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Sarah Cowen-Strong: She’s giving football the red card – it’s not the same

By Sarah Cowen-Strong | Woman | Published:

Four years ago, I would have been very excited – eight and I would have been delirious. Today, the start of this year’s World Cup leaves me cold. To write this I even had to Google the dates of a competition which once I would have had etched on my psyche for months.

Blowing the whistle on the beautiful game

My disinterest has nothing to do with the spectacle taking place in Russia – although I don’t think our Boris will be taking too keen an interest – but the political and financial nonsense of the national game itself.

What once was beautiful is now an ugly echo of what it should be. The ability of football players and managers alike to use the same word-spinning skills as politicians enrages me.

Asked about why a strategy didn’t work, a coach will say how great the fans are and throw in a reference to a transfer window.

Thanks to media courses no proper answer will be given and thanks to today’s style of play, few balls will be swept up the wing.

OK, I don’t know very much about the intricacies of the game, but a match where the ball hardly touches the pitch is a yawn in my book.

While I don’t exactly wish to see a pig’s bladder being hoofed around, I do miss a style of speed, dribbling and passing.

And I miss footballers when they were heroes, with long hair, short shorts and shoulders.

Now they’re lean, shunning alcohol and lamb chops for a high-intensity vegan body.

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This has made many vain and robotic with less charisma than a referee’s pencil.

Their behaviour is now largely the polar opposite of what it was like in the 1990s. I’m not hankering for a return to the days of their headlining booze-soaked dubious liaisons, but the thought that the only ‘dentist’s chair’ capable of exciting today’s stars would be one in which their teeth would be whitened is rather disappointing.

And of course I am fuming over enormous salaries rocketing still further as parents fork out on criminally-priced replica shirts, stickers and any number of souvenirs. And I’m not even going to start on Sky.

Football has given my family so much fun over the years. I’m sure some of my sons’ earliest memories are of the excitement of us climbing high into the family stand, cheering the announcement of the squad, whooping at the goals and, occasionally, mopping up tears.

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They will recall half-time Mars bars, me covering their ears to muffle sweary chants and trips all over the country to see our boys.

Now grown-up, they too are saddened at the conversion of the domestic game to the national and international stage and its lack of spirit and fun.

With that rather depleted, there’s only one hope for the next few weeks – the office World Cup sweepstake. Now, there’s a real competition.

Sarah Cowen-Strong

By Sarah Cowen-Strong

Journalist with the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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