Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Football; Beauty and the Beast 足球—美女與野獸

Football; Beauty and the Beast

I can’t remember a time when football wasn’t an important part of my life. One of my first memories is England winning the World Cup. I was four years old and I always mention this because it hasn’t happened since and may not happen again in my lifetime! I also vividly recall the excitement of my first live match on Boxing Day 1969, Burnley v Liverpool (a fixture which, coincidentally, will be happening again this year exactly 45 years later). Throughout my childhood, playing football in the school playground, the street and the park with my friends was an everyday occurrence that I took for granted. In one way or another either personally or professionally football has been a constant part of my life ever since and it’s fair to say that over the years it has developed into a bit of a love-hate relationship. That might sound odd, so let me explain.

The things I love about football:
  • It’s easy to play: One of the beauties of the sport is its simplicity. You can amuse yourself for hours with just a ball, kicking it against a wall, playing ‘keepy up’ etc. You don’t need much equipment and the rules are simple too so it’s easy to learn both the basic skills and how to play. With a ball and a bit of space, people can have a game, it’s that simple.
  • The simplicity belies its complexity and skill: Almost everyone can play football, however not every person, and certainly not every team, can play it well. I love the fact that to get really good you need to blend natural ability and hard work. Watching a top class player or team is like watching poetry in motion. It’s called the beautiful game because the sublime skills of the rare footballing geniuses are breathtaking. The fact that the fusion of talent, tactics and skills so rarely come together make it an even more joyous thing to behold when it does. Top players and teams make it look easy, but those of us who have played even at a moderate level know that it is anything but easy.  
  • It’s universal: I am an avid follower of other sports too. Cricket and rugby are among my favourites but they are not what I would call truly global. Football is arguably unique as a team sport in that it is played virtually everywhere. Of course its universal popularity is in part due to its simplicity. We shouldn’t underestimate this global appeal because as a potential power for good, football is well-placed to use its influence to promote harmony and goodwill.
  • It’s good for you and society: Playing football promotes positive health both physical and mental. If done correctly, training for and playing football makes you strong, fit, agile and flexible. It is good for your skeletal and cardio-vascular systems and reduces stress. Physical activity also enhances cognitive performance – it’s good for your brain too. A happy, healthy and engaged population is good for society.
  • Being part of a team: I retired from playing football as a veteran when I was in my mid 40s. My body told me to quit much earlier than that but I just loved the camaraderie and being part of a team. You can’t beat the adrenaline rush just before kick-off and for me, it’s not quite the same in individual sports. Whether you are a player or a fan, following a team can bring people together. Friendships made through sports teams tend to endure.
  • Football can be a metaphor for life: If you learn and play properly, football teaches you lots about life; how win with humility, how to lose with good grace. It teaches the benefits of teamwork and the direct causal relationship between effort and positive outcomes. Equally, you learn about overcoming adversity and how to treat other people with respect.

So I love football for many reasons but chiefly because of its inherent qualities of fun and excitement. At its best it embodies the essence of sport – healthy and pure competition between two teams where honest endeavour brings success.  

Football should always be a great experience on and off the pitch; unfortunately it just isn’t!   

The things I hate about football: 
  • Commercialisation: Football is often used by people with no empathy or love for it, as a ‘tool’ with which to make money. I guess this is no different to other industries, but I draw the line when it becomes ‘exploitation’ of players or fans or anybody else for that matter.
  • Greed: This can apply to TV companies, corporate bodies, agents, players, even Associations etc. There is a lot of money in football but only in a very few places. Some people can’t resist the temptation to line their own pockets rather than making sure scarce resources are distributed more equitably. 
  • Corruption: This takes a number of forms ranging from officials in power abusing their positions to match-fixers deliberately affecting the outcome of a match for personal gain. These people destroy the soul of football.
  • Cheating: I can’t abide cheats. Cheating takes many forms whether it is deliberately fielding an ineligible player, taking performance enhancing drugs, fixing a match or diving in the penalty area. One method of cheating that has got me incensed recently is players feigning injury, particularly to waste time as the final whistle gets near. I left a match before the end recently because I was so disgusted with the players antics. Do they have no shame? Everyone knows they are blatantly cheating but for me what makes it worse is that they don’t seem to care that they are also making themselves look pathetically weak falling over for no apparent reason; they must have no pride either. When this sort of behaviour is encouraged or condoned by coaches, as it frequently is, it makes it even worse and makes my blood boil. People tell me to ‘get over it’ or ‘it’s part of the game’. Actually it’s NOT! Faking injury is unsporting behaviour and is a cautionable offence. 
  • Hooliganism: Football has been blighted by physical attacks on people and property for many years. I have literally feared for my life on a few occasions, most notably when watching England in a World Cup qualifier in Rome in 1997 (watch the youtube videos and you will see why). I am one of the lucky ones; I’m still here to tell the tale. It’s a sad fact that here are still horrible people who use football as an excuse for a fight.
  • Discrimination: In the same way that football can connect people, it can also divide them. Football is often very ‘tribal’ in nature and this can result in prejudices of all kinds being voiced. It is important to distinguish between rivalry and open hostility. Unfortunately I have witnessed vile and unforgivable personable abuse at football matches based on many factors including; team allegiance, colour of skin, race, age, sex, orientation etc. For some reason you just don’t get this level of unnecessary abuse and naked aggression at other sports.   
  • It brings the worst out in some people: More often than not, football is a positive influence but occasionally it is also used as an excuse for a range of negative human traits such as hatred, arrogance, discourtesy and violence. There are perpetrated both on and off the pitch. For example look at Louis Suarez and his seemingly uncontrollable desire to bite opponents. The one that bothers me most off the pitch is the lack of respect shown by so-called ‘fans’ towards each other, players and officials. Believe it or not I have seen a mass brawl involving parents at a children’s match.

There is no doubt that football is and will remain a world-wide phenomenon and as such it will continue to embody every facet of human nature, good and bad. So I suppose I am destined to continue my love-hate relationship with football (because after all this time I can’t turn my back on it), at times reaching the heights of elation, wonder and joy and at other times plunged into despair, disgust and depression. I just hope my heart can take the highs and lows; a polarized range of intense emotions!

I consider myself fortunate to work in an industry with the potential to transcend barriers of all kinds and to unite people in a common passion. If everyone involved in football at every level made more effort to eradicate the negative influences, the ‘beautiful game’ would flourish. As a consequence, I sincerely believe that the world would be a much better place.

Mark Sutcliffe CEO November 2014



  • 容易上手:足球運動其中一項最大的優點是其簡易性,你可以花上數小時自娛自樂,例如不停將皮球踢向牆上。整個過程毋須添置太多設備,而且條例簡單易明,只需掌握足球的基本技術及如何比賽經已足夠。一個足球和一小片空間,大家便可以進行比賽,就是這麼簡單!
  • 簡易性隱藏著複雜和技巧:幾乎每個人都能夠踢足球,然而並非每個人,以及每一支球隊能夠踢得出色。我愛上它的理由是:要踢得出類拔萃,必須同時揉合先天潛能以及後天努力。當觀看一些世界級球員或球隊比賽時,仿如欣賞著動感的詩篇般精彩,因此才稱得上「漂亮足球」,尤其遇上一些世間罕有的天才球員展示其上乘的足球技術時總會激動人心!當足球天分、戰術和技巧罕有地混合在一起時,能夠親身目睹自然是一樁美事。頂級球員和球會的表現看似得心應手,但其實大家心知肚明,這絕對不是一件易事,就算是一般球員亦難以做到! 
  • 全球性:本人在其他運動方面也是一名狂然的追隨者,板球和橄欖球亦是本人眾多的愛好之一,然而我不能將它們定位為全球化運動。毫無疑問,足球是一項隊際的運動,分布在全球每一個角落。誠然,基於足球的簡易性,幫助它主導了全球市場,我們不能低估這個擁有全球最大影響力的運動,全因它具有助人向善的潛能,運用足球的影響力以締造和諧善意的氛圍。
  • 對你和社會都有裨益:足球競技能夠促進個人的身心發展,如果適得其所的話,足球訓練和參加比賽會令你變得身體強壯、強身健體、身手敏捷以及動作靈活。同時,它能夠為你的骨骼和循環系統帶來健康發展,紓緩緊張。體育活動亦能加強認知表現,對你的大腦發展大有裨益。因此,一個開心、健康及積極的活動人口對整個社會都有良好的影響。
  • 成為球隊的一員:作為一名老將,本人在年屆四十左右便決定結束球員生涯。身體狀況本叫我得更早退下來,但我則喜歡作為球隊的一部分和珍惜隊友間的友情。在球賽開始前,你不能遏止腎上腺素急升,而我在不同運動上卻不會有相似感覺。無論你是一名球員或球迷,追隨球隊能夠將大家匯聚在一起,友情透過球隊的蔓延將持久不衰!
  • 足球能夠比喻人生:假若你能夠正確地學習及掌握足球技術,它會教曉你很多人生哲理—如何謙遜地取勝、如何大方地認輸等。此外,足球亦會教導一些團隊合作的好處以及直接的努力與回報關係。同樣地,你亦會掌握如何克服逆境以及尊重他人之道。
  • 商品化:足球時常被一些無情的人士利用,視它作為一種「工具」來賺錢。本人估計這種情況與其他行業無異;然而,當球員、球迷或其他人士被「剝削」時,我將會為此劃清界線。
  • 貪婪:它可以應用於電視機構、管治團體、代理公司、球員以至足球總會等。足球可以用來謀取更多的金錢利益,但僅限於小部分的地方身上。某些人難以抗拒金錢的誘惑而將所得利益據為己有,也不情願將有限的資源拿出來公平地分攤。 
  • 貪污:某些官員濫用職權,透過不同方式非法操控賽事,從而謀取私利。這些不法之徒的存在,徹底摧毀了足球的靈魂!
  • 欺詐:本人絕不能容忍欺詐行為。欺詐是可以透過不同形式出現,不論是球場上有不合參賽資格的球員、濫用藥物以催谷比賽狀態、非法操控賽事以至在禁區內「插水」等。最近,其中一種欺詐行為令我勃然大怒,有球員在賽事臨近完結前假扮受傷,意圖浪費時間,因此我提早離場,實在厭惡這類球員的惡行。難道他們沒有羞恥之心?每一個人都知道他們 招搖撞騙的技倆,但對於本人而言,更甚的是他們似乎未有意識到自己的差勁表現,亦不會因此而感到自豪。當教練時常鼓吹或默許球員作出這類行為時,情況將會變得愈加嚴重,足以令我氣血上升。有些人會告訴我去作出「妥協」或「將它視為比賽的一部分」。實際上我未能做到,「詐傷」絕對是不君子行為以及違背體育精神的原意。 
  • 足球流氓:多年來,足球流氓對其他球迷以及財產的攻擊,令足球運動蒙上污點!本人曾有數次感到劫後餘生的經歷,最令我印象深刻的是一九九七年在羅馬觀看英格蘭國家隊對陣意大利國家隊的世界盃外圍賽(有關片段可在youtube中查找),我是其中一名倖存者,得以在這裡講述悲慘的往事!不幸的是,現實上仍有不少恐怖分子以足球為借口,不斷製造襲擊事件。
  • 歧視:某程度上足球可以將人類聯繫在一起,同時亦可以分化他們。足球可以劃分為多個「部落」,因此有時會導致偏見的情況發生。我們必須明確分辨「競爭對立」和「公然敵意」的行為。本人不幸目睹在球場上發生的骯髒事件,包括因一些對球隊忠誠、膚色、種族、年齡、性別、意向等因素而向對方作出一些可恥以及不可原諒的人身攻擊行為。基於某種原因,你不會將這些不必要的人身攻擊行為,赤裸裸侵略在其他運動上。  
  • 令一些人士變得更糟: 在一般情況下,足球帶來正面的影響,但有時亦會牽引出一連串負面的人性特質,包括仇恨、傲慢、無禮及暴力傾向,而且已經滲入到球場內外。舉個例,蘇亞雷斯的「咬人」事件,反映他似乎難以自控地向對方球員作出咬人的行為;而另一個令我非常懊惱的是一些所謂「球迷」在球場外相互指罵對方的職球員,來本人曾經在一場少年賽事中親身目睹雙方家長激烈爭吵,真是信不信由你!

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