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Have I missed the point of Football’s appeal?
The love and belonging I can see is real
An excuse, if you like, to kiss and to hug
To wear scarves and sport banners, belong to a club.
And the sport is exciting
The drama, the spills, writ large on our screens,
Full of passion and thrills.
It’s the Beautiful Game, it’s benign, life affirming –
It’s the aggression I find pretty scary.
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For me it displays what I hate about the Right
With its blind allegiance to the Monarchy,
A determination to fight
On the pitch and on the terrace that’s tribal, nationalistic,
With Union Jack-the-lads looking hard and sadistic
Masculinity gone mad, enough testosterone to sink us,
It’s the expression of aggression, I don’t get.
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And yet – I remember Football Scores
On Grandstand, on Saturdays, sometime after Four –
Me and my brother would close our eyes, and try hard to guess
The results by the tone of the announcer’s voice.
Win, Lose or Draw, Dad would sit in his chair
Checking his Littlewoods coupon
And we’d have to shut up, couldn’t talk, wouldn’t dare.
Or we’d watch as he became an indoor Footballer from his chair.
He’d twitch and he’d groan, legs going, kicking and weaving,
As he followed the game, attention never leaving
The action on the box.
And how he’d leap from his seat, let out a huge cheer
If his side seemed anywhere near scoring a goal.
Or he’d jump, shout: “Offside!”
“Come on Ref, are you blind!”
And I’d watch amazed and happy at my Football Dad
Be proud, try to comment when he’d turn to me and say –
“Did you see that? What’s he doing? That’s a free kick Ref!”
It really made my day
To see Dad – that distant figure –
Transmogrify into Dad of big emotions
It was awesome and beautiful to see,
And I’d hold my breath, and make a wish,
A wish that he’d have some left over,
Please, for me.
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And I’m not sure if it does say anything about the Nation
When huge emotion on the pitch spills over into aggravation
In the crowd.
Or is it the other way round?
And what is that saying out loud about us?
Is it defusing, or using, or is it abusing?
A necessary reality? A mass display of nationality?
An expression of masculinity on the macho side?
A tribe? All of these and more?
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In my life Football’s been on my margins,
A male sub-culture, with alien message.
But maybe I should look closer
Maybe it holds one of the keys
Or did I miss the point yet again and that really
It’s Just A Game?