Not being happy unless you’re miserable is an important ingredient in football fan culture. The Football Gods can’t win. They give us a victory and we say our team won ugly. They give us a new signing and we undertake a forensic analysis of their YouTube clips looking for something to criticise. They give us a scudetto and we complain it wasn’t as special as the one the 1894 team won when we were a lad.
Be honest – football just wouldn’t be the game we all love if following it was a happy experience.
It’s partly for this reason that the hype surrounding the recent Women’s World Cup bothered me somewhat. It was too rose tinted. Everything was “fantastic”. Ok, I get it, you’re all on the women’s football bandwagon some of us have been telling you to get your ass onto for years, you’re desperate to show the world that you’ve finally found enlightenment, and that’s swell and all… But all this relentless positivity is freaking me out. It’s not how we roll.
In thinking about ‘what success looks like’ in the quest to drag football into the 21st century, one of the metrics could arguably be that women in the game are treated like people in the game. And if that’s true, shouldn’t we adopt a policy that stipulates when they do something well we don’t necessarily have to praise them like a good little toilet training toddler who just did a very clever number 2 in the potty?
When women play good football it’s not amazing, it’s not astounding, it’s not in any way surprising – it’s just what they do. They are people who are exceptionally good at football, with no material difference from the guy your EPL club paid the GDP of a small country for and who, despite him being a zillion times better than you ever have been, are, or ever will be – you in all likelihood eloquently refer to as an “overpaid donkey”. (The overpaid part is almost certainly correct, the donkey part is a bit rude aside from the whole pot/kettle thing…)
Let us yearn for the day when a brilliant Women’s World Cup won’t be in any way a novelty.
And while we’re at it, another thing to bear in mind is the fact that – regardless of gender – World Cups are only one very small part of football in the grand scheme of the most loved game in the world. Just because the World Cup finished weeks ago, doesn’t mean you can stop caring now. Pick a European women’s team to back just as strongly as the male team you love. Get out and watch a local team regularly – the chances are it contains age-group if not full internationals, when they aren’t dragooned by the FFDP.
Most importantly of all – start picking some holes while you’re at it! It’s what fans do! Be yourself.
And finally, in response to the question I know you’re probably asking yourself right now – the answer is no, as it is for the Football Gods so it shall be for you. Damned if you ignore it, damned if you praise it, you absolutely cannot win. Deal with it.