I’m staying in a house with some real men – well, realler than me in terms of many masculine stereotypes (not hard, if I’m honest) – and so upon my return from a day of theatre, art and comedy I caught up with Match of the Day for the first time in many years. I must admit that it came as somewhat of a surprise that the football season had started already – though that be part of a more general feeling that we cannot possibly be in the second half of August.
What a strange world football is!
One manager, after his team lost 5-0, made a solid attempt at suggesting that this was good news and even planned. He seemed to be arguing that the pasting would act as some sort of inoculation against further defeats as the season progresses. I am no expert on association football, but I’m pretty sure that losing is neither like a vaccination nor like catching chicken pox – exposure to a weakened form of the experience confers no protection. If it did, the England football team – not known for its winning ways despite an incongruously high FIFA ranking, one which makes me suspect that money has changed hands – would have little to fear from any opposition or the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
During another game, a player was praised for staying on his feet. I’ve managed to stay on my feet – except when an at least partially recumbent posture was appropriate – for many years now. No-one has come up to me to offer their congratulations or a multi-million pound contract. What am I doing wrong?
The most extraordinary spectacle, and the one where I realised that football has “jumped the shark” came towards the end of the programme. As the Reading game (cf the Berkshire town rather than anything more cerebral) developed it became clear that the team were sponsored by Waitrose. The soi disant beautiful game is now truly a middle-class affair. It guess it was inevitable with all the money flowing into the sport, but soccer has finally been gentrified. Or is this an attempt by Waitrose to broaden its appeal to the more affluent of the working classes? If they can afford Sky Sports and the cost of a ticket to a football match (which seem to have prices only marginally lower than the opera) then they are clearly in a position to take a step up from Tesburys and Sainscos. Let’s face it, since Sky invented football back in the early 1990s it has never been knowingly undersold, so it’s a natural partner for the John Lewis Partnership. I eagerly await shirts bearing the names of Harvey Nichols or Farrow and Ball!