Tag Archives: Football

The Beautiful Game

I worry about football; more than most, but not in the same way as most. I don’t really care how much Cristiano Ronaldo earns, or how adulterous John Terry is. But when I heard, during the build up to the World Cup, that in Brazil there were concerns that their team would not only not win, but ‘not win in the right way’ I knew exactly how they felt.

Football is referred to as ‘the beautiful game’ ipso facto it must be played beautifully. Which it has been during this year’s finals, but in rare instances that have become rarer as the teams that play with the grace and élan that makes football such a great spectator sport have gradually left the competition, including – arguably the two greatest footballing sides of them all – Brazil and Argentina, who were picked off by the vulcher teams of the Netherlands and Germany; sides that, with the exception of a few individuals, embrace all the opposite traits – organisation, efficiency, work-rate – that, while fundamental to any successful team, tend to strangle the life out of the game.

The quarter finals saw the Netherlands and Germany triumph over Brazil and Argentina through tenacity and tactics, and yesterday evening I had the unpleasant feeling that the same fate awaited Spain, leaving the 2010 World Cup destined to fizzle out in the grid-lock stoicism of Netherlands vs Germany.

It turned out to be an unfounded worry. Last night Spain demonstrated that they can not only play the game with panache, but that they are also wily enough to beat the Germans at their own game.

One nil doesn’t scream enrapturing battle, but it was. In that modest score lies all the nuance and high drama that makes football such a special game. The Spanish build up play—their midfield trying to find a chink in the armour of the German defence; the rapid German counter attacks when the move broke down. It was a thrilling game in which the best team came out on top; and I hope they go on to beat the Netherlands on Sunday, because through last night’s display, Spain have proved that they are not only the best team in the world, but that they also exemplify all the qualities that earned football the moniker ‘the beautiful game’.


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“Where is the cool bag full of meat?!” I yelled across the Ruda Holiday Park in Croyde. “Where did you last see it?!—Come on, think, THINK!”

I prowled around kicking plastic bags, randomly opening car boots, frightening Northern children, shaking my fist at the heavens and yelling at the malevolent Gods that conspired to destroy my weekend. All but one of my fellow bank holiday weekend friends scurried to the safety of their tents to avoid my storm of indignation. The one who did stay out knew me the least and, what’s more, was of a happy-go-lucky disposition, completely at ease with the loss of our meat and seemed to positively enjoy my monstrously disproportionate level of rage.

After unfairly directing my anger towards his unfazed smile for a while, I began to calm down and eventually recognised how preposterous it is to be so angry over the loss of £20 worth of sausages and burgers, and within an hour or two we were laughing at the likelihood of having left it on a hedge in the Tesco carpark.

I never learn though, I get angry over just about everything. It’s fleeting, but I’m often in an agitated state. I just banged my shin on the corner of the bed – I do it about twice a week – and it hurts, so I’m annoyed about that. I’m annoyed that a massive dark cloud has just loomed over, threatening to drench my nearly dry washing. I tolerate the anger because I think it flavours my work and makes for more interesting writing, but still, I often consider what it is that makes me get so irritated by the little things.

I deem the things that cost me money, time, or cause me physical pain to be fair reasons for anger and, therefore, I have no control over them. However, I also get angry over small things that don’t actually hinder me that greatly, like when you drop a toilet roll and it begins to unravel, or when you leave a cup of tea to go cold. It’s ridiculous to get annoyed by these things, but I do. I have to blame someone or – because I usually act alone in my incompetence – something. That something is an omnipresent evil force that watches over me and strikes me with problems when I am weak.

The evil force works like this: in a moment it will rain on my washing and not only that, the force will make sure the washing is completely dry before wetting it again and, if it’s feeling especially cruel, it will perhaps start the rain when I’m in the shower, or half way up a step ladder with a piping hot bowl of soup.

Unlike God, who seems to spend his time doing precisely nothing to prove his existence, the evil force is constantly showing off; some people call it fate, destiny, or bad luck and lament ‘what wasn’t meant to be’. I’m sure some of the Manchester United fans and indeed players will look back on last night’s result and identify specific instances in which the evil force intervened to scupper their chances. Really though, there can be no doubt that Manchester United were forced to play badly by Barcelona, who looked superior throughout. There is no specific player who made a mistake, no official to blame, no challenging pitch conditions. In fact, it is one of the first football matches of grand magnitude that I have seen in a long time where you have to be resigned to the fact that a team lost completely fairly. Manchester United were the only force responsible for their destiny last night. According to Teddy Sheringham, when United trailed to a seemingly infallible Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final, Alex Ferguson went into the changing room at half time and simply said, “Just make sure you give everything, because if you come off that pitch and you haven’t given everything and you can’t touch that trophy, you’ll be so disappointed. Don’t leave anything out there.” I just hope they all did, because with no evil force to blame you have only yourself to look at for the reasons why, and if you feel that something in you could have changed the course of events, then you will have an anger that resides for a long time.

So, following this dramatic realisation that my sagacious diligence can prevent a lot of my anger, I will turn over a new leaf. I will go out now and take the washing in before it rains, I will come back upstairs and take care not to bang my shin on the bed and I will write the most boring blog known to man.

Has anyone seen a cool bag full of meat by the way?



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