The Thinking Game

The Thinking Game
December 2, 2013 Chris Rowland

By Ben Feltham.

I’ve described before the discipline of dialectics – getting to the truth of things by articulation. You know, that moment where you say something and think, wow, I didn’t even know I knew that! That’s dialectics. I am though beginning to think, in the parallel universe of planet football, there is an inverse discipline, where the more talking that’s done, the less truth is gleaned. Every week a new crisis, funding the 24hr news cycle, the radio stations, the newspapers, the sports media, yet despite this proliferation, I find myself straining for any intelligent thought in the mainstream media. I’m not setting myself up as a genius, and I know I’m not alone in asking the question – why when in search of something meaningful from the majority of football broadcasting, am I left so unfulfilled?

And the media are not alone, in fact this begins with the football establishments. A case in point, the Qatari 2022 World Cup allocation. Through the process of securing the Olympics in 2012 (a process Ken Livingstone is slowly been written out of incidentally), we have been, at least partially, privy to the rigour of that selection process – Transport; Stadia; budget; logistics; national ‘collusion’ and participation; legacy and so on. You’re left with the impression of a relentless and, if you’ll allow me the slightly iffy modern parlance, robust, mechanism for needling out the chaff from the wheat. How then can FIFA, in the only comparable world event, allocate Qatar the World Cup, and then months after have this decision jeopardised because ‘it’s too hot to play football there’? – a conclusion I’m not unduly confident my 5 year old son could’ve prescribed (if he ever went there anyway – “No dad, it’s too hot to play here!”). I don’t want to use words like embarrassing or ridiculous, I’m more angry than that; it’s offensive, yes that’s the adjective, offensive. And I’m speaking as someone who rails against the modern practise of taking offence.

It’s the same sense of offence when Platini dismisses the idea of using technology in the game, because “People love debating the referees performance, it’s part of the game”. No, people want to see which team is superior in a sporting contest. We didn’t watch the Women’s 400 meters final at the world championships in Moscow earlier this year and say it was a draw between Christine Ohurugou and Amantle Montsho, we analysed the photo finish, Christine won. We don’t say Usain Bolt has run ‘about’ nine and half seconds over a hundred meters. It’s timed, we use technology. Platini’s enraging view of the proletariat (I’m sure he sets his imaginary ‘debate’ in the ‘pub’) is firstly emblematic of a footballing elite ignorant of those that follow the game; it’s also ignorant full stop.

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