Unlikely Subject for a Blog from me



As I’ve remarked often before and at the risk of being boring, it would be difficult to find anyone less sporty than I am.    In my day I enjoyed some exercise – I liked walking, cycling, sailing.    I fancied learning to ride but not enough to do anything about it.   But basically what I like about all these things is that they are moving you about, and you get to see and observe different things.   When it comes to doing any of these things in competition with other people, my interest comes to an abrupt end.   Why bother?  What’s the point?   I couldn’t care less if someone can do all these things faster/better than I can.   Good luck to them.

You will understand then that gymn teachers in schools never viewed me with a favourable eye.    I don’t think the subject could even have been marked as an academic subject because I had no interest in it whatsoever.   When it came to being forced to participate in a game of hockey – a vicious, dangerous and pointless procedure I thought – I spent my energy in keeping as much distance between myself and the ball – or perhaps more accurately, other people’s sticks – as possible.   The gymn mistress – one of those energetic but plump persons, thought herself the mistress of withering sarcasm, so she demanded to know why I was always scuttling away from the ball like a frightened rabbit.   I replied that I didn’t want to play in the first place.    She said if I played no sport I would get very unfit.   I said I didn’t think so, I walked several miles a day, and besides I wasn’t fat.   The gymn mistress was a sensible, pragmatic woman, and she obviously had some ability in training teams for that school’s hockey and netball teams often won the coveted cup, and there were plenty of girls who shared her interest.     After that she wasted no more time on me, but she  didn’t meddle with me either, so I sat on the grassy banks while they played whatever it was and read my book.   I applauded when they won.   She had given me the opportunity to participate even though she must have seen that I would always be useless, so I had no further quarrel with her.

But when it came to dealing with men, I soon realised one at least had to be able to talk the sport, if not actually participate in it.   (A more accurate description is perhaps to know enough about it to be able to listen with intelligent interest.)        I have sat through cricket games at Lords where nothing happens at interminable length and what does happen is largely incomprehensible, and where applause occurs for no reason that you can see and then your companion explains that the batsman has just scored his thousandth run (but not in that game) and the only redeeming feature about the entire day is strawberries.

Fortunately John has little interest in cricket.   But he plays golf  with enthusiasm, and I have enjoyed walking some beautiful courses with him, or in more recent years, driving round in a buggy while he and Rory golfed.        I have watched many football and rugby games.

Rugby deserves its own assessment,  but today I’m thinking about football.     I can see why football is ‘the beautiful game’.  It operates on so many levels.   In a good game, a drama as fine as any battle unfolds before you.    I don’t pretend to understand the offside rule but the object of the game is to score most goals.    The team of 11 men functions like a battle troup.      There’s the captain, generally a defender and placed to the rear of the field so he can observe the whole of  the game.     It’s difficult to see what he actually does, but a good captain makes a difference.    (Arsenal had one fellow who used to sit in the field and weep if the game had not ended as he thought it should.)      Beside him will be ranged the other defenders, often big men of strength and aggression.   They are there to block the opposition from reaching the goal, and to pass the ball forward, but the best of them are in their own person formidable barriers of intimidating disposition.    The players in the midfield bring the ball forward and occasionally score, and then there are the stars up front, who may be slight and swift   and who score goals.   The goalkeeper in the rear is often a giant of a fellow who fills the goal area, of irritable disposition and loud and complaining bellow, but he also needs to be speedy and possess a sixth sense of being able to anticipate in advance where the ball is going to go.   All of these players can display breathtaking athleticism, speed and skill.   Apart from strength and  stamina, footballers also need considerable personal courage.   It is no game for wimps.

(No doubt this is a woefully inadequate description.)

Occasionally a player comes along who is truly outstanding in his generation.   These men are sometimes good looking as well – George Best, or Christiano Renaldo are two who come to mind.   Such a player is like a wizard with the ball as his familiar.   He can apparently do whatever he likes with the ball – it drifts towards him as if he were a force of gravity.   He can turn up as if by magic wherever the ball is going to be.   He can score with a  heel flick and his back to the goal.    He can effortlessly pull away from his pursuers in a race.    He can soar in the air as if he had wings and apparently hover there like a hawk until the ball connects with his head.   He is beautiful in motion and wonderful to watch.

But the most interesting ‘players’ of the game of football are, I think, the managers.   The great Daddy O of football at the moment is I think the long  serving Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United.   I have made no comprehensive study of this matter, of course, but other prominent managers would include perhaps David Moyes, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho.      These men have often themselves been minor players, so that early in their careers they had to recognise this and begin the long training to become managers.

I have heard fans of other teams describe Ferguson as a horrible, nasty man.   I see no evidence of this.   These men operate in a very tough business.   They are only as good as their team’s last win.    If they win, their fame as a team and therefore their fortune will grow.    They will have more fans to shout them on and lift their spirits.    When Liverpool are in Europe at a final and they have lost the cup, and they are called up to receive the runner’s up medal which nobody wants, and you watch the captain square his shoulders and lead his men up, and suddenly even there abroad the crowd that has travelled with them swells into, You’ll never walk alone, you can see each man stand taller and feel comforted, and you know why Gerard says, Liverpool fans are the best in the world.      More fans mean more money, and more money means you can buy better players and have more chance of winning.   Winning is everything.   So if the manager can put off the other side;  intimidate the referee;  annoy the opposing manager and thus give their team an advantage, they will do that.   They would expect all that to be done against them, and they have to be able to deal with it.    If the team goes on winning, they will keep their jobs.

But those are the black arts of the football manager.   There are also golden ones.    They must have superb man management skills.   One primadonna scorer and ten disgruntled others will never win any cup.    They have to be a team, play together for the team, put team interests before their own personal glory.

Whenever you hear Ferguson speak on anything, he talks sense.   He never reveals the whole of his thinking, and he dissembles, but what else should he do?    He’s cunning and far-sighted, but also fair and sound in judgement and generous (if well treated.)   True, he’s a bad enemy, but then he’s a Scot, and who would be stupid enough to make an enemy of him?   As for Mourinho, he has all these qualities as well, and what is more, he is the Anthony Eden of football managers – stands out in every photograph  on account of his good looks.     I love Wenger’s French sophistication and his Gallic shrugs.   But it’s Moyes I’d put money on if you were betting on a replacement for Ferguson.

But then, as I said, there’s no-one less sporty than I am.   In this case I wouldn’t disagree  with the famous quote, ‘The wimmins, they know nothing.’   Certainly this ‘wimmin’ barely understands the rules.

But at least I can see why football is called ‘the beautiful game.’

About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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