Why I Hate Football

On Saturday night I was reminded of why I hate football when I found myself in the unfortunate position of waiting twenty minutes for a bus at half past ten in Chelmsford City Centre several hours after the England game.

I haven’t always hated football. When I was 13 years old it was 1996 and I was on a school trip in France with the rest of my French speaking year. It was a normal school trip from what I can remember except for one thing. THAT game just happened to be on one night. For any millennial’s reading I suggest you google ‘England Euro 96 Penalties’ to catch up. As it happened one of the teachers on the trip was also a PE teacher and the coach of the Year 9 football team, many of whom were also on the trip, so he made it possible for us all to watch the match. It was a clincher of a game and for the first and second halves we all watched , shouted, cheered and moaned as most people do when watching ‘the football’ with a group. That extraordinary mob mentality takes over and even if the day before you didn’t know there was a game, all of a sudden it takes over your world. 13 year old Janna was desperate for the white ball to go into the net, she screamed at the ref (to impress the boys) and got heated when things didn’t go ‘our way’. Because we were in a hostel that was housing other school groups and the place selected for us to watch the match was in a rundown French classroom situated underneath bedrooms occupied by a much younger French school group, we had to watch the extra time and penalties in silence.

The tension was excruciating and as you should all know by now it was not a happy ending. The boys went to bed in tears, the girls cried for the boys and we all felt a little bit closer the next day.

I am now 35 and this one positive experience of ‘the football’ is still the only one I have ever had. Yes we lost the match but the group of people I watched it with became united towards a common goal. This unity is positive I get it but grossly over-inflated pay packets, maniacal celebrity attention resulting in lenient prison sentences and casual racism are not. And my main problem with football is that the result of this united front formed during those vital moments of goal attempts is aggression towards the opposing side. This is common during all championships but much, much worse in a Euro/World Cup year.

Instead of it just being ‘Go England Yay’ it becomes ‘Go England Fuck {opposing sides name}’.

England has a long history of football violence. In the 1970’s football firms took over terraces, organised riots were common-place and several teams including Leeds United and Manchester United were banned from Europe because of their fans. Such was the venom for opponents that fences were put up in stadiums to divide rival fans and police are still out in force on a match day today. In the 90’s as a young teenager growing up on the outskirts of Leeds a home game always spelt trouble and even today most matches abroad mean headlines outlining criminal behaviour by British fans.

As a person that has spent more than a healthy amount of time running pubs football has always made me nervous. Years ago I remember serving behind the bar for my first football match at the local pub that rarely saw trouble and was unpleasantly surprised to see a change in friendly regulars who all of a sudden didn’t have time to smile and say ‘thank you’. An air of menace takes over and poisons politeness with a desire to win that forsakes all others. Because of this I have rarely worked in pubs that show sports. I have no desire to be a party to rude individuals and sweep up the broken glass fresh from their enemies heads. No thanks. But alas it actually doesn’t matter if the pub you’re working in even shows ‘the football’ because nine times out of ten drunken fans will leave the place they got drunk and watched ‘the football’ in and go cause havoc someplace else. This I have seen.

The sad thing is it doesn’t seem to matter if we win or lose. Drunken, thoughtless, ignorant violence still happens. Arrogant groups of men, tribal mentality fully engaged, believe that their behaviour is secondary to the score. They push boundaries, throw abuse, grab your arse, accuse you of being a kill joy because you don’t want them throwing chairs about and leave a trail of wanton destruction in their wake. Empty cans, broken bottles and takeaway food containers litter the streets while hyped up humans caring little for anything but the song in their head spill over pavements into oncoming traffic. It is this level of unconsciousness that is leading the human race to destroy this planet and themselves.

Yes, yes I know what you’re going to say. Why let a select unpleasant few ruin the fun for everyone else. Don’t judge all football fans on the bad ones. What’s wrong with having a bit of a scream and shout? Football violence isn’t half as bad as it used to be…

This weekend the chaos was widespread. An ambulance was taken out in Borough High Street, various cars and taxis were damaged by people jumping on them in ‘delight’ and Lancashire and West Midlands Police received their highest-ever number of 999 calls over a 24 hour period.

Is it really so important to jump up and down on a life-saving ambulance, an ambulance that now will not be sent out to save you when you get glassed later by an angry doorman? Have we reached such a state lacking in empathy that we would rather see a large silver cup ‘come home’ than refugees fleeing a war zone? Does anyone give a fuck about the women and children living in abusive homes who fear more for their lives when England are playing?

As I stood at the bus stop in Chelmsford I was frightened. The same way I was when our bar in Brighton was stormed by England fans in 2006 and we had to forcibly lock the front doors for everyone else’s safety. I watched groups of ape-like men talking too loudly, leading with drink fumes kicking cans in front of cars enveloping the street and getting in everyone else’s way. I saw a man dwindle before the open doors of several buses, so drunk he had to cling to the bus stop for dear life to prevent his bulky weight falling to the floor, clearly with no clue of where he was going. A young girl in her early twenties was lifted up by a young man in an England shirt and flipped over his head in celebration then thudded to the floor, her head landing heavily on the concrete as her body lay limp for a matter of minutes, as her friend had misjudged his hilarious trick.

I try not to make sweeping statements and judge everyone on the behaviour of a few but I have to point out that I’ve been watching these scenes now for 35 years and they’re not getting any better. Yes football may create unity but if we are not mature enough to handle the flip side of that unity and get home without spilling blood on the kebab shop floor then maybe we’re not ready for it?

Anarchy rules and for what? A game? I can see why the powerful few may want the masses to be distracted. But while Donald Trump uses words like infestation and animals to describe people desperately seeking a better life, the British government signs over a bill that animals are no longer sentient beings and Theresa May is steadily working to systematically destroy our human rights and health service I will not be singing about three lions on a shirt.

I hate football because I hate violence and screaming. I hate football because it encourages a form of Nationalism that would make Adolf Hitler smile. I hate football because it takes vital energy and attention away from making the world a better place at a time when we need it most.

 

Just imagine what will happen if we lose.

 

 

Janna Fox is an actress, writer, yogi, aerialist in training and creator of many things. She started blogging for The New Establishment in February 2017 and her pieces are published every other Wednesday. Janna also contributes to sex blog Hitting the Spot. For more information please visit www.jannafox.com

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