Friday, 13 August 2010

Soccer Mums

On Wednesday night my family and I attended our first ever England football game. It was a really enjoyable and interesting experience. I owe a big thanks to Mark Perryman and his Philosophy Football colleagues (in the photo with me and my boys) for making it happen.

Considering the negative publicity about how the crowd were going to react after the disappointment of the World Cup, I was surprised the atmosphere on entering the stadium was pleasant and warm. Although the crowds were not as mixed as what you would see on a typical London street, there were lots of people of different ages and backgrounds.

For reasons I no longer understand, I approached the game with sympathy for the players! This rapidly disappeared as the first half progressed. I was really taken aback at their lack of effort and mediocrity!! There was a marked contrast between their lack of passion and that of the fans and I was not surprised at the booing when the first half came to an end.

The second half was much better, and Stephen Gerrard provided a truly captain’s performance with two goals of great skill and flair, lifting the gloom that was descending on the stadium. It was interesting observing the reactions of the fans. Their relationship with the team has all the intensity and highs and lows of a long standing and often troubled marriage! When the fans feel disappointed and betrayed, they vent their spleen. But their love is deep and they are quick to forgive and forget. So when Rooney responded to the boos greeting his departure with applause, the fans responded in kind back to him. The players really do not have to do much to win their affections.

The fans have been let down by the FA. When you consider the much lower level of investment in the development of the national game here compared to Spain, Germany and Holland, it is not difficult to understand why we lag behind, despite our league being much richer. As councillor I regularly attend football tournaments awarding prizes. In my ward alone hundreds of youth are involved in the sport. Football is hugely popular among Asian youth yet their progression further in the game is practically non-existent. Considering that popularity is replicated across all communities, it highlights the failings of the FA in harnessing the national potential.

Overall I and my family had a really great time. Wembley is a fantastic stadium. I look forward to a revisit when the European qualifying games commence. I really like Philosophy Football’s passion and conviction that supporting England should be a unifying and inclusive experience. After Wednesday’s game, it is an experience I want more off. According to my kids, who took great please in taunting me about this throughout the evening, I am now officially a ‘soccer mum’!