River Wissey Lovell Fuller

July 2010 Reader's Newsletter

July 2010

Keith gives his opinion of the 2010 world Cup

I don't much like football, although I do like sports in general. I will happily spend two or three hours watching Formula One cars go round and round the same piece of track, with sometimes only one or two 'incidents' to provide any apparent interest. My wife has difficulty staying awake while they do the start to the first corner! My pulse speeds up even more if one of the two Brits currently racing Formula One is in serious contention. I admit to being less than happy at seeing the greatest racing driver since Fangio (ie Michael Schumacher) doing well, since I still harbour resentment at how he drove Damon Hill off the track years and years ago. So my fascination in the racing for its own sake is given the added dimension of national pride - not overweening nationalism. I don't like Spanish Alonso but do like German Vettel - so no logic there!

I love watching athletics, rowing, swimming and rugby, especially international rugby. Since the Brits have become more successful in track cycling, I have even discovered that that can be fascinating.

Soccer? I admit that I can watch internationals featuring the four home nations and I may find myself watching England in the World Cup, especially if and as we get nearer to the Final. So, what is the problem? I used (decades ago!) to enjoy watching football. I think the problem is the whole attitude to the game that seems to permeate through the administration, finances, regulation, playing and even the watching of the game. It has become big business, but then Formula One could hardly be bigger business. On the whole Formula One is used by its big investors to try to enhance their wider marketability (engine, tyre and motor manufacturers especially), but the big investors in soccer want to just make money or feed

egos. The players seem to be paid enormous amounts, but so do Formula One drivers. Why do the footballers seem less able to be disciplined in so many of their lives? Why do we gawp at the footballers' WAGS' activities, but not equally so at racing drivers'. Why do we see footballers rolling around in agony at every real or imagined attack, when rugby players seem able to carry on with broken ribs and collar bones and goodness knows what else? Why do football fans behave so disgracefully when rugby league (supposedly the hardest game of all) players and fans behave impeccably?

Well, I don't know the answers, but it seems obvious to me that there is some deep malaise, which alienates many, who would otherwise continue or start to follow our so-called national game. Equally obviously we have many other sports to look at, where behaviour is so much better, such that it is clear that there is no excuse for the poor moral state of football.

If that was it, it wouldn't matter very much. But we have the football World Cup now playing in South Africa. There is so much hope that this will have a hugely beneficial effect not just on South Africa, but on the whole continent of Africa. As the first marches are now being played, we already have strikes by stewards, complaining not only that they are being cheated, but making the more widely salient point that the World Cup is actually doing very little or nothing to improve the lot of the poor in the country, despite the enormous amount of money involved. (Did the last Olympics actually do anything for the masses in China? - presumably the jury is still out on that!) I dread that behaviour on and off the field is going to have spoilt the whole thing by the time you read this.

I fear that international soccer is a sort of metaphor for world politics. The administrators make fortunes (FIFA, UN EU . . .), but how much is really reaching the grass roots of society, however defined. Multinational, international co-operation at the top levels have little meaning lower down. As I write, BP is being mugged by the American administration, which may well turn out to have been justified, but no one yet knows really what happened nor who was to blame. All Nigerians will suddenly develop a national pride if their team does well in the World Cup, but will that have any lasting effect on the massive ethnic divisions within that country, where mini-Ruandas are happening all the time?

Roll on the England Australia cricket test matches, where the behaviour is gentlemanly and cultured!

Licensed Lay Minister

Keith MacLeod

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