MOTD: Football’s back and ready to kick some balls
Saturday will be an exciting day. This weekend our country will erupt into a frenzy of colour and song; sometimes profound, often crass. Football will once again reign supreme.
Our summer of sport is but a memory to me now. Though by no means forgotten. London 2012 was a resounding success in terms of competition and sporting show; Wimbledon actually saw a GB finalist; and the EUROs were great for those who simply expected to see Europe’s best, rather than England progress via long ball syndrome.
It is commonplace for many admirers of football to accept that at international level, we are miles behind. This is somewhat cushioned however, by the undeniable truth that the Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world. Perhaps not for footballing prowess – although when on song the likes of Arsenal and recently Manchester City do pass the ball to near perfection – but as pure, unrivalled entertainment.
Though after such well-kept and uncontroversial competition this summer, there is a level of apathy among semi-fans and Match of the Day watchers. British football, after all, is riddled with contempt, brutality and misgiving. Not like tennis. Or dressage. There is very rarely hostility of any kind when forehands and hooves grace our screens.
The negativity is hardly baffling, granted. You don’t have to toil through last season’s archives to recount the woes surrounding football: misconduct on the pitch, such as Joey Barton’s brawling against the champions. And how can we forget the never-ending saga that was John Terry’s racism trial, where he was found innocent, but which still further unearthed the dark underbelly of top-flight football.
But last season has been on gone. Since then, the world has enjoyed sport for what it should be: sport. And sport is better still, when Andy Murray precesses his gold medal with an admirable display against tennis’ greatest; or when our athletes shine to reward Team GB with 29 golds. It is of no surprise then that to many, the upcoming season has been ignored more than it would have been usually. Ordinarily, at this autumnal approach, half the nation cannot go on much longer without the ‘title race’ to consider, or Match Of The Day to watch – as much an institution these days surely, as Question Time or Alan Bennett.
Now though, now it is time to properly look ahead to our country’s most famous sporting export. A game that at some point anoints nearly every child in the country, and captivates many others around the world. Millions tuned in to see the Olympics in all its dazzling glory, but many switch on every week to catch a glimpse of Rooney or Torres. The new season can be enjoyed simply for what it is, too: sport at its best.
The Premier League may not be such an unspoilt stage as the Olympics was this summer, but it still represents the pinnacle of sporting brilliance. Of course the truest die hard fans, the season ticket holders, will be preparing for the first stadium trip regardless. But those who merely follow, who usually watch the matches on TV and who spend a considerable amount of time discussing Andy Carroll’s worth over a latte and a salad Niçoise, have been all too quick to talk football down post Olympics.
We can only hope that once Saturday kicks off, once Gary Lineker is sitting on what looks to be the most uncomfortable sofa in England again, smiling and welcoming us home, all there is left to do is support. For the weekends would be nothing without the special guest’s whimsical musings on tactical credibility; or Alan Hanson’s dour exorcism of disorganised defending. Without, even, seeing the other incredible sides that don’t get MOTD privilege, like Crystal Palace. The Football League Show is worth staying up for when Wilfried Zaha is on the ball.
Because football, like it or not, is about to take centre stage. And it will certainly give many something to cheer and be proud about once again this summer. By no means should its problems be ignored, but at the very start of a new season, if for just a weekend, they should not be the primary focus. Right now, it is only whether Van Persie scores on his debut. Or whether Mario Balotelli turns into Jesus.Tagged in: Alan Hanson, Andy Murray, football, football season, Gary Linekar, Harry Redknapp, joey barton, john terry, London 2012, Mario Balotelli, match of the day, motd, Premier League, Sport, team gb, Van Persie, Wilfried Zaha
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