I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know the first thing about football. My last exposure to football was when I was a kid and you had to support a football team, or get to enjoy the flavour of school toilet water. Naturally, growing up in the North-East, I chose to support Nottingham Forest, for the sound reason that a girl I really fancied when I was 6 moved to Nottingham. Inexplicably this wasn’t a popular choice.
Even with my limited knowledge of football it’s clear from looking at winners that they’re always teams. All the big trophies – the World Cup, the FA cup, the Melrose Cup, the premier first division, the lot – have never been won by an individual person. Even Roy had his Rovers to support him.
Sure, the individuals in the team may all have ideas about how to win the match, which it’s why the team has a captain; to talk through those ideas in the dressing room before the match and decide which ones to use.
The strikers may think that the way to win is to score more goals, while the defenders say that all they have to do is stop the other team scoring and then hope that a freak gust of wind blows the ball into the opponents’ goal.
The captain listens to all of these competing ideas, decides which ones (or which mix of them!) is most likely to win the match, draws some bendy arrows on a blackboard and then tells the team to go out there and do that.
The captain also has to bear in mind the wishes of the team manager, who probably says things like, “The fans want us to win more games” and “Our goal difference isn’t enough compared to our rival team, we need to fix that”.
Thus the manager, the captain and the players are all in harmony and can work together to play the most football they can, and hope it’s more than the other side manages.
Problems arise when a player is injured and the team has to call on their substitute, who’s been sitting on the bench muttering about everything the team’s doing wrong since 1983, but claims that from there he could hear all of the advice being shouted by the fans, whose only exposure to physical exercise is going to the pie stall and lifting their pints.
Suddenly it all goes wrong – the fans start cheering for this untested sub to be the team captain, because they’re sick of boring football, but they’re trying all kinds of crazy strategies that never got mentioned in the dressing room; “Let’s try kicking the ball at our goal, that should be lot easier to hit” and “Gordon, you’re amazingly fast on the wing, so run down to the vegan wholesale place and get me a 10kg bag of lentils” or “Why don’t we forget about the ball and have a proper adult discussion about who is the best team?”
Then half the team’s fans start shouting abuse, and the other half are chanting their support, because football is as boring as all shit without someone making a complete tit of themselves, and the opposition fans are laughing their heads off and wondering if their team is going to get some sort of record for the biggest win.
Then the team start leaving the field, and the new sub-Captain falls back on the old 0-0-3 formation with a three-pots-and-in goalkeeper while most of the fans are asking the opposing supporters where they buy their jumpers and the substitutes ex-girlfriend is yelling that it’s not all about scoring goals and why are people even bothering to have a football match if it can’t bring about world peace?
At the end of the day the side with the most goals wins, but the losers have the consolation of being able to say that their old team – the one that used to score goals and win matches – was shit and that the record attendance fans really hated them. And that’s what matters.
It’s a funny old game.