The National Game

Anglorama nr 4/2005 (32)

The National Game

Jak głosi legenda, piłkę nożną wymyślili brytyjscy wojownicy, którzy po krwawych bitwach kopali odcięte głowy swych przeciwników. Wprawdzie dziś na boiskach zawodnicy nie są aż tak brutalni, może za wyjątkiem czwartej ligi, ale czy naprawdę od tamtych czasów zmieniło się tak wiele?

Football. It is described as the British national game. I want to get this off my chest right away. I hate football. Not dislike, not object to, but hate. “Why are you writing about something you hate?” the more curious-minded reader might ask. I suppose it is a therapy for me, and besides the opportunity to complain and criticise something I dislike is rarely open, and must be grasped with both hands lest the moment be gone.

If you are male, British and at primary school, then there is one thing you are supposed to be obsessed with. You play it, you watch it, you talk about it and you buy the T-shirt. I can’t play it. My abilities with an inflated bladder are similar to that of a dead hedgehog. The kid at the back who always gets picked last for sports games? That was me. But although I’m completely incapable of participating in most team games, it doesn’t mean I’m bitter about it.

The first reason for my hatred is the reverence paid to the game in this country by the media. Football has a sacred place in our society and appears in almost every news broadcast, amongst world politics, wars and international events. There will be a mention of important matches, the scores and the antics of the players both on and off the pitch. Are sport and weather really as important as the events they are lumped together with? Do I care what David Beckham’s new haircut looks like? Like hell I do.

The second reason is the cult status given to the game. Soccer legend, Bill Shankly, once famously said: “Football isn’t a matter of life or death. It’s far more important than that.” And for many fans in England, this isn’t an exaggeration.Work, families and friends take up valuable time that could be spent playing or watching football. For God’s sake! It is eleven men kicking an inflated bit of leather around! They are eleven men that are brilliant at kicking an inflated bit of leather around, but the fact remains that these men and the games they play are worshipped with an almost fanatical loyalty that seems to be a kind of religious fundamentalism. An attack on a football club becomes a personal insult. A criticism of a player or the game becomes a personal insult. An innocent remark about not liking yellow as a colour becomes a personal insult if that happens to be the team’s new strip. A kind of tribal mentality exists where heroes are no longer the great and the good, but men kicking a leather bag.

The third reason is a private one. When you meet a man for the first time this may well be one of his first questions ‘Who do you support, then?’. The assumption is that 1) You support someone, and actually care. 2) Who you support says a lot about you as a person, not merely where you come from. 3) If you don’t support anyone then you are some sort of a social recluse who hides in a cupboard all day and wears underpants on his head. This last part may be true of me, but let’s not digress.

Sport hooliganism is not something that is confined to Britain, but it is something that is confined to football. You don’t see fans of snooker getting drunk, having tattoos donning their team colours done and then throwing bricks at one another on the streets of European cities. Anyways, if they do it, they keep it very quiet. There is a strong link between football and violence, mostly organised by thugs who use any old excuse for a punch up. What is it about football that can turn average suit-wearing accountants into snarling gorillas? One of the positive things I have noticed about football is how it can break boundaries and draw people together. You can always get kids to make friends by letting them kick a ball about in the back garden. The minute teams are formed, however, and the enemy is defined, the pack instinct rears its ugly face and violence is imminent.

Many people I have met have objected to my critical view of football and in the interests of fair play I actually went to see a match. This is what happened. 1) It rained. 2) The supporters shouted, sung and swore at each other. 3) I bought an old meat pie and couldn’t finish it. 4) I got bored because I didn’t care who won.

One man objected that the only reason I dislike football is because I am useless at it. This is not true. I am useless at a number of different things, but enjoy watching other people do them on TV. For example: - acting, pole vaulting, blowing things up. Other things I am good at I would hate to watch on TV. For example: - playing video games, arguing, climbing up walls or sleeping. By all means watch football, play football, enjoy football. But don’t assume that everyone does.

Matt Colver

get sth off one's chest – wyrzucić coś z siebie
curious–minded – dociekliwy
to grasp – chwytać
lest – conj ażeby nie
inflated – nadmuchany
bladder – dętka
hedgehog – jeż
reverence – szacunek
antics – wybryki
pitch – boisko
to lump together – traktować jednakowo
worshipped – wielbiony
tribal mentality – mentalnośc plemienna
to digress – odbiegac od tematu
to don – wdziewać
thugs – bandyci
punch up – zadyma
pack instincts – instynkty stadne

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