The Bastardisation of Football Support

Football is no longer a sport held dear by a minority of hardened fans who travel the length of the country, or even around the world to follow their club or national team, as it is now a part of mainstream culture.

This is by no means a bad thing, as it has helped propel the sport away from being just the reserve of the loutish few, into a sport that can be enjoyed in comfort by people of all ages, but this does have its down side.

Even though conditions inside football stadia and local boozers were not as welcoming as little as 20 years ago as they are today, you could be in no doubt that all the inhabitants inside were there to watch the football.

Support could at times be fanatic and admittedly overly aggressive, but there was certainly no fence-sitting when it came to caring about the match in question.

No longer though is the beautiful game a minority interest, as it is now big business and front page news.

All week in the run-up and also in the aftermath of England’s demolition by Germany, the front pages of tabloids and broadsheets alike have been splashed with articles and photos of fans, players and WAGs, to feed the nations desire for the beautiful game.

The audience though has changed, as it not merely a multiplication of the old inhabitants of intimidating boozers and terrace chanters, but something quite different.

With football now dominating the consciousness of anybody who consumes the news, it has become fashionable to maintain a casual interest in the sport, irrelevant of any deep seated feeling towards the game itself.

As a result the viewing experience is a completely different kettle of fish.

Pubs can now be found offering tapas and finger food, pitchers of woo-woo (whatever that is) and playing music over the top of the commentary to appease the fans with a casual interest in the result, but little interest in the match itself.

This change in viewing habits has also altered the way the game is watched at home, something which I experienced first-hand on Sunday afternoon.

A little over thirty minutes had already past and England were two down before a couple of friends arrived to share a tense living room with me a group of fellow fans.

A World Cup match against old foes Germany is always a momentous occasion and only a car accident, hurricane or horrendous amputation could surely have kept them from missing the first third of the game.

They were in the park.

At no point though was all of their attention devoted to the match, instead casual glances at the screen and comments of “who are we playing”, “what team does the man in blue play for?” and “this is a zingy zinfandel!” dominated the irrelevant chatter.

Now by no means do I wish to see a return to the loutish and hooligan behaviour of the bad old days of English supporters, as that has little to do with the game either and is no longer a true reflection of English support today, as fans in South Africa have admirably displayed.

Instead, I merely want people who are watching the game to have a genuine interest in the action and I don’t feel that is a particularly great ask.

If you don’t hold a passion for the game or a keen interest in the sport then that is perfectly acceptable and no one will look at you in a derogatory light, but if you hold little or no interest, why insist on watching the game?

There are a prevalence of bars on every high street in the country that don’t show the football and play cool bar music, for cool bar people, who have no interest in the football and yet cool bar people now seem to gravitate towards England matches, bringing their nibbles and pointless chatter with them.

Why? When will this end?

Perhaps the one slight saving grace of England’s elimination is that now cool bar people will have no interest in a game that no longer hogs the front pages and it can be rightfully returned to those who love it for what it is.

Tags: England, World Cup 2010

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