagine if it was discovered that the England football squad were partying in a nightclub with the Swedish Handball team at three in the morning like Usain Bolt did (before he even competed in the 200m). The headlines would be things like ‘England squad in disgrace’, ‘England squad in disgraceful nightclub episode’, ‘Disgracing the nation’. There’d be weeks of apologies, accounts of who slept with who, ‘exclusives’  with women paid tens of thousands to lie about having sex with England’s 3rd choice goalkeeper, photos of players’ wives and girlfriends looking sad, lonely and with less of a fake tan than normal.

The tabloids of course would lap it up with days and weeks of headlines while saying things like ‘we hope we don’t see this in future’. What’s seen as normal for Olympians, in occasionally going to a party, enjoying an alcoholic beverage and yes having sex once in a while is way off limits for footballers in the eyes of the British press.

Also there has been much mention of sportsmanship. How Olympians who finish second and are just fractions of a point/second from gold are always warm and congratulatory towards the winner. This would be to ignore the Russian sports minister alleging foul play in the boxing, Lisa Dobriskey talking about how her event the 1500 metres is ‘not a level playing field’.

Really, do you really want footballers to be like Olympians? Do you want footballers to be paid poorly, having to do part-time jobs, unable to train due and hence performing worse and making the team you support worse? Footballers are paid obscenely. But they’ve not had a massive increase in their wages this summer, it’s not as if last season they were paid much more than they are now. And I don’t think people particularly cared last season about high wages. Especially if your team was doing well.

As Martin O’Neill said in a press conference on Monday, ‘not all footballers are morons’. The vast majority of footballers, similar to the vast majority of Olympians are decent, sporting people. Managers complaining about the referees or managers, chairmen alleging conspiracies are all in all quite rare and indeed no different to the aforementioned examples of people involved in the Olympics alleging conspiracies.

Aside from the hypocrisy of thinking the Olympics is all good and holy while football is not, there’s the actual excitement of a new season starting. Teams playing other teams with league points at stake. The opportunity to see new players, new managers, new teams and see how they do, along with all the familiar faces we know from seasons past.

Whereas this would normally be exciting, there appears to be a sense of apathy about the new season. People struggling to get excited, burnt out by two weeks of sport watching, perhaps having gained a sense of perspective on football, realising that it isn’t a game of life and death and isn’t more than that.

But I’ve always taken the approach that any football is better than no football at all. Even if you don’t like the players involved, don’t like the teams that are playing or if you’re sniffing your nose as a fan of a Premiership club at a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy cup tie, I think it’s always better to have the choice to watch or even go to a game if you want to.

I say there’s a sense of apathy, but that only goes for certain people. There are a number of people who are genuinely excited about the new season, who remember the thrilling action of the last campaign and want to see more. Last season saw thrilling games, a record average of goals per game and perhaps the greatest season finale ever seen in the UK. More of this in the new season would be very welcome.

If you’re truly inspired by what you saw at the Olympics and decided you’re fed up of football, there’s nothing to stop you changing your ways. You can read the newspaper from the front rather than the back. Super Sundays can mean a whole day of athletics down your local track as opposed to three Premier League games back to back on Sky.

You can hand back your season ticket, cancel your Sky Sports subscription. No one is forcing you to take a keen interest in the football season. You can stop watching and following football if you want to. And you don’t have to make a big song and dance about how modern football is terrible compared to these angelic Olympians while doing so.

You don’t have to loudly register your lack of interest in the new season, nor be one of the smart asses who say ‘we’ll have forgotten the Olympics in a week’. You can remember the Olympics fondly, have very happy memories of Jess Ennis, Mo Farah, Chris Hoy, Laura Trott and the rest while still looking forward to the feast of football set to start on Saturday. You can be happy at the sense of happiness and optimism emanating from the Olympics without being cynical about the football.

I for one am looking forward to the new season immensely. My beloved Spurs have new players and a new manager, Liverpool are rebuilding, Chelsea in Oscar and Eden Hazard have two of the best young attacking talents in world football, City and United look set once more to duke it out for the title. All this starts on Saturday.

I for one can’t wait.