The value of football

Sometimes football seems very insignificant compared to more important things in life. It seems wrong to care about a game when so many people in the world are struggling just to exist. The news of people adrift on the Mediterranean Sea in flimsy, overcrowded boats makes me question why I spend so much time thinking about Birmingham City.  I rationalise by telling myself that I can’t carry the problems of the whole world.  I do what I can: I give to charities that tackle some of the problems and I vote in elections, trying to select the candidate who will do the most good or the least harm.

I also think that football has social value. A club’s supporters can be remarkably diverse, with fans of different ages, of different political and religious persuasions, working at different jobs and coming from different ethnic backgrounds. As they support the same team they can share a sense of community with people who they would meet in no other context.  And, although an increasing number spend time staring at their little screens, some fans still do talk to each other.  Those who play football have to communicate with team mates, a valuable social skill.

Fans who direct insults at opposition fans during games, offer condolences and help at other times.  One example of that this week was the campaign in support of Frank Knight.  Frank is a Blackpool fan who posted comments on Facebook about the Oyston family.  He has since issued an apology and agreed to pay £20,000 to avoid them taking the matter to court. Fellow fans have begun a fundraising campaign on the Gofundme site and posted this explanation:

“Frank Knight is a 67 year old Blackpool fan who has been sued for £20,000 by club chairman Karl Oyston for comments made online questioning the way his club is being ran.
Frank has followed Blackpool over 40 years and has apologised for his passionate online rant, witnessed by all 34 of his online friends on Facebook, and fully retracted his statements.
Despite this the Oyston family, worth over £100m, will be claiming £20,000 from Mr. Knight. A lot of money for anyone, especially a 67 year old, retired OAP.
It would be great if football fans world wide could help the common fan pay off his debt to the Oyston’s for being guilty of caring passionately about his football club and having serious concerns on how it’s run. Thank you for your time.”

This fundraising site was set up 4 days ago.  When I checked this morning, it had raised £19,675 with donations by 1,091 people from all over the world. It’s an example of the football community at its generous best. I read online comments from some fans who imply that supporting one team means hating another. I don’t subscribe to that view. During games I support my team and want the worst for the opponents and their supporters. After the game, the opposition fans are not my enemies but fellow football fans. So congratulations to Aston Villa on reaching the FA Cup Final.