Sunday 21 April 2019

The power of football is a curious thing

Tottenham Hotspur's 4-4 draw aggregate draw over Manchester City in the Champions League quarter final last Wednesday has been described by at least one person who isn't a BT Sport employee as the "best game of football ever played". And away from my office, other examples of gushing and slow head-shaking in disbelief were in some supply.

On the night in question, an online contributor to BBC Sport's live feed, no less, informed other virtual viewers and hindsight heroes that this match "reminds you why you love football". Ironically, other visitors, looking for reports rather than unwanted opinion, found that this remark actually reminded them why they hated it so often.

Contrary to assumptions, not everyone took so fondly to the celebrated events at the Etihad Stadium, and in a poll hastily arranged after the game, large swathes of the North London area in which Tottenham Hotspur reside experienced feelings of sadness and nausea, with the most strongly affected considering the possibility of withdrawing from the sport completely, particularly if the victorious side were also to be seen jumping around like squealing schoolchildren in Madrid two rounds on.

Further research in the field suggests that absolute nation happiness after a dramatic sporting event is a fallacy. Again we look to North London for a stand-out case study. Hotspur's rivals, Arsenal, clinched the First Division title in the very last minute on the very last night of the 1988-89 season by winning 2-0 at Liverpool, who would have won it had they lost only 1-0. This was thought to be regarded by everyone as the most fascinating finish to a league season, though we now understand that a substantial proportion of people in North London, or who at least support a team in North London, did not greet the sight of Tony Adams lifting the trophy with any grain of pleasure. Furthermore, 30 years on, the worth of that sporting fairytale at Anfield is dismissed by Sky Sports and BT Sport executives, seeing as it happened live on free-to-air ITV. Indeed, should anyone try to begin presenting the facts of the occasion to Sky, they are cut off mid-argument with screams of "Agueroooooo!!"

ITV themselves, are not free of the charge of speaking for everybody, though. You will be familiar by now of Clive Tyldesley's 1999 mistaken belief that nobody cared where the Germans were when Manchester United sealed the treble that year. It is now recognised that as much as half the country were actually deeply concerned by the whereabouts of the Germans (other nations were available in the Bayern Munich back four)

In a non-sporting context, Tyldesley has been aped most recently by Brexit conductor, Nigel Farage, who, the morning of his June 2016 victory over his arch nemesis, the EU, observed that "even the sun's come out" to apparently symbolise nationwide delight over a 52%-48% winning vote for the Leave party.

Some are even claiming that City and Hotspur conjured up a cynical, Farage-esque ploy to distract people from yet another dismal Premier League Saturday afternoon, just as people were gathering momentum to complain about fixtures on both Friday and Monday nights and Sunday afternoons that left Gary Lineker and chums red-faced on Saturday evening when only able to offer viewers all the action from the Veterans' Subbuteo League.

So then, on Wednesday night, Lineker, in league with Raheem Sterling, Son-Heong Min and VAR, put out all the right words to stave off what could have been a rising mutiny.

"Even the Son has come out" he might as said.


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