Sunday, 15 May 2011

Why I'm Giving Up Football

In the last few hours I've come to the decision that I am giving up watching and being generally interested in football. It’s not that I don’t enjoy football, I do, and Liverpool have a bright future under Kenny Dalglish, but it’s what football has come to represent that has been bothering me for some time, probably ever since last year’s World Cup. The South African World Cup was meant to offer some hope and be a new start for a nation sorely treated by the west. Instead, it ended up being about a swarm of corporate locusts flying in, landing, stripping an already poor country (thanks to the IMF and World Bank’s involvement) of even more money, before fucking off to relieve the next recession hit country of its assets. A five mile exclusion zone was placed around each stadium, preventing street vendors from getting in on the act, while Budweiser and Coca Cola made a fortune. And that, in a nutshell (yes, I am the nut), disgusts me.

I forget who said that when the painter paints what the public demands, it’s no longer art, but business. And football, indeed sport in general, is no longer sport, it is about selling respectability to the likes of McDonalds and Carling, which is like BP sponsoring Greenpeace. I thought that I could assuage the guilt I feel by not actually contributing anything to the business. I watch most games on the internet, the only two games I’ve been to in my life (both last season) were with tickets bought by other people. I own one scarf, and that’s it. But it’s not good enough and no matter how I try to kid myself that the last few Liverpool games have been great for the club and city, the nagging of my conscious is still there.

This week Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, along with Maradona and some other has been footballers, travelled to Chechnya to play an exhibition match for the Russian backed warlord who runs the country (a particularly nasty fucker). Kadyrov himself played and by all accounts they let him win. This is the final straw for me. I cannot continue to be a fan of a sport where that level of idiocy and lack of self awareness is an everyday occurrence. Presumably their next stop will be Burma or Syria.

Yet it’s more than that. You see, the reason why I own no shirts or merchandise is that I have desire to belong to any nation or race or class or clan generally. ‘I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another man’s, I will not Reason & Compare, my business is to Create’. So says Los in Blake’s Jerusalem (the proper Jerusalem, not the hymn commonly called Jersalem). This weekend I have finished reading The Complete Works of Blake, Volume 2 of Robert Graves’s Greek Myths, and a second reading of Finnegans Wake, probably the most challenging work of fiction ever written. When I finish writing this piece I am going to spend the rest of the night redrafting the second chapter of a novella I am working on. And you what? I’ve achieved all this on my own. I didn’t need an overpaid advertising Whoarding (sic – very Wakean) to act as proxy because I have nothing else in my sad little life to look forward other than liver failure, I did it on my own. Which isn’t to say my life isn’t sad, it is, but I actually like it and I’d actually like to get on and achieve something of my own. No matter what Liverpool do or do not achieve next season, I'm still going to have to get up and go to work in the morning.

I don’t enjoy the rivalry, I don’t enjoy the feelings of dislike to people who follow some different arbitrary bunch of millionaires to the ones that I like. I named myself the Eponymist because I practice my own ideological belief called Eponymism. Eponymism is simply the recognition that we are all unique and so everyone’s core ideology should be likewise unique. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be part of an appreciation society or have similar hobbies to others or like the same films and music as others, but the partisanship and the sectarianism of football makes it more like an organised religion than anything else and I hate organised religion and I can’t continue to take an active (or even passive) interest in football. Football makes you see the world through rose tinted spectacles, claiming the obviously untrue as gospel, which is certainly like every religion ever created. Yet unlike Blake, Reason and the scientific method are of great importance to me and this atavistic tribalism only clouds judgement. It means that I will now have nothing to talk to with most people in the world, but fuck it, if that’s all they’ve got then they’re not worth knowing. I’m not judging anyone who continues to follow football, it’s your life and what you do with it is your own affair. It's just not for me anymore.

Think I’ll still watch cricket though. I can enjoy that without becoming emotionally involved (and it's slow enough to allow reading).


  1. You've hit the nail right on the head. Ever since the Frankly disappointing world cup (I don't just mean England's performance) I have also gave it up, I dont know if it is the sinister corruption at FIFA, Murdoch's SKY monopoly or the moronic behavior of players but I would feel ill at ease to wear a football shirt in public. I used to love my club (Coventry), it's old ground (now a flash load of unaffordable flats with a council "NO BALL GAMES" sign where the pitch once was) It's history and records. I too am inclined to waste my time and money elsewhere.

    Lee. @superflyingbis

  2. I started going to watch football live in 1990 and by 1992 was a shirt (all of them) wearing, season ticket buyer. I loved the singing, the shouting, the swearing, I loved the glimmer of the floodlights on coins as they arced through the sky from the caged in away fans, I loved the frisson of danger as the crowd surged towards the barriers after goals or near misses, I loved the camaraderie the family the tribe. (and the statistics mmmm)
    I loved singing that we were the best team in the world and our local rivals were the shit of Anglia.

    Outside of this world I was aware that genetically all humans were so similar as any differences were inconsequential, I thought a devolved Britain and a united Ireland were stepping stones to a united Europe and eventually world peace... But I still Hated people from 40 miles up the road.

    I kept up the cognitive dissonance for a decade and a half but as my liberalism became a stronger part of my character, Sky's money destroyed the sporting and near egalitarian competitive nature of the game and as the increased prices led to a softened atmosphere, my attendance dropped to a few matches a season.

    Last year I didn't watch a single game of the world cup for the first time since I stopped using nappies. Football is essentially dead to me now.

    There's a Spanish game on the plasma screens in the pub here and I can still see the skill and occasional beauty of the game but the nationalism and local pride seem ridiculous to me.

    Anyway, enough of my yakking, I suppose in football's favour it is at least a few steps up from the Roman Colliseum or outright war.