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Home > Culture and Society

E.R. my son

20 April 2005

We've said some harsh things about footballers in the past, and indeed about football in general, and perhaps rightly we've been criticised for our seemingly intolerant and even reactionary stance. We'd like to redress that balance today by saying something wholly positive about the sport. We really would. But have you seen the newspapers this week?

Scotland's international reputation is said to be in tatters after a shockingly tasteless display of sectarian invective at a Hearts v Celtic match on Sunday, where a section of heartless Hearts fans began booing and cursing during a minute's silence for the Dead Pope. No, hold on. We actually have a sneaking admiration for that. Good for them, having the balls to voice their true feelings in the face of a rather dubious display of enforced respect and presumed grief.

OK then, Italy. Scenes were so bad at Tuesday night's Milan derby that one Daily News reporter was thrown face-first into an attack of Morrisitis: 'Suddenly, a rocket whooshed from the top tier and struck the keeper on the head. He collapsed in a heap and all hell was let loose.' As it transpires, that description was of a Roma match that took place in 1987, the journalist's point being that 'nothing has improved'. The violence on Tuesday night erupted after an apparently valid Inter equaliser was disallowed.

A long-standing culture of match-rigging in Italian football is no excuse, but it certainly won't have helped matters. This hullabaloo at San Siro of course came just days after Sunday's pan-Italian calcio chaos, in which various scenes of Ultra violence and neo-Nazi sloganeering resulted in Minister for the Interior Giuseppe Pisanu calling an urgent meeting to address the country's deepening hooligan crisis.

But if Italian football is sick, which it seems to be, English football is just plain sordid. And again, as far as we can see, most of the problem comes back down to money. Wayne Rooney offers a perfect illustration of what happens when football is consumed by capitalism. Whether Wayne actually slapped Coleen on Sunday night at upmarket Brasingamens in front of all their friends and several tabloid-friendly eye-witnesses or not, the pair of them have had so much cash thrown at them that it has clearly bent their delicate minds to distraction. One only has to look at Coleen's spending disorder and Wayne's serial GILF-whoring.
They're on a flying carpet of cash to Mental Town, and all on the back of little Wayne's undeniable skill with a ball.

Rooney of course, is just the tip of the ice-berg. Top-flight English Football is awash with wildly wealthy, horribly unsavoury characters - the spitters, the spatters, the divers, the doggers, the roasters, the lushes, the coke-fiends, the philanderers, the gangs and gangs of pestiferous women-beaters. Obviously it's not just money that's to be blame, but tossing bags of cash at the mentally vulnerable does terrible things to their perspective.

Stanley Matthews after all, was on tuppence ha'penny a match and he never so much as cursed on the Sabbath. Surely there's a lesson to be learned here. Yeah yeah. We're reactionary. But is it really reactionary to long for a society in which people who work hard to make a positive difference to our lives - that's right, the teachers, the nurses, the firefolk, the journalists - are valued more highly than a bunch of ball-kicking brutes? Is it really reactionary to long for a society in which football is a cheap and cheerful yob-free delight for all the family, with the little ones passed down to the front over the heads of the crowd, footballers in ankle-length shorts and not a branded shirt or paedophile in sight, just like the old days? Is it really reactionary to wonder if six months' national service wouldn't do Wayne Rooney the world of good? Well, OK. Maybe a

But though our longings may be simple, and a little backward, we're not thick. We know that nothing will change, that that greasy old whore Money has long since won and that Celebrity is its glistening dildo.

Oh well.

Go Rooney.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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