Flatout from football

Even for keen football fans it increasingly feels like it’s all a bit much…


Going to the football used to be something to look forward to, a special event that broke up the monotony of the week. Seeing a game live on TV, meanwhile, was something that only happened very rarely, perhaps for a cup final or big international match.

Now the game is omnipresent and there isn’t really any such thing as an off-season. Satellite TV and internet streaming means that if you want to it is almost possible to consume the game 24 hours a day, all year round.

Of course, having the world’s best leagues and players at your fingertips is fantastic for many reasons, but sometimes it would be nice to have a bit of a break.

Recently, for instance, I headed home for Christmas and New Year looking forward to a little rest and relaxation after a long 2012.

The J.League Awards should realistically have served as a wrap-up for the season and the start of that break, but for me and many of my colleagues – not to mention the fans and players – that was far from the case.

No sooner had I filed my story on Player of the Year Hisato Sato than he and his Sanfrecce Hiroshima teammates were playing in the Club World Cup against Auckland City, kicking off a 10-day period of intercontinental clashes and 3am finishes (for me), concluding with Corinthians’ defeat of Chelsea in the final.

A couple of days after that I flew back to England, with football seemingly now on the back-burner for a short while. No chance. I crashed onto my sofa and Augsburg against Bayern Munich flicked on.

Cameras beam almost every game around the world

Twitter and Facebook, too, were constantly updating with results, fixtures, news, rumours, injuries, transfers – every day there was football happening, constantly.

Wigan-Arsenal, Liverpool-Fulham, Crystal Palace-Huddersfield, Roma-Milan, La Liga, Match of the Day, Emperor’s Cup… it was never-ending.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and know nobody’s forcing me to watch everything, but it can sometimes seem a little overwhelming.

Also, I can’t help but feel that the sheer overexposure of the game now is contributing towards the sense of entitlement and short-termism within the sport.

Interestingly, Match of the Day presenter Gabby Logan also suggested as much. While her guests Alan Hansen and Robbie Savage bickered about the outrage of a minor missed call by the referee she interjected.

“Decision-making is going to be different in every game and it’s under the microscope,” the daughter of the former Wales international Terry Yorath observed. “We see them and that’s why we talk about them. At the start of Match of the Day, nearly 50 years ago, when there were two games on and there weren’t cameras everywhere [that wasn’t the case].”

Football is everywhere now

That reasoning can, I feel, be applied to the game at large.

A sense of outrage, shock and scandal now partners every less-than-satisfactory result, and with wall-to-wall coverage and 24-hour news giving fans increasing access to the goings on on and off the pitch they are spoiled. This leads to greater than ever expectations of the “right signings”, the results/decisions/respect they deserve, and means fans often don’t fully appreciate what they’ve got.

Arsenal fans – at least those in the under-30 age-range who grew up spoiled with the glories of Tony Adams and Ian Wright, and the invincibles of Bergkamp, Henry and Pires – have been the most irritating of late.

You used to have to wait a week until the next fixture, meaning it was easier to view events a little more calmly and with a sense of perspective. Now there’s no time and one club or another is invariably embroiled in a “crisis”.

“There’s always next week” is no longer good enough, and people within the game – players, coaches and fans – want everything yesterday.

Perhaps taking a step back every now and then and leaving everybody with a little time to refresh, recharge, and gain some perspective is just what football needs. But will anybody ever get the chance?


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