Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Betrayed by Men Behaving Badly; the Beautiful Game Is Too Strong to Be Damaged by a Couple of Cretins

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Betrayed by Men Behaving Badly; the Beautiful Game Is Too Strong to Be Damaged by a Couple of Cretins

Article excerpt

Byline: MICK DENNIS

TOMORROW I intend to endure a 260-mile round trip on frustratingly clogged roads to watch a First Division football match. The following day I will spend my Sunday afternoon lugging my overweight frame around a pitch while attempting to referee a game between two teams of 17 and 18-year-olds.

The players I shall watch tomorrow afternoon are well-paid, by any reasonable standard, but they do not take home anything like the wages of their Premiership peers (nor, come to that, of some newspaper columnists).

The players I will referee the following day pay a small subscription so that their clubs can rent pitches, buy kits and so on.

Football in this country is not just about the Premiership, and it is certainly not only about a few cretinous Premiership players whose behaviour has put the game on trial this week.

Last weekend, just under a quarter of a million people paid to watch games in the Nationwide League and every week millions of kids and grownups play football for the sheer joy of doing it.

Millions? Yes, millions. The Football Association estimates that there are two million boys and men and 55,000 girls and women registered as players.

Go anywhere in this country this weekend, anywhere at all, and you will not be far from an organised game of football.

You will probably not be far from several, since parks and playing fields are colonised from early light until dusk by football folk, and some scraps of land even stage several games side by side.

The matches vary from seven-aside friendlies between small children on small pitches, to full-scale games in front of proper grandstands and all of them will attract spectators. Even if they are only between Sunday morning pub teams, games are watched by knots of parents, partners, supporters and interested passers-by. …

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