Is it Football anymore?

The events that have so vehemently transpired over the last two days have left me dazed — very much like so many fans out there. Without sounding overly dramatic, the day has been a blur. An absolute whirlwind. More than debilitating, this birth of the Super League been mutilating for me.

I’ll tell you why that’s the case and I need to tell you this before you go on further. The sport is an escape for people. It brings a smile on their face for 90 minutes, regardless of what darkness exists in their life. Football’s an opium of the masses. For me personally, it’s my escape and what I do. When I need an escape, I dedicate some time into football and I forget about everything else. When I don’t need an escape, I dedicate time to football anyway. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to participate in. It’s all I’ve worked for since I was in Grade 10.

Being from a non-footballing nation though — believe me, it’s a tough nut to crack. You just need to keep going, almost non-stop. It engulfs you or at least, it has engulfed me nearly completely to a point where people have called me ‘boring’ because of it. And because of the last two days, I’m questioning myself. I’ve been made to wonder if I’ve been wrong all along to give so much time to a game that was always rotting away, being preyed on by these filthy capitalists.

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Having read Michael Cox’s excellent ‘The Mixer’ makes me realise that football stopped being a pure game in 1992 itself. It became a product. It became an engine for the owners to earn money and to charm the global audience. They became conscious of what was being shown to the fans, who became consumers and customers, essentially.

They wanted to whet the appetites of their customers and lure them into wanting more. The product reached a higher level and met the demands of the customers. They signed TV deals, sold rights and earned pay cheques. The Premier League soon allowed mass foreign owners to come in, expand broadcast revenue streams, plaster the club logos on all sorts of things and as a result, sign the best of players, play good football, buy your way to victories and earn more fans.

As the foreign ownerships increased, video game rights were purchased. Players were branded and their abilities were numerically determined through the flawed concept of overalls. Fans were given this image of all of that being footballing perfection. They were being slowly fed their image of the fact that — ‘guys, this is how football should be!’

The league began having everything sponsored, apart from maybe the referee’s whistle. They increased ticket prices, outpricing the working class and losing the roots. Only more capitalism can beat capitalism and now, all they’re looking for more independent revenue streams. They want to generate more content that gives them revenue.

They falsely taught everyone what ‘ideal football’ looks like by selling it across the world, forgetting that there are independent people out there. They are now more often there, because of the social media.

They’ve made football clubs look like toys that fans can throw away. They make managers look like usable material that is easy to get rid of and it’ll get eroded in the sand over time. They catered to a global audience, feeding them the glorification through their TV streams and making them feel like they have no other option but to watch that and that only.

And here I am, feeling like a fool today. And let me tell you about a recent conversation amongst some of the fans of the club that I support.

We were talking about an India-based fan club of the team in question. The reason for that is so typical of this problem.

I was told that the chairmen of these fan clubs determine your commitment and love for your club through the merchandise you buy and the money you spend on it. If you don’t buy the merchandise, you get kicked out of the fan clubs.

The people who carry this approach towards supporting clubs then use their personal Twitter accounts to speak against the ownership of the club, abusing them and criticising them for every move.

That makes me question if the way the game has been sold over the last 20 years has turned us into hypocrites? Have we silently become what we hated? We’ve just helped the capitalists damage the game and just pull it further and further away from us, without us really questioning it?

That’s why I’ve found myself gravitating towards Scottish football more and more. It’s purer. It has two big clubs that can easily join the Premier League because they don’t want to share their revenue with the likes of Hamilton, Ross County and St. Mirren. While their CEOs have explored the idea, the fans of the two clubs want to remain true to the roots and identities. They don’t want to lose their souls like the Super League clubs want to.

I tweet constantly against the ownership of my club, the money they’ve taken out and their inability to refresh the team. I’ve not purchased official club merchandise for many years now — as soon as I realised the need to not fill their coffers with my money. As much as that might sound noble to you, I still wait till 1AM to watch the club games on TV and feed them their money.

But all of that makes me question that have we contributed to the decline in the integrity of the game in that way? Perhaps, we’ve all just helped the ‘scavengers’ fly higher than they should have?

If not, then why is it that fans of clubs protest against bad owners only when the transfer windows come about? They forget about the owners when the season goes on and just eat the manager alive and start hashtags to sack them. The managers eventually get sacked and the owners stay. Isn’t that hypocrisy too? Think about it.

As much as all of this situation makes me question myself a lot, it’s made me just trace back to when the game just got so embroiled in geopolitics that it seems as if WW3 will be borne out of football? The political links aren’t hard to trace, especially in this case. And the most shocking part about this whole pandemonium is that you can trust nobody. Because it’s almost like a mini World War.

The two sides are giving away media releases like grenades in this vastly diverse and open world. They’re just pressure tactics for one another thrown to strengthen their stance. But almost like in a war, the civilians or the fans (like you and me) are getting hurt. That trust is eroding.

FIFA and UEFA handed the World Cup over to Qatar in acrimonious circumstances. Paris Saint-Germain are yet to join up the Super League and they have Qatari owners. Qatar and Turkey have close political ties. And this makes it easier to guess why Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski were the first footballers to protest against the Super League.

The Super League has Manchester City in it. The Citizens are owned by UAE essentially. Qatar and UAE have had constant friction between themselves over the years regarding multiple issues. Over the last three years, Bayern Munich have deepened their ties with Qatar, barely making it a surprise that they’ve joined the ESL yet.

Amidst all of this political involvement, fans (including me) are getting severed for money. It’s making me question as to why former Sheffield United owner Prince Musaad Bin Khalid Al Saud resigned very recently? The failed Newcastle United takeover had unignorable politicial contexts. So who do we trust then? Or is this a game anymore? Maybe, football has just become a means of political warfare while having been slowly hypnotised to lie and fool those who truly care about it. It’s a cacophony of agendas and it absolutely stinks of something that the game is just falling prey to because it’s extremely global. Perhaps, it’s football’s own fault that it decided to become global. Or maybe, Calcio Fiorentino is the way forward.

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As much as football just mirrors of what modern society has become, changes can still take place. As much as the capitalist owners have tapped into the fickle minded nature of fans and the diversity of opinion in a global context, there truly are many sensible football men out there who can make a difference. Truly.

It is high time for people to unite and stop being fooled by them. The last two days have made me question ‘why’ instead of ‘who’ or ‘what’ in the truest sense. Let’s not forget — hope is only a four letter word. It keeps us going.

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