The Days When The Game Of Football Was Just That; A Game

{Photo courtesy of Vagabondish}


By Dennis Mungai


Anyone who is a true football fan will remember the last day of the 2011/12 English Premier League season very well. Sergio Aguero scoring the last goal of the season to help Man City beat QPR 3-2 and win the first Premier League trophy for the Citizens. Their noisy neighbors Man United had won their match and a draw for City would have seen the title go to Old Trafford. So memorable is this moment that outside Etihad Stadium, City’s home ground there’s a statue of Aguero celebrating with his shirt off.

Eleven years later, no one would have envisioned what today’s football has become. It seems there’s always something extra to fight for, not just the trophy and medals. Nowadays Premier League matches begin by players taking a knee to show their support in the “No room for racism” initiative. This was mainly brought by the infamous George Floyd,a black man who was murdered by white cops back in 2020, sparking a “Black Lives Matter” campaign across the globe.

Black players have suffered the worst due to racism by fans, officials and even other people. Take the Champions League game between PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir for instance. One of the members of the Istanbul technical team was racially abused by a UEFA official. The players got so infuriated that they left the match and was forfeited in the 25th minute.

Video Assistant Referee ( VAR) is another problem. Teams have lost games and players sent off for mistakes committed only for the referees’ official body to issue an apology for unfair treatment. Countless cases of players being red carded then having it withdrawn have floored the football world in recent past. The unforgettable one is Man United’s game against Brighton. Players had to be brought from the dressing room way after the game was over just to take a penalty after VAR intervened and overturned the ref’s decision.  Of course the technology has its advantages, like helping define whether a ball had completely crossed the line for a goal or was cleared out in the nick of time.

The issues surrounding gender equality have also slipped into the game. The recently- concluded  FIFA Women’s World Cup has many fans questioning the women- empowerment agenda and how far it should go. People have learnt more about the women’s game because of the drama that surrounds it and not the game itself. Spanish FA président Rubiales is now facing sexual assault charges for kissing World Cup- winning Spanish player Hermoso on the mouth.

I have not even delved into the Saudi league and the ridiculous amounts of money players are shifting clubs for. There’s debate that value of football is now being equated directly with money spent. LGBTQ community has also gained support, with June being the pride month. The corner flags, stadium designs, background colors on social media pages, captains’ armbands, even boots’ laces all show support for this community not only during that month but generally.

Sometimes I watch that Aguero goal again and just take in that moment. The aura in that stadium at that exact moment when he celebrates with the fans, while their rivals in the other stadium have dejected faces. We might never go back to such days, when it was only football that mattered and nothing else, but it was special while it lasted.

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