June 21, 2012

Why we Love Football?

   “Some think Football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you, its much more than that”Bill Shankly, Liverpool. 

In this legendary albeit exaggerated statement, the LFC legend captions the greatness of what many call ‘the beautiful game‘. By far the most popular game on earth, it’s watched by billions worldwide and played by over 195 countries. Read more about why we love Football.

Why we Love Football?
By Aditya Raste

There have been some great teams, like di Stefano’s Madrid, Esubio’s Benfica, Beckenbauer’s Bayern Munich, Sacchi’s Milan et al, phenomenal players like the outrageous Pele and Maradona, the supremely talented Ronaldo, Messi and Ronaldinho or the technically gifted Xavi and Iniesta, and the lethal Raul and Ronaldo…inspirational stories like the famed loyalty of the likes of Terry, Lampard, Scholes and Gerrard, Miroslav Klose’s ability to always turn up aces for his country or Michael Ballack’s well-documented heroics of carrying Germany almost single-handedly taking his team to the 2002 WC finale or majestic stadia like the Santiago Bernabaeu, the Allianz Arena or The Wembley...

What then, makes football a standout? Why is it that no other outdoor sport comes even close to matching its popularity? Is it the players? The stories? The setup? Perhaps not…as these exist in other outdoor games as well…if football has Pele, boxing has Ali. The MCG of cricket rivals the Camp Nou of football and the Olympic Games have been a source of inspiration for time immemorial. Perhaps the reason is more fundamental - The Game Itself.
You don’t need any expensive equipment to play. All you need is a flat surface, a ball and a few friends. You can enjoy it as much on a crooked earthen floor as you can on a world-class grass surface.
It doesn’t test your patience like a 5-day test match of cricket, get over before you blink like a 100m race or make you wait for 4 years like the Olympic Games. It doesn’t force you to maintain a dignified countenance like some ‘elite’ sports (horse racing) or doesn’t need you to be mighty rich to watch it live (horse racing, again.). You can let yourself out, sing and scream all you want- in front of your TV or along with thousands and thousands of fans in the stadium-and no one dare object. It has no pin-drop silence requirement like the one in tennis or golf and no byzantine rule system like the one in American Football. Politicians, Sportsmen, Film stars, Music icons- people from any nation, any background and of any tier of the society can be football fans-all are equal as football fans. Football unites the World, it can put smiles on the face of entire countries…even in India, where the football infrastructure isn’t developed much, the fan following of the game is jaw-dropping. It has no nonsensical distractions like commercials and a rather obnoxiously irritating focus on the glam-sham, cheerleaders and basically everything other than the ‘main event’ as there is in the circus we call the IPL. Its 90 minutes of pure distraction-free entertainment, where millions of hearts beat to the rhythm of the 11 men they support.
However, there is a flip side too. Even though footballers and federations alike are fighting against racism, it’s not nearly enough. The disgraceful incident between Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, where the latter was found guilty of abusing the former racially on multiple counts in the Premier League match at Anfield, and John Terry and Anton Ferdinand, with the former facing a criminal trial for racial abuse, cast dark shadows over the campaign against racism. Even in the buildup to the EURO, there was tension and unfortunately, several Italian players were subject to disgraceful racist chants in their game against Croatia. Even more ridiculous was the fact that the Croatian Football Federation was fined a meager 80,000 Euros, while Nicklas Bendtner was fined 20000 more for wearing boxers of a betting company.


Also, the fan violence and riots in Egypt that left 76 dead threw in front of the world a ghastly picture and showed it the ugly side of football extremism. The Calciopoli scandal that rocked Italian football in 2006 was when football was at its nadir. The disgraceful Carlos Tevez incident was not football’s finest hour, while the recent Eden Hazard transfer saga wherein many accuse him of trying to raise his own salary and putting money before football showed us an unfortunate paradigm shift in the priorities of modern football from fans to green chips.
But then, football’s indispensable for its followers. When you watch a little kid trying to dribble of a few school kids playing the game on a ground, you’re reminded of why you fell in love with the game in the first place.

And despite all its negatives, football lives on, all of us fans love the game and the pros have too much weight behind them as compared to the negatives. We stick to the TV without interruption throughout a Real Madrid vs Barcelona or Manchester United vs Chelsea or the Champions League Final. We always manage to keep track of our favourite team even with a jam-packed schedule and get into rip roaring arguments with fans of our rivals!
So with the EURO coming down to its business end, I wish all fellow football fanatics a fantastic season. I’ll be writing more in this space here about ensuing major events, so stay tuned. Thank You for reading!