It’s more than just football

I watched some of the football last night. This might seem insignificant but it’s anything but. I’ve never watched a game of football in my entire life and never had the slightest bit of interest in the sport so for me to sit and choose to watch the game is a Halley’s comet moment.

I became interested in it because of Gareth Southgate, the English football manager. I’ve always viewed football as being the domain of littering thugs who get drunk and fight. The footballers themselves have never seemed much better with scandals involving drugs, alcohol, misogyny, along with an arrogance and general lack of brains. Gareth Southgate is different. He’s put ethics and football into the same bed, a previously incompatible pair.

There’s too much encouragement and reward in our society for doing the wrong thing. Just look at people who gloat about tax evasion or who think it’s cool to criticise and abuse other vulnerable and minority groups. If you try to stand up for what you believe in, like not eating animals, people condemn you for being dull or worse, taunt and abuse you. How did society get like this?

Gareth Southgate has made it cool and fashionable to stand up for what is right. He has stood up for his team when some of them have been racially abused and encouraged them to speak up about it. He recently wrote an essay explaining why the team takes the knee before matches. Judging by the racist abuse the team has received overnight I can see it’s important they continue to do it. The team has said they plan to donate their winnings to the NHS and have already made a significant donation of their international fees to NHS charities. This team is diverse, humble, and generous. Last year during the pandemic Gareth Southgate took a 30% pay cut. There’s a good podcast about him on Stories of our Times: Gareth Southgate: it’s more than just football. If he can change the culture of football for the better, and more importantly, change the attitude and behaviour of football fans, he’s truly succeeded.

So, what did I think of my first game of football? Obviously the outcome was disappointing especially since I felt the Italian team played dirty. At one point I saw one of them drag a member of the English team to the ground. Maybe this is common in football but I thought the Italian player should have been removed from the field. We didn’t watch after full-time so I missed the ending but overall it was a nail-biting experience. Hopefully the English team will take this game as a good learning experience and continue to develop as a team for the next big tournament. Congratulations to them for making it so far.

6 Replies to “It’s more than just football”

  1. I wonder if the fact that our male sports teams do a haka, as well as listen to the anthem, before international games means that they don’t feel the need to take the knee? We’ll see. The women’s teams don’t do a haka, so we’ll see if they ever take the knee. Not sure if women’s teams are doing that anywhere, are they? Much more risky for women to defy convention, as always.

    1. Are Maori rugby players in NZ the recipient’s of racial abuse or is it just the English football players? I was never aware of it in NZ but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

  2. I walked away during the second half. I couldn’t believe some of the dirty tactics, play acting, and cheating going on. It wasn’t just the Italians – all the teams have been doing it throughout the tournament. I wrote earlier on Twitter – that where Rugby values sportsmanship over gamesmanship, football seems to reward the opposite. It’s a shame.

    1. Ah interesting. This sounds like a fundamental problem that they need to sort out. I certainly wasn’t impressed by what I saw and probably won’t watch another game.

  3. Southgate was my favourite player when I was a child because he was so down to earth and sensible and hard working. (I think I was the only person in the country who had him as my favourite player!) I am glad his brand of success has come good. Definitely people who prefer rugby say it is more sportsmanlike than football – the corruption and tactics and development of ridiculous lifestyles have put me off football as an adult. Italy are notoriously rough, but we can’t complain after our player went down in the box and got an undeserved penalty to win in the semi-final.

    1. That’s great! He’s definitely a good role model for a child. I had never heard of him until recently.

      What did our player do in the semi-final? I didn’t see it.

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