Can I let you into a secret? I really, really don’t hate modern football. I hate modern football fans, I hate modern football players but by and large I hate people in general, so that shouldn’t come as that much of a shock. But anyway, despite its failings, the constant clamouring for exactness and for glamour, regardless of the classless playboys and irritable fanboys that litter the landscape and in spite of the fact that you can’t move these days for experts who don’t even know what wintergreen is, let alone what it smells like, I actually quite like the modern game.
Football has always been a game of pragmatism vs flair and cynicism vs progressiveness, and today is no different. Athleticism and pace are now the norm and increasingly that isn’t at the expense of technique and talent. That said, I don’t think for one minute that Pele and Best or even Finney and Matthews would not thrive in the modern game, a little HGH can do wonders – ask Messi. This isn’t an old versus new debate, but the game that most of us claim to love gets a rough ride from all sides these days.
The bit of the game that still matters has remained largely unchanged since it’s inception. Football is about moving a bladder around a playing field with the aim of getting it between two sticks, whilst at the same time trying to stop your opponents doing the same. Doing this is the most important thing, how you do it is interesting and everything else to a large extent is just window dressing.
Just to clarify that’s football, being a football supporter is something else and that is going to hell in a handcart, but you don’t have to be into football to support a football club, and you definitely don’t need to support a club to be into football. The problem is that it’s often hard for those of us who tick both boxes to separate the two.
The good thing for me is that I’m largely a geek (as opposed to being a large geek, which may also be true) which means I can be fairly objective (and pedantic) about these things, it’s also part of why I think that modern football isn’t exactly shite. My love for Wigan Athletic is different from my love for the game, I can study tactics, devour hours on end of blokes kicking a ball about, watch replays, compare statistics and still spend my Saturday afternoons in traditional mode, enjoying a beer and a laugh with my mates and then shouting myself hoarse, with or without retro sportswear.
And I do all that for my own purposes, or through my own weaknesses. I can’t help but deconstruct things, to try and understand them and yes to over analyse them. My life is littered with electronics and mechanics that I’ve pulled apart and failed to put together successfully. I’m not completist about it, I just enjoy doing it when I get the opportunity. Just because I can watch twelve hours of football on the bounce doesn’t mean that I will go out of my way to (not these days anyway).
I appreciate that the situation is quite perverse, that many of the ills of the modern game are linked back to the blanket TV coverage and the money it brings, but like drinking beer and eating pies the ultimate outcome doesn’t always bring the guilt it should when you’re enjoying yourself. So feel free to slag off the players, the administrators and the hangers-on; carry on digging at the snug managers and water-cooler pundits who can give you an opinion on every incident, as long as it was covered on Match of the Day or in their Super Soaraway Sun, I’ll probably agree with you.
Just as soon as I’ve finished averaging these pass completion rates out.
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