The spirit of football is not for sale


Traditionally, football has always been viewed as the mistress of the average male, and today that is still the case, only now, she’s been seen hanging around with blokes named Chauncey or Rupert – the kind of lads who claim they are the Queen’s 45th cousin, or almost definitely vote for David Cameron and chums.

Professional football is now a multi-billion pound business run by power and money mad egotists and it is ever so easy to miss the special spark that made you love this sport. From clubs extorting fans for a single match ticket to the very top of football’s hierarchy doing the bare minimum to eradicate long term problems such as racism because it is obviously lower down in their list of priorities than their continually increasing commercial interests at the minute.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN BENDTNER’S WEARING PADDY POWER UNDIES?!”

Recently however, there have been some sobering reminders that football is not all about the cash, and people actually play for pride, and to give something for their fans and nations to cheer about when there doesn’t seem to be much else.

A prime example of that is The African Cup of Nations, that annoying competition that mooches our beloved African players during January now and then. It is a competition that puts everything into perspective I feel. There isn’t a lot to be happy about if you live in one of Africa’s poorer regions with poverty and wars being no stranger, but when you look at the fans at the games, they all seem to be smiling while either singing, dancing or blowing a vuvuzela like they have no problems in the world for the next 90 minutes.

It is a stark contrast to the seemingly never happy faces at Stamford Bridge who are creating a poisonous atmosphere just because they don’t like the manager who has been put in charge, who is a perfectly capable manager.

As I said – Perspective.

Heldon scores for Cape Verde

Obviously this tournament still has it’s wealth of global superstars, especially the likes of Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Ghana, but even they realise how much happiness seeing their team win will bring to the fellow countrymen and women in the stands and back at home. This is the case, arguably even more so, for the lesser footballing nations in the tournament such Ethiopa, Niger, and Cape Verde who probably know they won’t win but they have nothing to lose in giving it a go, after all, isn’t that the beauty of cup football?

Which allows me to move onto my next point – The FA Cup.

During the weekend that has just passed us we watched as the remaining clubs in the FA Cup Fourth Round participated in their fixtures, and by now, we should all know that a match between a Premier League side and a League One side isn’t as one sided as it is on paper.

For example, I watched Liverpool, not only get beat, but, get completely over run by an Oldham side struggling in League One simply down to the fact that they wanted it more and were willing to fight for it.

This wasn’t a singular occurrence either, this happened up and down the country and no matter how many times we see it happen it is still a shock. The stand out moment of the weekend was non league Luton beating Norwich City 1-0 at Carrow Road.

A perfect example of a team beating the odds this season is Bradford City’s road to Wembley in the Capital One Cup in which they have become the first team from the fourth tier of English football to be in a League Cup final since 1962. On the way there they defeated Premier League sides Wigan and Arsenal on penalties before beating Aston Villa over two legs.

Whether they win in the final against Swansea City or not they will be able to be proud of themselves for getting that far in the first place.

Regular followers of Cillian would have probably gathered by now that he is a bit of a Rayo Vallecano nut, so it’s safe to say he is particularly happy at the moment as Rayo sit in 6th place in La Liga after winning 5 of their last 6 games.

This is an incredible achievement for the club considering that they have the lowest budget in the league, yet they are merely a single point away from 4th spot, which would allow them to enter the Champions League play off round. That spot is currently occupied by Malaga, who were spending big until recent financial difficulties which could lead to them being banned from European football.

When it came to the half-way point of the season, when all teams had played each other once, Rayo Vallecano sat a mere six points behind Real Madrid. This might seem like a decent feat in itself, but is only heightened when you examine each team’s cost. Real Madrid, at €470 million, sat six points above Rayo Vallecano, at €7 million.

Despite losing last season’s star man, Michu to Swansea City in the summer, as well as hugely important players such as Diego Costa, José Movilla, Míchel and Alejandro Arribas, and seven more players, Rayo have continued to improve against the odds with their attacking style of play, a style that isn’t usually associated with clubs of similar size.

Rayo’s Roberto Trashorras (left) during his side’s victory over Real Betis this weekend

The point I am trying to make here is that within the greed and negativity surrounding football these days, there are still elements of the game we have grew up to love. I just think football needs to take a step back and have a look at itself as the only way forward from here is fixing what is wrong.

In this day and age where a lot lose their sense of reality within the wealth and fame, it is the victory, and the pride and history making moments that come along with it, that still matters most.

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