In Football as in Life.
"Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football"
OK, so I'm not a particularly sporty person. Nor am I a particularly ardent football fan. But, I like to think that I do appreciate beautiful things, and could it not be said that football (when played as it should be played) can be aesthetically beautiful? Is it any mistake that it is sometimes referred to as "the beautiful game"?
I write this because Euro 2012 is upon us. Somewhat unfortunately it is taking place in between our recent Jubilee celebrations and, of course, the London Olympics. This seems to have had the effect that not too many of us appear to be that bothered about what happens in this particular championship. Unusually, it has been said that the expectations amongst fans for our own England team are at a low point, or perhaps we should say are, this time, after a woeful performance in the World Cup, more realistic. We do not, it seems, expect to win this time, simply because we're England. Add to that that there have been reports of right-wing racist thuggery within the host nation, and this doesn't make for any particularly innocent celebration of the game.
But, I stand by my argument above, that football can be beautiful. One only has to think of names like Pele, Cruyff, Best, Platini, Cantona, Zidane and Messi in order to conjure up images of football being played in a way that is not only effective, but aesthetically pleasing. Indeed, such names seem to have slipped into legend, not just because they were, or are, good at the game, but because of the beautiful way in which they played, or play, it. Could anything be more pleasing to the eye than a Platini free-kick, or a "Cruyff Turn"?
And not only this can be said for football. It also, it would appear, teaches us something about life. Albert Camus, the existentialist writer who, I believe, once played in goal for his country, Algeria, said, as I have quoted above, that "everything" he knew about "morality and the obligations of men" he owed to football. Indeed, not only playing, but being a fan of football, can teach you a few things. For a start, one has to get used to losing, particularly if you are an England or Port Vale fan. All the vicissitudes of life are played out in the game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and being a fan of a second division club like my local Port Vale can be a difficult, trying, but, on occasion, rewarding thing. A bit like life, it seems.
So, in football as in life, there are ups and there are downs, there are victories and defeats, and there are moral implications - it's the way you play the game that really counts.