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Football is bewilderingly dull

October 4, 2009

Does anyone else find football dull to the same fevered extent that so many men find it enthralling? I walked out the gym today and in the hallway detected that deadly roar of a football crowd, chanting and shouting, and I looked up to see the usual hideous green colour on the screen. I looked right, and there was a bank of men drooling, a couple on the phone, reporting to their mates that couldn’t be with a TV. I looked back to the screen. Little men, lots of green, raging crowds, ugly commentator, thuggish yells. Horrid. And yet so beloved of so many, so important to so many. Why? Maybe because football provides a primitive code of existence and speaks to those looking such an outlet, of which there are lots. And lots.

Tonight, as on many nights, I am beholden to my boyfriend’s football schedule. No, he’s not holding a five-aside together in the brisk autumnal evening air. Rather, he has an engagement with his arse, his sofa and the TV because there’s a match on that relates to “his” team, which is in the early stages of a second-rate championship. It is on from 8-10pm, and takes precedence over the quality time I’d envisioned for our Sunday evening. “DVD?” quoth I on being told I was invited (expected?) round his. “Errr, no, the football,” he said. Not much, plan-wise, is final with him, but football is. It is more interesting and important than anything else in the world to him, including me to some degree (violins, anyone?).  I broadly accept this, which is why I will go to his tonight and wait for 10 to arrive. And I’m far from alone, as millions of women will tell you.

But it’s the weirdness of this global obsession that animates men from LA to London to Israel that gets me. I can see the appeal of, say, racing cars or lap dancing clubs or, to be quite honest, good literature and film (but we’re not talking about this) – things with beauty, complexity, inhuman speed or a story. A football lover will say the sport has all these in spades, but I’m sorry, I don’t see it.I see green, ant-like people, crowds and crude scarves.

Seems that once you allow yourself to be a “fan” (which happens via Dad, or your laddiest mates I suppose), you’re hooked and the rest is history. You love and support your team (tribe) and hate and hope your rivals (enemies) die. But to me, “fans” is code for “thugs” and the “beautiful game” is code for a deadly dull event by any normal standards, not to mention a rave for the tune-deaf and those impervious to all harmony in the world. The chants, sung with the extreme passion of the converted, make me feel like I’m in some kind of primitive hell.

Anyway, just wondered if anyone else sees how outrageously dull this game is, and finds it odd how it manages to be a cult, spiritual and social guide in one to so many men who are- in general- fairly dispassionate about everything from love to literature. I’ve heard it said before that it’s a primitive game for primitive minds. But even boxing, of which you could say the same, is far more worth watching. Football’s like a mutation in our genetic code and I’d rather watch porridge dry. If only my boyfriend liked oats, eh?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. FinFlaneur permalink
    October 8, 2009 10:02 pm


    As an immigrant to the UK from the US who has been here three years, I have struggled with this very question: why is something that is so potentially (read: usually) inert, have the power to instill such rabid ferocity in its fans? For me, “soccer” was indeed a beautiful game, but at age 6. I think it was its simplicity that made it so much fun for such hopeless amateurs. It was a game to graduate from, to matriculate into the more complex, engaging world of basketball, American football and tennis. Why grown men weep over 1-0 soccer scores I guess I will never understand. I chalk it up to cultural differences, similar to how I don’t get curling and snooker.

  2. Rob Philpott permalink
    October 22, 2009 7:24 am

    Hey Zoe,

    I’d just like to say that I could not agree with you more. I also find football immeasurably dull. And I’m a chap too.

    But look on the bright side. Being female, if I may, excuses you having to know the subject. All too often I’ll get in a taxi only to be asked whether I saw ‘the game’ that day. ‘What game?’ I would ask and generally try to draw the subject immediately to something safe like Ken Livingston and the GLC. I can’t even do that these days now Boris has taken over so I just stare out the window.

    With depressing inevitability, no sooner has the football season ended than a new season kicks off, and so the awful business goes on and on and on. Certainly in my Utopia they would be no football, sports bars or fans. People would do something more worthwhile. Oh well, I guess we’re going to have to live with it…

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