People, usually those blinded by their unquestioning Pavlovian devotion, still refer to football by this moniker. Perhaps 80 odd years ago when players still had full time jobs and played solely for the love of the contest the nametag was possibly true. I doubt it can be said to be so anymore.
I’ll admit I’m biased. I loathe football. Well, that’s what I say but it’s a kind of a misleading shorthand. The game itself is fine. No better or worse than tennis or cricket or hockey. What I loathe in reality is the culture of football. When I’ve dared to voice this opinion on various social networking platforms I am invariably shotdown by football stalwarts who take considerable time and energy to tell me, via lots of swearing and insults, of the marvellous community aspect of football, of how it makes people feel they belong, looks after and nurtures local talent, gives people a leg up and does a shedload of great charity work to boot. Oh and some footballers even have degrees thus disproving my cliched theory that all footballers are thickos who were only ever good at sport at school.
But all this changes nothing. I loathe the culture of football. The disproportionately large wages. The fast cars and the drivers who feel they have a right to drive them at 120mph and go hang the safety of other drivers. The attitude that they are God’s gift and their football stardom entitles them to behave like some rockstar behemoth – buying what and who they want, acquiring trophy girlfriends and trophy houses and extolling the chauvenistic ideals of sleeping around with whoever the hell they like. Nightclubs the country over are full of cocky young men who are earning far too much money for their own good and whose chat-up lines revolve solely around the fact that they are a “famous footballer”. All those around them are put there solely for their own entertainment and pleasure. Far too many of them see themselves as old world kings who own all that their eyes happen to fall upon.
Out of this culture we inevitably get people like Ched Evans.
I find it hard to countenance that there is even a debate about whether he should be allowed to return to a football career after he has been convicted of raping a 19 year old woman who was far too intoxicated to ever consciously consent to what was happening to her. The fact he has shown no remorse and refuses to apologize – indeed he refuses to accept that he did anything wrong – is testament to all that is wrong with footballing culture. The facts behind the case highlight the tawdriness and dehuminazing aspects of football social culture. Another player, Clayton McDonald, apparently sent Ched a text to say he had a “bird” lined up. Ched went round to McDonald’s hotel room and watched him bed the poor girl. Ched then decided he’d like a go too. CCTV footage reportedly shows not only how drunk the girl was but also various team mates of Ched watching from the sidelines as if they were at a spectator sport. No doubt braying and shouting slogans as if they were on the terraces; egging Ched on.
Let’s make it clear; there is no debate about the facts. Sleeping with someone who is too drunk to consent to the act is a crime. It is statuatory rape. End of. The fact that not only Ched and McDonald were a party to this but also others is a disgrace. Not one of them stopped to think how they would feel if this poor woman was their sister or daughter or other family member. So little empathy or respect for another human being – all burnt up in their unailienable rights to sate their own voracious desires. Because plainly their status means they own the world and can do whatever the hell they like.
To make it worse supporters of Ched – how can such a man have any? – have subesquently harrassed the poor woman so much so that she has had to move house 5 times and go into hiding. She now cannot see her own family in case it blows her cover.
Again, this highlights all that is wrong with footballing culture. That a mere game is placed above not only the law but also all human decency. Defenders of Ched say he was punished with imprisonment not unemployment so should be allowed to return to professional football. It sounds a logical argument until you consider that the culture that has grown up around football and footballers created the circumstances that led to the rape in the first place. Acknowledge that and Ched’s return to football is impossible. Acknowledge that and you have to accept that it is not only Ched that needs to be punished, corrected and reeducated but a huge proportion of the profession itself. Plus those fans that still can see nothing wrong with Ched’s behaviour on that night.
Football – the players, the managers, the club owners and even the fans – need to take a long hard look at themselves. I’m sure there is plenty to celebrate about football but there is too much that needs to change. I’m sure many of the fans and players are decent people with good morals but as Ched and his team mates clearly show, there are too many with a highly inflated sense of entitlement that leads them to treat others as nothing more than pieces of meat, there to be used and then forgotten about. They and those fans that condone this kind of behaviour need to be educated to the contrary. A strong message needs to be sent out that this kind of behaviour is morally wrong and repugnant. It is a blight and a cancer and those on Twitter and elsewhere that think it Ok to harrass a victim of rape are as guilty as Ched. They all need to be eradicated from football completely. Expunged and exiled.
Maybe then, when footballers are proper role models that showcase respect and decency and even, dare I say it, chivalry for all, both on and off the pitch, then maybe, just maybe, football will truly be the beautiful game that so many of its fans desperately want it to be.