Creased up recently when I spied with my little eye a letter to the Editor in the EDP from a fellow Wroxham-ite, a Mr Potter of Hartwell Road (that's the posh part of Wroxham for you out-worlders) writes under the title: This boring game should be banned.
Although the accuracy of his assertion is questionable, his sentiments are to be applauded. Brian believes that football is a minority sport which enjoys an enhanced reputation chiefly die to the employment requirements of the nation's football journalists.
I sympathise. I've been banging on for ages about the pathetic standard of journalism surrounding football in the local press. Brian's advice to families to keep their children away from football matches if they want them to grow up to be decent citizens is hard to argue with.
Two anecdotes to illustrate the point. Charlton Athletic versus Colchester United at the “old” Valley was the first professional match I ever saw live. Students of the “funny old game” will know that the Valley could hold 100,000 spectators on the massive old terraces. There were only about two thousand of us present for a mid-week Division Three match.
What struck me was the language of the players. We are all used to lip-reading the antics of the foul-mouthed pros paraded on out TV's every week. In person, with only a few bored spectators between you and the players, the language bordered on the criminal. I thought, “What kind of a game is this where the object seems to be to out-filth the opponents and officials?” It's still the same today.
And, over my garden fence, my next door neighbour, who attends most of the Wroxham F.C. matches, recounted a football moment that illustrates the sort of people who play. Apparently, in a recent reserve team match, one of the Wroxham youngsters was smacked in the mouth by an opponent. Broke his jaw and removed a few teeth. Referee was trying to sort out a fight somewhere else on the pitch and didn't see anything. Luckily the referee's assistant did. Young lad is going to sue said thug. So he should. Hope he goes to jail. But, of course, the real problem is the game itself. Brian from Hartwell Road says that “ a few hundred thousand obsessed morons and drink fuelled idiots make the game a real pain in the butt”. Hard to argue with that.
Descent people don't go to football matches.
Brian reminds us that football started in the Middle Ages as a game for local ruffians in the streets of English villages. Not much has changed then.
I like his comment that football is boring and repetitive. He contends that for most of the game nothing much happens. Hard to argue with that.
When Brian insists that more people go to museums at the weekend than attend football matches, I presume he means professional matches. Otherwise he is telling “stretchers” (I'm sure you'll remember “stretchers” - that's what Mark Twain attributed to Huckleberry Finn as a replacement for lies – Huckleberry insisted he never lied – he just stretched the truth sometimes!) Perhaps Brian is a Twain scholar.
I like Brian's style and substance. His peroration that football is likely to die a well-deserved and early death - were it not for the obsequious attentions of the media - is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
The real solution is down in the grass roots. Why parents allow children as young as eight to play football is a mystery to me? Yes, let them kick a ball, but organise them into leagues, have cup competitions and endless fitness sessions? It's madness. So's the game.