Football

Football narrative detracts from the sport

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In a week where FIFA became further embroiled in the ongoing corruption scandal, Michel Platini was banned for 90 days, and two new managers took the reigns in the Premier League, it is probably a good time to reflect on the state of modern football.

The beautiful game is more accessible than ever before, with a constant stream of statistics, opinions and discussion dominating the sports stratosphere. Without a game to look forward to, we spend hours discussing our fantasy football leagues and playing computer games based on football, but it feels like something is missing.

Football is now one long soap opera. There is a narrative, there are characters and there are cliffhangers. We enjoy the Mario Balotelli and Jose Mourinho personalities. Ticket prices are driving normal fans away from the games and turning them into an elite corporate "prawn sandwich" affair.

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The coverage of Jurgen Klopp taking over Liverpool, with the press hanging on his every word, highlights this point. The "Normal One" brings an exciting brand of football to the Premier League, and the constant discussion of "gegenpressing" and "hunting football" brings a welcome intelligence to the modern football fan.

But we are missing the point. There is too much emphasis on Klopp the character rather than Klopp the football manager. The parallels with Brendan Rodgers and David Brent, as justifications for his sacking, symbolise this soap opera football age.

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The lightning speed football from two years ago, where Liverpool finished second in the league, has long since been forgotten. Instead, the narrative age of 24/7 Sky Sports News means we yearn for an entertaining character, such as a Mourinho or Louis van Gaal.

Both managers are held in such high esteem in the media, and rightly so due to their history of trophies, but to say their football excites is to patronise fans. Mourinho's famous defensive approach and Van Gaal's long ball style last season were, at times, painful to watch.

Where every press conference is documented and every sound bite printed, discussions are flared up by the dialogue of these soap opera characters.

But it isn't real. Football is more than a television programme we tune into once a week. Support runs in families, is steeped in tradition and is the solution to the banality of everyday life for many people.

In an individualistic age, we long for Saturday afternoons where the collective choir sings in unison. There is no other area of society where 40,000 people can all sing for 90 minutes in freezing cold temperatures. The twitter generation is in danger of taking this away.

The protests about ticket prices from the Bayern Munich fans at the Emirates stadium this week highlight this exact point. Football is a game for the people, rooted in passion.

It is no coincidence Arsenal charge the highest prices for their tickets and are renowned for having a "theatre" atmosphere at their stadium. In contrast, Selhurst Park or Vicarage Road are famous for their passion and noise, it begs the question: what is different?

Crystal Palace and Watford have remained free from the soap opera and Sky Sports News narrative up until now, and it reflects in their fan base. Any fan starting to get into football today will overlook Newcastle, Aston Villa and Leeds and nothing clubs whereas in reality they are massive institutions of football history.

As a fan of the beautiful game, don't buy the narrative. Watch football, go to games, read related books. Don't get sucked into the soap opera. It isn't a matter of life and death. It is much more than that.

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Topics:
Premier League
Football

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