From die-hard fans to newbies, football is for everyone
The world of sport is varied and well spread out. Each sport has its own traditions, customs and characteristics along with many notions of mysticism, legend and myth. The same can be said about the greatest game of them all by its sheer popularity – football. The myths have been there of Ronaldinho and the legends of Zidane and Henry to the mysticity of Paul Scholes. The watchers of the game have always had the wings before the bird. It is interesting to explore the fabric of the makers of these fables – the fans.
Football has many takers and varying levels of fans. The all knowing fans who claim to know every player that seems to have donned a jersey in history, the others who admit to limited knowledge but take great pleasure in understanding the game and its nuances and lastly, and more importantly, the largest section of fans who seem to come alive when Manchester United play Chelsea or the El Clasico is on (honourary mention to fans who claim they only watch the World Cup).
While most of us regular followers scorn the notion that someone who doesn’t watch any league and doesn’t know a single player apart from maybe Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and occasionally a hero here and there, make observations and give analysis straight from the biggest studios, it is very very important to give them their space. The fan is alive in anyone who believes in the magic of sport, in anyone who believes in the magic of football.
A fan is where the pure exhilaration at seeing the best vie for glory exists. Anyone who gets a rush of blood when they see Messi dribble past three to slot it in the bottom corner or watch Ronaldo sprint down the wing and cut in is a football fan.
The millions who watch the World Cup don’t watch the big names in Europe every weekend. They don’t even know who is who many a time (at least in a country like India where football isn’t a primary sport). But every four years when the world converges for the extravaganza that is the World Cup, they join in as well. They do it because nobody wants to miss out on the best games they could imagine.
A woman in her kitchen and a middle-class employee watch a World Cup final televised live at unimaginable times with great interest. They do not see another football game and maybe even a football the rest of the year, yet the interest remains. The joy of watching a sporting spectacle rushes in, as the beauty of sport converges on us.
The love for the game and the spirit of sport keeps the game alive. The beautiful game is revered by people everywhere for the passion it gives; the joy it distributes when you see your team score a goal or make a tackle and for the many who play the game. It simply captures you as your adrenaline filled body puts in its best. That is truly why the fan is the one who keeps the game alive.
Little does the everyday casual viewer understand the complex tactics of professional football, and they interpret the dynamics of staging a match even less. They watch not to revel in how wonderfully a defensive tactic was utilised by Real Sociedad as they beat Barcelona or how the 4-2-3-1 was used to provide width against a closed defensive 4-3-3. And even those who get the basics hardly grasp how a 4-4-2 is a balanced formation and the nuances of making it an offensive tactic.
They simply enjoy watching a player put the ball in the net, or maybe by just kicking a ball. The ‘how’ never matter matters. What matters is the joy behind doing it. Maybe football and sport in general provide happiness and unadulterated entertainment to us.
The purity of the game lies in embracing those who care about it, how so ever little they may or may not understand it. After all, a football fanatic can only say, “Come on and join in! The best is yet to come.”