David Worboys – The Men’s Game

The so-called "beautiful game" is blighted by lack of discipline on the field and financial corruption off it.

If there is such a thing as “the beautiful game” it must be women´s football. The recent World Cup in Australia and New Zealand offered us displays of brilliant football and thrilling encounters. It was a joy to watch. Just as in tennis the men may be quicker and better – but look at men’s football now.

Much more than in women’s football it is blighted with corruption and dominated by money. Too many of its players are spoiled and self-centred. Quite a few are charged with abusing women, including their partners. Fortunately, there are also many responsible role models, some even with charisma. But on the pitch they cheat by wrestling and pushing in the goalmouth, elbowing, punching, shirt-pulling, fouling, diving, feigning injury and time-wasting. Every trick in the book. And, unlike tennis players and cricketers, they spit (and even snot) gratuitously.

Too often match results are predictable, as certain clubs benefit from their wealth and the size of their following. Economics and sponsorships determine that they need to win. Narrow decisions, one way or the other, involving penalties, red cards, disallowed goals, offside and added time, almost always favour the more privileged sides.

Now there is a “brain drain” of talent towards non-footballing countries with money. The hope of these countries may be to break the domination of Western Europe and South America, the true homes of football. The players are shamelessly prostituting themselves for their own financial gain. And it starts with the greatest of them all.

Why would Messi go to Miami in a country to whom “football” is a totally different game – so much so that they refer to association football as “soccer”? Cristiano and Neymar went to the virtually pariah Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which has nothing to do with football apart from the money it generates. Could North Korea not afford them? And half the clubs in the Premier League are now in American (USA) hands.

Potentially it is still a “beautiful game” to watch but the flow of a match is interrupted by late substitutes, video-assisted refereeing and excessive fouling.

Before the mid-sixties football was always a tough – sometimes rough – game but there were standards. A fair shoulder barge was shoulder to shoulder on the ball. There were also drawbacks. Misjudgements were made because the referee’s decision was final. If a player had to leave the field for injury, his side was reduced to ten men, because no substitutions were allowed. In that respect, football has moved on. So have the grounds. I was at Kenilworth Road in the fifties to see Stanley Matthews playing for Blackpool against Luton. The pitch was waterlogged with a huge puddle in one corner and the players’ shirts were so muddy the position numbers could not be seen. The players were slipping and sliding but managing to play the “beautiful game” without much of today’s gamesmanship.

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.