Things to Love About Football #1: Happiness

The brains behind this website (and therefore presumably the reason for its failure to date), Dave, is a miserable bastard. His one saving grace is that he knows it; and so from time to time he asks one of his more optimistic friends to contribute something to lift the clouds from over his blog. While I am generally of a sunny disposition, I do reserve occasional moments of intense cynicism and even hatred for many of our ‘beautiful’ game’s uglier sides. But for now, I will leave those to Dave, and try to counteract his gloominess with some things we can all enjoy about this game which we call Association Football.

Happiness is not, of course, something which can only be found through football. If however you have managed to somehow obtain some degree of meaning to your life without it, you must have a pretty good alternative. (Cricket and sex are the only viable options that immediately spring to mind; certainly rugby is not an acceptable replacement.)

The type of happiness that I am referring to here is one which I have experienced almost exclusively within the context of football. It is the ability, against all odds, to appreciate the happiness of other people as if it were your own. I say ‘against all odds’, because very often these others are the very people against whom we are sworn to eternal hatred (rival fans), or even just those who you don’t really care for.

But when I see fans celebrating a last-day-of-the season relegation escape, or their first trophy for half a century (or sadly nowadays the staving-off of administration), I can’t help but feel a shiver. I know how they must be feeling.

And this is because football, the game which we all love and invest so much time and energy in to (to the eternal despair of those unfortunate souls around us who don’t understand) is one of the greatest shared experiences that we have as people. There is simply no other feeling like the joy of a last-minute winner. Few and far between are other chances to feel the camaraderie of singing on the terraces to drive your boys on. And nothing else will make you so many friends, so quickly, as wearing a football shirt in the farthest corners of the globe.

There are limits, of course. I can’t stand my team’s rivals, and one of my greatest pleasures is seeing any or all of them suffer and fail. But I know that their fans are thinking that about my club, and in that sense it is just another one of the truly countless things that don’t divide us, but make us the same. So I think it’s high time that we began to appreciate that we’re all in this together – and that that is something to smile about.

This was all a very elaborate ruse to make Dave let me put this video up on GfG. It’s a documentary about the fans of the Uruguayan club Peñarol, which I cannot wait to see. I’ve got a soft spot for them, and indeed for all things Uruguayan; but even if you don’t speak Spanish, this should at least some of your juices flowing.

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About Ben Milligan

Writing about football, everywhere, for his own amusement. You can read it too, but don't expect it to make sense all the time.
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