by Peter Ames
It is not difficult to feel disillusioned with football at the minute: the former England captain has retired from the international game in disgrace, after living up to all of our lowest expectations. Things are not much better on the terraces either, with a very small minority of fans refusing to abandon disgraceful chants about some of the worst disasters the country has ever seen.
There is also the comparatively insignificant trend of footballers who continually use Twitter as a medium to communicate thoughts that are best kept private. Rooney, Barton, Ferdinand, and most recently Ashley Cole, are a selection of those who have proved that if you give an infinite number of footballers an infinite number of typewriters they will not re-write the works of Shakespeare, they will simply talk nonsense ad infinitum.
The straw that has broken the camel’s back is the current escalation in the controversy surrounding simulation. Firstly there are the perpetrators: Suarez, Bale et. al are an embarrassment to teammates, supporters, and gravity. Then there are the hypocritical few who criticise these players. Tony Pulis is perfectly happy for his team to use its superior physicality to push the limits of fair play, but is unhappy when others employ more devious tactics toward the same ends.
Then there is Michael Owen, who recently suggested that “the influence of players coming from South America, Spain and Italy” has not helped the situation. Mr Owen should probably ask himself who exactly it was that made him exaggerate penalty-area fouls in two important World Cup games. Was it the spirit of Robert Pires, coming to him suddenly and inspiring his actions? Or was it, as is considerably more likely, that the Englishman made a split-second decision, of entirely his own volition, to collapse in a somewhat inglorious heap for what he probably believed was the benefit of the team. Michael, you are not fooling anyone.
However, it is perhaps unfair to speak of being disillusioned with football; it is arguably more a disenchantment with the things that currently surround the game. By way of contrast, the upcoming international games give us an opportunity to focus on what happens on the pitch. There are three obvious potential outcomes of England’s upcoming clash with San Marino: They cruise to an emphatic win and the tabloids suddenly proclaim them to be destined for international glory; echoing the reaction to a fairly recent 6-0 thrashing of Jamaica. A second option is that England will look unconvincing in a one or two-nil win, and there will be much tutting and rolling of eyes. Finally, the most exciting but least likely possibility is that San Marino scrape a result of some kind. We shall all despair, with a small minority harbouring a quiet admiration for the tiny Mediterranean nation
Whatever happens, on Monday myself, and many others across the country, will probably look at the rival fan sat across the desk and actually agree about something: that the international football was brilliant/boring/embarrassing. It will be a refreshing change.
For an even more honest experience, why not escape football’s upper echelons entirely. This Saturday has been named ‘non-league day’. Why not pop down to the Racecourse Ground, the Moss Rose, or any of the host of wonderful non-league grounds and treat yourself to some football that may just transcend the blood-and-thunder reputation of the lower leagues, and provide an antidote to Terry, Cole and co.