The Beautiful Game.

Football is an art, a passion, a beauty. To me, all I ever think about is football, as if it were an emotion. ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Oh, I’m feeling football.’ I’m always feeling football. The nature of kicking a ball around a field for 90 minutes doesn’t sound too enticing. But that’s the phrase I hate the most. It’s more than just a game. It’s ballet but with a ball. Passion, excitement, drama. Football is my life, so it’s only fair I describe what I love about this game the most.

Restless Friday nights. Tossing and turning after an early night and your pre-match ritual. You go to bed early but you know you won’t sleep for hours. You sit up, rein-acting every scenario in your head about the big game the following morning. ‘I’ll score two goals tomorrow, one with my head that will go like this…’ and you play a small section over and over in your head about how you will nod home the winner, before wheeling off with your team-mates to the corner flag in jubilation. Lost in thought, but a smile emerges on your face. Eventually drifting off, and what do you dream about? The beautiful game, of course.

Early mornings. Beautiful, exciting yet just so frustrating. On go your lucky boxers and the Weetabix is ready. Two means you’ll only net a brace, but if you have a third, then the hat-trick is assured. Mind on the game, your thoughts begin to drift. The unpredictability sets us aside from any other thought than outcome. Time is ticking slowly, but it’s still not time to leave. Desperation to step onto the field with the boys you care most about. ‘Hurry up’ you mutter. Dad’s cleaned your boots, so now you’re ready. You kiss your badge and board the van, en route: local recreation ground.

Arrival. Anticipation of opponent begins to sink in. Pausing your ‘pre-match playlist’ inspired by Rio Ferdinand and the boys at QPR, you emerge as if you’re stepping onto the turf at Anfield. The crowd sing your name, ringing around the stadium is the echo of 45,000 fans boasting your talent. Snap, back to reality. Across the frozen field you go, and assemble with your men. Gaffer collects the fees, shots at goal, a couple of laps. You’re ready. Pin-pointing your opponent, you analyse their game. Expensive boots: he must be good. Channelling all of your emotion into one: passion, you are ready. The whistle blows and you’ve never experienced a sound that sets you so far away from the world as possible.

The game. ‘Ard challenges ‘Arry Redknapp would be pleased of. You’ve left your mark in the first few minutes, and absorbed all rashness into your composed figure.
The passing game – what a beautiful site. The feeling of a successful through ball sends you giddy, your mate has to score – he does. Choreographed celebration from the game of FIFA the night before? Why not, the fans deserve a cheesy dance.
Goals. I love scoring goals. “Play for the name on the front of the shirt, and they’ll remember the name on the back.” – Tony Adams of Arsenal. What a magnificent quote, defining the sentiment of scoring a goal. When you rush through on goal, you’re ultimate aim is to remain calm. In this time, 150 thoughts have emerged into your baffled brain. A zoo of negative thoughts, your mind tells you things it shouldn’t: ‘Where do I shoot?’ ‘Shall I round him?’ ‘What if I miss?’… Well I quite like these thoughts, it makes it smoother when you score. There’s no better feeling, supremacy takes over, and you’re lifted onto an imaginative perch that divides you from everyone else. You’ve changed the game. Your dad’s smiling, your managers clapping. You’ve acted for your beloved club, now the fans are parading for the name of the boy on his knees and his shirt over his head.

Win, lose or draw, you’re a team. ‘Nail the clichés’ – it seems to be my speciality. Coming away from your match with a collectable accolade of three points is probably the best feeling a teenager endures in a life time. You and your team-mates smile and share a joke as the team-talk sings. Taking the net down? It actually feels nice when you win. Lose, and it’s a chore. Silence. Heads have dropped, eyes have rolled and you’ve sundered. That’s it then, you’re week is ruined. This is why I love football, it’s an ongoing aim that only you can put right. Go out on a high, and you’re Matthieu Ricard – the happiest man in the world. Don’t believe me? Google him.

Departure and your ongoing thought. Depressed or Euphoric you can leave in a state of mind that simply cannot change. The cycle starts again and here comes the repetition. You rest your head against the seat-belt and engage with your intuitions and reminisce over fond memories. You replay the game over and over in your head, key moments the highlights. Suddenly you just want to talk. Social media listens to your outlay of events, as does your dad. You can’t shut up, you just keep on talking and talking and talking… Because a game of football can never be fully expressed.

Muddy socks, wet hair, grade-three burns, waterlogged pitches, half-time oranges, tactical reassurances, screaming parents, warm-up overloads, three-points and three cheers for your well-match opponents. From banter to batterings, heroes to heart-aches, celebrations to closure. All is possible in one game. I love the fact that for ninety minutes in a rectangular piece of grass, people can forget hopefully, whatever might be going on in their life, rejoice in this communal celebration of humanity. The biggest diverse, invasive or pervasive culture that human kind knows is football and I love the fact that at the altar of football, human kind can come worship and celebrate – Ladies and gentleman, this is why I love the beautiful game.


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