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June 21, 2006

World Cup Losers

I'm talking about football mainly here, though it's going to be a fairly generic thing. I've suddenly worked out I think one of the reasons why I quite despise football, and a lot of sport in general. Also, I think I've worked out why I actually like watching some other sports.

Football supporters don't really care if their team wins. Looking around Britain right now, you might think I'm mistaken, what with red and white flags flying from every white van and heaving pubs and empty streets when a match is on. But I don't think I'm wrong. You see, football fans really do care about something, they really want the the other team to lose.

Sounds like fancy semantics I know. But if you are English, ask yourself this. When Germany play Sweden - who do you really want to lose. You don't give a damn who wins, you just want Germany to be defeated.

I think football, and all team sports that have fervent supporters, is full of negativity like this. During the winter league games, an Arsenal supporter will scan the results looking for their rivals to lose just as keenly as they look to see their own team's result. And I hate this.

People who know me think that because I don't watch or care about football, or rugby, or motor racing, that I must hate sport in general. This isn't true at all. I'm a keen runner and cyclist, and always have been. I like playing squash and tennis if I get the chance. I've quite recently added swimming to my bow and have competed in triathlons. I've spent quite some time watching all these sports both live and on TV.

What makes individual sports more compelling for me then? Some of it is the lack of jingoistic nationalism. I can watch a great Wimbledon tennis player and appreciate the skill that goes into each shot.I can marvel at how a champion marathon runnner maintains a pace for two hours that I can barely manage for two minutes. I can be inspired by Lance Armstrong powering through yet another Tour De France, and it makes me want to get out there myself and cycle in all weathers.

These sports are about personal achievement, about positive values, and about cheering on great athletes whatever their nationality. Football means pickng a side, and even if they play badly, or unprofessionally, wanting the the other team to lose anyway.

But football is "the beautiful game" isn't it? George Best was a genius, Pele, Bobby Charlton. Inspires kids to play with coats for goalposts. I've only had the misfortune of attending one football match, and it was a disgrace. Fans hurled racist abuse at the black players. They screamed swearwords at their own players for losing the ball. They actually spat at the referee when he walked back to the changing room at half time. Compare that with the Windsor Triathlon recently - 2500 competitors, and many thousands of fans. An atmosphere of togetherness, of wanting everyone to do well. Cheers instead of jeers. I wanted to do well of course, everyone did. But I didn't wish my opponents to crash their bikes, or get heat exhaustion, just to raise my placing a bit.

So if you ask me if I watched the match last night, and I answer with my usual "No, who was playing, and err, was it football, rugby or cricket", I'm thinking of asking a supplementary question - "Who lost?", because I know that's really all you're interested in.

Posted by se71 at June 21, 2006 09:59 AM


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