I Was Thinking: Is It Ever Just About Football?

I was thinking about an adage that I like: “the problem with going on holiday in order to ‘get away from it all’, is that you take yourself with you.” This is pertinent when we think about football, as football is something we mostly like to think of as an ‘escape’.

I was thinking about Wayne Rooney and about how much I really, really don’t like him anymore and also about how much I used to really, really, really like him. How I liked him then because of what he represented: an unaffected, honest talent; the swashiest of swashbucklers. How I don’t like him now because his body language has become affected, he is – in my eyes – dishonest; his swash has buckled.

I was thinking of an equivalent player – from within my not-so-complicated heirarchy of favourite players – and then thinking, if it were say, Patrice, or perhaps Rio, who’d not actually put in a transfer request, not just the once, but the twice, if I’d feel the same sense of indignation, the same malcontent, the same amount of grumpy?

I was thinking about Danny as the antithesis of Rooney: a team player who hasn’t vocalised his likely disappointment at being asked-slash-forced-slash-for the good of the team, to play out of his preferred position. A player who seems to genuinely enjoy being a professional footballer, in the way I would if I were one. A player who absolutely wants to be a United player. A player who is easy to love … in the way I would be if I were a professional footballer. What?!

I was thinking about what draws me to certain players – what makes them my favourites – and it’s the dichotomy of relatedness and Otherness. I like players whose behaviour most mirrors what I think mine would look like if I were to swap lives with them. It might be something expressed physically, but definitely anchored within their mental approach; it might be apparent in the type of shot they shape for, or the sort of pass they favour, or the way they hold themselves in an interview – the details of them I think that only I notice. However, it is also definitely about their Otherness, the preternatural; their ability to do the things with a football that most of us couldn’t muster without Dali taking up residency in our frontal lobes.

I was thinking about the ubiquitous-slash-tired question: Messi or Ronaldo? How Ronaldo embodies a version of the ‘modern footballer’, caricatures it even, and Messi, another.

I was thinking about this quote by George Orwell in a book I was reading: “If thought corrupts language, then language can corrupt thought.”

I was thinking about how Rooney is generally portrayed in the press and that. How the language used is based largely on his physical appearance, with the subtext being that he is a ‘chav’ and then the class politics attached to that term with an asterisk. How attitudes spread through the media, whether we realise it or not, whether we accept it or not and whether we like it or not.

I was thinking about how much value is placed on the superficial, how we still need to startĀ seeing individualsĀ for what they are: individuals. How a superficial attitude propagates societal ills.

I was thinking it was just about football.

I was thinking: is it ever just about football?

I was thinking about cutting Rooney some slack.

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