“Do you actually like football? Or do you just fancy the players?”
Traditionally this question has been the province of male football fans disturbed by the presence of women at matches or pubs showing matches. The assumption being that watching men run around a field for ninety minutes couldn’t possibly be interesting in itself and we must therefore be motivated by other forces. What they failed to take into consideration is that few women would put themselves through the trauma of standing in the tightly packed away end of a third tier football ground with gangs of swearing blokes brandishing cups of hot beef juice, just catch a glimpse of the centre back’s arse.
Happily, we now have 4K TV, so it’s less of an issue.
Pre-season friendlies are meaningless. Take the results as an indicator that you’re going to have a banging season and you can fully expect to be out of contention for Europe by Christmas. A tour of south east Asia where the only notable event is your left back making a racial slur on Instagram and you can prepare for silverware.
Thirty-six hours before a ball is kicked, the narrative is taking shape. In the vernacular of the British tabloid press, England’s plucky Lionesses are now pitted in an ideological battle against the arrogant US Women’s National Team (USWNT). Not for goals, victories or honours, although one can assume that a game of football will break out at some point, but for the title of most dignified.
Megan Rapinoe won’t be winning that. She and her trophy hoovering cohorts’ behaviour on and off the pitch have been endlessly scrutinised and critiqued since this latest incarnation emerged onto the world stage, consistently failing to impress despite winning a World Cup, Olympic Gold, two CONCACAF Gold Cups and two SheBelieves Cups. They’re arrogant, apparently.
This is Israel’s opinion. I assume he believes it with every fibre of his being and for my part, I hope he’ll be crushingly disappointed when he arrives in the afterlife, realises intolerance is a unwanted by-product of humanity and that he’s about to spend eternity with the drunk gay fornicating atheists who know how to throw a decent party.
Yesterday a man in a flat cap and an ill fitting shirt ran onto a football pitch and attempted to punch another man in the face. The puncher was a twenty-seven year old Birmingham City fan. The punchee was Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.
There are many conceits in English football, but the most important one is that you have to be hard. It’s important because unlike many of our footballing traditions, this one has some foundation in reality. England is cold a lot. If you’re going run around on a frozen field for 90 minutes on a Sunday morning chasing a man who may or may not have spent the previous night in the local police station, you can’t cry when he kicks you. That’s human survival.
As a fan of some years standing, I can confirm that football is not an easy life companion. I love it, of course, but it’s like that mate who turns up late to the Christmas Day do, drinks all the brandy and then starts throwing shapes on the dancefloor thinking they’re Travolta.
Just as you’re trying to quietly usher them out without further embarrassment, you realise they’ve tucked the table cloth into their collar and in bolting to the bar for last orders, have showered your Gran in Iceland vol au vents.
After months of testing, tweaking and concessions to the ‘No! Make it more Bane!‘ lobby, Nike have started promoting their Squad Snood.
In the real world it’s just another fashion transgression from the people who bought you day-glo boots, ham shirts and the Gucci manbag. For some members of the football community though, it’s reappearance heralds the start of another pitched battle for football’s soul.
Given the response to his club’s tweeted status last weekend, you might have expected Cristiano Ronaldo’s entourage would be keeping a closer eye than usual on statements about their charge emerging into the public domain. Cristiano is used to golden breezes caressing his bronze and chiselled cheek so the harsh blowback from the press and social media over Juventus ‘great professional’ comments will have chapped his face quite badly.