THREE ASSES ON A SHIRT
MOSQUITObemoans the Mad, Mad, Mad, Sad World of football…
As the 1998 World Cup approaches, Britain (and probably much of everywhere else) seems to be working itself up into a frenzy of almost indescribable excitement. As millions and millions of people spent hours on the phone buying overpriced tickets for the privilege of watching groups of British blokes running around chasing groups of foreign blokes over a little leather spheroid this summer, the conclusion was obvious: slowly, but surely, relentlessly, football is taking over people's minds - it's the religion of the 90s.
The fact that football, especially the World Cup, often dominates the agenda of the mass media - supposedly the main forum of public political debate and democracy (remember those?) - is something that should be ringing alarm bells all over the place. But instead we have an institutional structure and citizenry that are apparently more interested in which country has the 'best' football team.
But what is football, anyway? Why all the fuss? The answer is, it's different things to different people - but most of them dubious. Maybe a long time ago it was just a game that people played for fun, kicking a ball or stone backwards and forwards amongst themselves. Perhaps there are still some local teams that are in it mainly for enjoyment and to keep - 90s buzzword coming up - 'fit'.
But now, first and foremost, football is a BUSINESS, a big fat capitalist one: you've seen the game, now go out and buy the products - and help line the pockets of the powerful elites and corporate shareholders that control the clubs (and the mass media that thrive on them).
Of course, big business doesn't rely on fans' whims for maintaining its profit margins. There's no need, because football is a highly competitive sport, where 'beating the opposition' (the terminology says it all) is the number one priority. This is true both for teams - where the notion of 'gentlemanly conduct' belongs to the ancient past - and for fans.
Football fans are really the stuff that dreams are made of, as far as society's powerful elites go. Not just those fans - many of a Neanderthal persuasion - whose sad, humdrum lives revolve around Saturday's big match and x number of other matches (any teams will do) shown on Sky TV or Match of the Day; those who, almost homo-erotically, fix posters of their ball-booting heroes on their bedroom walls, walk around town wearing absurdly overpriced replicas of their jerseys, and indulge in endless discussions of their merits (and others' demerits) over a pint or five in the pub with likeminded mates.
Not just those, but also those otherwise relatively sensible, liberal folk, often those inhabiting society's middle classes. Students are an obvious example (count those Supporters' Societies!); professional academics are a less obvious one. This undoubtedly has a lot to do with the 'bourgeoisification' of football in recent years - the cheap entrance fee and plebs' terraces have gone for good, eradicated in the name of progress (=corporate image and profitability), and making the football ground a far more hospitable place for the lecturer, scientist or businessman.
Or indeed businesswoman. Because football's not even a 'man''s game any more nowadays. New Feminism has okayed it for the high-powered, go-get-it, sod-you Nineties Woman - which means that women are getting fired up about the World Cup as well, and of course for them there is the added bonus in this post-political-correctness age of drooling over a field-full of testosterone-loaded, usually quite well-off young lads in designer labels and shorts.
So football is quite respectable as a result. Everyone's into it. And even those who aren't are usually more than willing to join in when a seismic Sporting Event the size of Wimbledon, the Grand National or the World Cup comes along. Eng-er-lernd! Eng-er-lernd!
But isn't it funny how people, such as students, who would rather die than be associated with, say, those fascists in that great threat to Democracy, the British National Party, are more than happy to join in the obnoxious patriotism - the public rhetoric, the fantasising, the singing and chanting, the air-punching, that international football (and other sports) brings out into the open? How many people really couldn't care less about how the team 'representing' their 'nation' gets on in the World Cup this summer? What percentage of the population of England would be overjoyed - sorry, that should be 'over the moon' - if Alan 'Godhead' Shearer and co. actually won the cup? (There's no point even wondering how the media would react.)
But why is it important to anyone for the team that carries the name of their country, or town for that matter, to beat other teams in a fairly trivial game that amounts to kicking a ball around a field for ninety minutes? What exactly does that prove?
In fact, it does prove something very significant. It proves the enduring power of the mass media to set agendas and drive public opinion; it proves how gullible people can be. It also proves how useful the racist concept of 'nation' still is - even in these enlightened, 'post- racist' times - in the service of the status quo. Above all, when a football tournament can tower in the public's mind over mass poverty, rainforest destruction and other bagatelles, it proves that humankind has not come as far along the evolutionary scale as it usually likes to think it has.
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Just do it.
Because there's more thanone way of looking at the world...