Football… It’s the sport we all love to follow. One of the most popular pastime activities on the planet. Be it watching it, reading, speaking or (increasingly so, due to the emergence of podcasts) hearing about it, football occupies the minds of millions of people around the globe for what adds up to an innumerable number of hours every single day of the year.
Some of us are even so consumed by the game that we occasionally sit down and write about it, even though we could – and probably should – be doing far more serious things. Things more beneficial to society or (more likely) to ourselves at least, than spraying random thoughts about football around. All this ranting, praising and musing about a phenomenon that is supposed to be merely ‘a game’.
Is it because we love the beauty of football itself; for the sheer aesthetic pleasure of watching players with uniquely honed skills produce artistry that goes beyond our own limited (if indeed existing) abilities and sometimes even surpasses our faculty of imagination?
Or is it because in this day and age not many of us are allowed the questionable pleasures of participating in military combat - or even a decent street-fight - and thus project the tens of thousands of years’ worth of evolution of a human body designed to hunt and fight onto a stylized battle between opposing teams under the strict guidance of rules?
Are we so deprived of possibilities of truly expressing ourselves in this postmodern age of capitalist uniformity that we, in order to claim a place in the world, opt to support a football team in yet another (failed) attempt of either distancing ourselves from or fitting in with our peers?
Or are we all just a bunch of tossers with too much free time and too little brain activity and moral capacity to concentrate on things that are actually important in life?
I really have no idea. There might be truth to some of it. It might just be a load of bollocks. Fact of the matter is that neither suggestion seem to render a meaningful answer to the question of why we spend so much time on football (although I’m pretty sure the last one is not too far off the mark).
But why, Lars, you might be inclined to ask, have you chosen yet again to write about such a detached subject instead of reflecting on actual and factual football matters?
I’ll tell you why (and in the process relate to said matters):
On Monday night, the season of my beloved Juventus practically ended with yet another draw at home to a vastly inferior side, effectively burying all hope of finishing in the European spots this season. More cynical minds than mine had been preparing for this confirmation of failure for months, as it was obvious that all was not well within the Juve-squad, but I clung on to the hope for as long as possible, only to be hit (deservedly) harder by the looming blow.
Having witnessed the shambolic and aloof, bordering on heart-less, performances by Juve at the end of last season, this season’s weren’t half as bad. But on the other hand; the prospect of finishing 7th for a second time in a row leaves a chasm between the expectations of the fans (myself included) and the actual results on the field which will undoubtedly result in much ado and turmoil, serving either to beat some sense of pride and grinta into the team (via additions, subtractions and a good old fashioned bollocking by the right people), or to further unnerve an already mentally frail side with expectations so high that it will be afraid to even take to the pitch of the much anticipated new stadium…
We will see about all that. In fact we will see, read, hear etc. about that ad nauseam in the following months, so I shall spare you and refrain from indulging in any speculation of this kind (in this piece, at least).
Returning to the initial semi-existentialist deliberations of this post, they of course stem from that void left inside after seeing another season come to an end without Juventus competing for anything except the salvation of the cindered remains of their all but cremated pride.
Such experiences inevitably beg the question: Why do I bother? Which, in turn, prompts the equally inevitable answer: I really don’t know, and I sure as heck can’t explain it rationally.
But the fact is I do bother. And I will continue to do so. Come next season I will once again be filled to the brim with expectations that may well be disappointed – or, and here is the sole reason I can think of to justify my obsession with this team and this sport in general; I might be rewarded. My prayers might be answered and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to celebrate important victories and even trophies next May.
And therein lies perhaps the answer to that massively relevant but essentially futile question. There, in a little nutshell wrapped in a pathetic cliche is the one reason I carry on with this football business, even though there are far more important things to be dealt with: Because I hope for a better tomorrow for my club. And although I know that even the greatest of victories will never outweigh the heartaches and pain suffered on the way – not to mention the time spent in the process - I cling to this irrational hope.
Not because I ‘love’ football. I don’t. I love my family and friends – and, and this is the slightly alarming part, I seem to also love Juventus. And possibly, the reason I bother watching, reading, hearing and writing about all this other football related stuff is because each and every match, each and every comment or toe-curling ‘angle’ carries a faint echo of someone somewhere undergoing the same pointless sufferings and celebrations as my own.
But surely, this kind of perseverance, dedication and devotion could be spent much better elsewhere? No doubt it could. And on nights like the one on Monday - when the meaninglessness was plain to see, revealed as it was by the stark light of the absence of any rewards for all of my investments, as the last rays of sun were stolen from my footballing heart, as all hope of any celebration evaporated into air so thin that it rendered breathing impossible (I’ll stop now!) – I seriously ponder the possibility of spending my time more wisely.
The next day, I took this picture of the son and I. We will never learn. Nor, I think, do we wish to.