For years now we have regarded football (or soccer for any American readers) as the ‘Beautiful Game’. We have seen players such as Johan Cruyff, Dennis Bergkamp, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi grace the emerald grass of the Bernabéu to forever change the way we think about the sport. However, with recent events such as the controversy involving the World Cup bids of Russia and Qatar, and the issue of the AFCON hosts being switched at the last-minute, and the upcoming FIFA presidential election happening , it’s no wonder people are beginning to think ill of the game that we all crouch around our TVs at home for, in the pub or even be lucky enough to witness at the stadiums.
Maybe it has been a long time coming. For a while, we have been questioning whether the game has looked the same since the days of Maradona and Pele. The obvious answer is there, but we think of the changes in terms of the lifestyle, and the technology that has evolved within. We ought to think of the changes to the mentality of the players, the increase in salary, as well as the stakes involved in playing modern football. We ought to consider that there are a lot of things at stake for the players, as there are roughly millions upon millions of fans who gather around the flat screen, begging for them to bring home the three points or the trophy that is on the line.
I think that this is maybe the case. The ugliness starts with us, the fans who pay good money to watch our favourite players. Nowadays, there has been an increase in the presence of the betting shops and gambling based on the results of the match, and we forget that the presence of betting shops can put pressure on the players to perform, especially when the match is full of high-stakes and there is that added increase in the already tense atmosphere. That pressure can get to the players, and cause them to go off the rails, with Diego Costa’s actions in the Capital One Cup Semi-Final being a prime example. On the one hand we can see it as a moment of madness fro the Chelsea striker, but at the same time we can also see it as the pressure of the game and the extra pressure from the home crowd getting to his head. This was apparent by his tangling with not one, not two but THREE Liverpool players, as a result of the extra placed on the Premier League top-scorer to perform in what is already a tense game, considering their previous history.
Another way the fans can affect the image of the game is by their actions in general.
Earlier last year, football fans in Serbia made headlines during a Euro 2016 Qualifier between Albania and Serbia in Belgrade. A group of Albanian fans flew a remote-controlled drone with the Albanian flag attached. The match was abandoned as a result of the protesting fans having a massive brawl, which evidently got to the players, as they followed suit and got into a brawl themselves.
It is incidents like these that make us wonder if the true meaning of football has been distorted to a point where even the governing bodies of football are still shrouded in corruption and controversy. If you remember in my last article, I explored the controversy that is surrounding FIFA, and whether that is starting to taint the image of the World Cup, the biggest sporting event on the planet. I’m beginning to think that the game that I grew up watching, loving and playing will never be the same as it was before. And as long as the issues raging within FIFA and UEFA continue, then the ‘beautiful game’, sadly has indeed turned ugly.