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
- 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。
- 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！