Football fading

I feel myself sadly falling out of love with football.  It’s only a fleeting, vague sensation for now; one which comes and goes, but one which persists nonetheless.

It began with Chelsea’s Champions League victory a little over a month ago.  Not only did they stifle their broadly accepted superior opponents in Bayern Munich, defensively strangling the match to a penalty shoot-out win, they also denied my team a place in next season’s Champions League competition.

Tottenham finished fourth in the league.  They would have finished third were it not for a terrible run of results in March and April, or a terrible West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper on the final day of the season.  Responsible for two howling errors, Marton Fulop was so incompetent you wondered whether it was genetic and his parents failed to spell his name correctly on the birth certificate.  Had West Brom drawn or beaten Arsenal, rather than lost 3-2, Tottenham would have achieved third and Champions League qualification.

Given the points’ gap in February, it felt like Tottenham lost third position rather than Arsenal won it – although you must credit their resurgence, I suppose.  Our manager paid for the slump and failure with his job, which wasn’t altogether surprising.  The club chairman Daniel Levy was said to be dismayed by how we fell away towards the end of the season.  Him and lots of other people.  It was obvious by our failure that we were slapped back to square one as a club.  Our best Champions League-hungry players would get the exits they pined for and we wouldn’t be able to secure adequate replacements.

Every footballing bone hurt after Chelsea won that match.  A whole season in which we’d played some truly outstanding, mesmerising football: for nought.  Denied by a defensive miserly display like that, the kind of tactics the new England Manager would be compelled to employ for want of other options.  Why was football bowing to this?  Now our best players would go.   We may hire a relatively unproved foreign manager, which has had disastrous results before.  It all equals shit.

Still, there was England to look forward to, wasn’t there?  No, they were bound to be shit.  Although early results against mid-ranking nations suggested not, when they came up against a glaringly superior team in the form of Italy they cowered in their well-drilled defensive lines, concentrating on primary school tactics of kicking the ball away, failing to make simple passes, failing to retain possession – which isn’t everything but is a lot of things.  It’s only possible to appreciate a certain amount of defensive organisation and basic luck in the face of poor finishing.

The quarter final match was embarrassing, compounded by Joe Hart’s excruciating attempts to put off Italians with stupid facial expressions and noises during the penalty shoot-out.  Ungentlemanly, schoolboy, unnecessary.  When the exquisite Pirlo derisively dinked his penalty down the middle, leaving Hart flailing, I smiled.  I imagined lots of people smiled, plenty of Englishmen like me too.  It would have been awful if we’d won.  I didn’t want us to win; not after a performance like that, not with Joe Hart – a fantastic goalkeeper – reduced to making silly faces, genuinely believing himself “the big man” for doing so.  Pirlo showed him who was.

Together with supporting failing teams, there’s the rank dishonesty which still pervades and irks, the diving and deception.  As a football fan I defend against this when non-football fans broach the subject, but my counterarguments are sounding weaker and weaker, even to myself.  It’s horrible, depressing, boring.

Of course I’ll still avidly watch the rest of Euro 2012.  The best four teams at the start of the tournament still remain, which should make for high quality, entertaining matches.

Beyond that?  Next season will I still figuratively block-book my calendar for every televised Tottenham match?  Right now it’s difficult to say.  I’m exhausted, spent, might even watch some tennis, archery, volleyball, and I also appear to currently have a girlfriend – not that she minds my probably lifelong affair with this ridiculous sport.

Obviously it’s quite possible that after a week without watching a football match I’ll be missing it again.


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