Més Que Un Column

Mad how people are really into South American footy now, isn’t it? Seems like everyone was watching this Copa Libertadores final on Sunday. Must be taking the Superbowl’s position as hipster sporting event of the year.

What a different world it is to twenty, or even fifteen years ago. I’m too young to have witnessed the highly-renowned Gazzetta Football Italia during its glory days on Channel 4, but I’ll trust you’re not all just being blindly nostalgic about the nineties again and that it was actually quite good.

While foreign football was once a mysterious and intriguing beauty waiting for the viewer to uncover its different quirks and niches, it has now become just another bit of television you’re willing to flick through on the rare night you’ve opted for satellite TV above Netflix.

Simply due to the sheer amount of football available, including football from abroad, it’s no surprise that most people are no longer satisfied with watching just any old twenty-two lads kick a ball around as they used to be.

If it’s a Saturday and you’re staying in, you don’t have to wait until half ten for Match of the Day to start. Watch the lunch-time kick-off on Sky, stream the 3pms on your laptop, get the evening kick-off on Sky and if you’re still not ready to interact with other humans, Strasbourg v Bordeaux is on the box. Should be a cracker.

UEFA have staggered the Champions League kick-offs this year, allowing your productivity on Tuesday and Wednesday nights to end another two hours earlier than previous seasons, and international tournaments continue to expand to give Scotland every chance of getting in, causing four games a day on some summer weekends. Then just when you think you’ve escaped it for a month, the BBC get the rights for one of the pointless tournaments like the Confederations Cup or the soccer in the Olympics.

The number of choices is brilliant from one perspective, but very scary from another.

The disappearance of virtually all live football off British terrestrial TV (with the exception of a few FA Cup games) has forced people into getting a sport’s subscription for the tele. From there, we’ve become fully saturated with football. While once, beggars couldn’t be choosers, now we’re kings, swimming in riches with an abundance of choice as to what to have for our footballing dinner. Some of us only interested in the finest pleasures of the footballing world, a Chelsea versus Manchester City shall we say. And some of us have watched too much football, we’re sick of it at this stage but still trick ourselves into thinking we love it. Looking at you Mark Lawrenson.

Most of you reading this will have probably remember that Mitchell & Webb video where David Mitchell walks around a football ground, repeatedly asserting how much football is on in the coming months. It was an exaggeration at the time, but now it feels all too true. Who would have thought a BBC satire sketch show would’ve foreseen this dystopian future we live in?

But the game on Sunday did seem to capture the imagination a bit more. Maybe it was just the River Plate fans lashing stuff at the Boca Juniors bus a few weeks ago. Those crazy Argentines.

Or maybe it was the unknown. Bar Carlos Tevez who came off the bench, there were no household names in either side, nor were there even any semi-household names present if such a thing exists. Yet here was this game which meant everything to fans of both River Plate and Boca Juniors. Their colour, noise and commitment to get to the final in Madrid showed that this was just as big to them as the Champions League final is to any European club, if not bigger.

How in this day and age could one of the biggest football matches on the planet involve twenty-two players most of the UK had never heard of?

It was the mystique of it, the exoticness of it if you will, that attracted the masses to watch South America’s showpiece showdown in Madrid.

That mystique is something we should protect. England, and the UK as a whole needs the return of some free-to-air football in order to bring back the country’s true love for the game, rather than everything around the game such as stats and haircuts. Foreign football should be a rarity, something that thrills and excites when you see it from time to time, not something that becomes surplus to people’s football requirements, or not worthy of our leisure time when West Ham v Burnley is on Sky’s Super Sunday. Super indeed.

Dessert is nice every so often, but being served it three times a day defeats the purpose.

All the best.