In defense of football, football, really – “the ballet of the working class”

I cried on Tuesday. Not because of a family problem, a deeply moving novel or a public tragedy. I cried because England beat Germany.

I cried, and in all fairness a beer or two had been consumed, as the English football team (yes that’s really football) beat the German team and qualified for the last eight of the European Championship. I, author, ordained cleric, 62-year-old man and father of four, wept with emotion during a match played 5,000 kilometers away.

Many of you will understand and sympathize, others will not. I’m not going to try to convince you of something that is beyond the intellect, and largely the visceral, gut, and heart. But what I will say is how little patience I have with those who make uninformed comments on the subject of the game, especially the English team which I adore so much. It has become terribly fashionable to be cynical and assume that nothing has changed, and that this is all a stew of chauvinism and even hooliganism.

Of course, there are the fools and the thugs, and the people who boo the foreign anthems, but they are a marginal element these days. The new modern England team, the contemporary culture of English football, is different. And if people are to snobbish condemnation – so-called liberals and socialists should certainly take note – you should really grasp the reality of it all.

There’s Harry Kane, the captain, who wears a rainbow armband in games, symbolizing full equality and rights for LGBTQ2 people, and celebration of those still persecuted in many parts of the world. Remember that there are countries represented in the Euro where homosexuals face discrimination and even violence on a daily basis.

Or there’s Marcus Rashford, raised by a single mother who worked various minimum wage jobs so he could take care of his boys. Rashford challenged the UK government to provide meals for needy children outside of school during the pandemic and twice forced a policy change. It has also partnered with leading companies to form a permanent working group on child food poverty.

Rashford did more than just make requests, but was also involved in the details. He tweeted at the time: “I just had a good conversation with the Prime Minister. He assured me that he was determined to correct the food basket problem and that a full review of the chain of “supply was underway. He agrees that the images of baskets shared on Twitter are unacceptable.”

Boris Johnson replied: “I totally agree with you. These food packages do not meet the standards that we have set and we have made it clear to the company concerned that this is shameful. The company concerned has rightly apologized and agreed to reimburse the persons concerned. “

How about that for a simple footballer!

Then there is the whole team, made up of young white, black and mixed-race men, kneeling before every game to speak out against racism and standing united as a group of – yes – brothers in defense of positive values. and progressive. These are mostly men in their twenties, some of whom have experienced racism, joining a collective effort to make the world a better place.

As for the complaint that they are overpaid, so what? Yes, they make a lot of money, but the vast majority of professional footballers earn little more than an average income, and their careers last 10 or 12 years. These young men mostly from the working class, often from difficult backgrounds, have a unique gift that they have worked tirelessly to perfect. They do not exploit workers, do not pay the minimum wage to others, do not inherit their parents’ fortunes.

In addition, the wealth is fairly recent. My uncle turned down a contract with Norwich City because he was newly married and could make more money driving a cab!

There is no contradiction between a love of fine art, literature and learning, and a deep romance with a sport. If you think otherwise, if you consider it superior to be above and beyond all of this, so be it. I will stand with what has been described as the “working class ballet”, and drink my beer and cheer with my comrades.



Rev. Michael coren is a Toronto-based writer and contributing columnist for Star’s Opinion and iPolitics. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelcoren

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