There has been a one-week hiatus between the end of the Olympic Games and the start of the new football season. Almost predictably the media have been filling he gap by pumping out a number of articles and TV debates, comparing the culture, morality and behaviour associated with football, with those qualities we’ve witnessed in London2012.
Unfortunately, it all seems a bit pointless since it’s rather like comparing your day job with a fortnight’s holiday in the Bahamas. For a significant number of people, football is a lifestyle; the Olympics won’t change that. The Olympics have been a refreshing breather; something different for a couple of weeks, and made so much the better because it all worked out far better than of lot of people predicted, and the performance of Team GB exceeded expectations. But it’s over, so now it’s back to the day job.
The media always want to categorise everything, so any examples of poor behaviour by a footballer gets blamed on football. But all sports have their bad boys and girls. With so much at stake in top level sport, sportsmanship has been replaced by gamesmanship in all its guises. Athletics and Cycling in particular have had, and may still have, big problems with cheating through the use of drugs. There were examples in London 2012 of racism, manipulation of results (badminton), and poor sportsmanship (fencing). In football, with so much at stake, diving, faking injury, arguing with every decision, and the lack of respect for officials all seem to drag the culture of the game into the gutter. Of course, gamesmanship is apparent in any competitive sport; it’s just that in football it doesn’t have any subtlety.
But the real problem belongs to society; when big money is at stake, morality goes out of the window. Remember our MPs caught with their hands in the till, fiddling expenses? Remember the gross greed in the financial sector? Remember the News of the World? When it comes to football, the current business model attracts unscrupulous owners, unbelievable transfer fees and outrageous salaries, all managed by agents who take their significant cut, and leave us mere mortals dumbfounded by the sheer enormity of the sums of money involved. Football is another planet, and to a large extent, the players are victims; they are mere pawns in the game, albeit rich and sometimes irresponsible pawns. And it’s no surprise that some of them just can’t cope with their fame, their image and their money.
It’s difficult not to take sides here; I’ve grown up with football, played the game and have always followed the game, but I don’t like the culture that now surrounds it at its highest levels. London2012 was the holiday of a lifetime, and wouldn’t it be amazing if the true legacy of London2012 was the Olympic spirit and sportsmanship, and that it could be applied to all walks of life, sport and business. Oh, I’m so naive