Get on With It!

Posted: March 2, 2013 in Football, Media
Tags: ,

imagesCAS24KSHPenicillin, chemotherapy, vaccinations – there’s no doubting the medical pioneers have put in a solid shift over the past hundred years or so, but when it comes to life-saving breakthroughs, surely Sky Plus trumps them all. Some may argue that remedies for hitherto deadly diseases beats the advent of live TV manipulation but those people have clearly never had to endure the torturous ordeal of the modern day Pre-Match Pageantry and it’s suicide-inducing tedium.

Unfortunately, the option to pause, record and fast-forward over the endless ceremonies that precede every football match these days is only available to those lucky enough to be watching the unfolding events on Sky Plus. For everyone else the torture goes on. And on. And on.

There was a time when players kicked off mere seconds after leaving the dressing room, their managers’ words still ringing in their ears. Nowadays, they would do well to recall the identity of the gaffer, much less the content of his teamtalk, such is the time lag between leaving the dressing room and actually playing some football.

From handshakes to bad opera, from kids fluttering big yellow bedsheets to five minute close-ups of inert players in the tunnel, the modern day match experience has turned into a horrible mesh of mind numbing ceremonial pomposity and nauseating life lessons. Throw in some RAF squadies and more pyrotechnics than greeted the end of the Second World War and you begin to get a fuller picture of a typical football match in 2012.

Today’s younger fan probably thinks having a camera crew trained on the players in the tunnel is as much a part of the game as tackling and shooting. And, to a small, depressing, degree they would be right. But it wasn’t always so. Like most annoying aspects of modern football, the lingering camera shot of the players in the tunnel was introduced by Sky sometime in the mid-nineties (perhaps Sky Plus is a token effort to make amends?) Quite why they thought anyone would be interested in seeing the contents of John Terry’s nasal passage is anyone’s guess but any chance of the broadcaster dropping the idea was banished in 2005 when Roy Keane and Patrick Viera broke from tunnel protocol and actually did something interesting. (The former Manchester United and Arsenal captains exchanged a few heated words, and in doing so brought the Sky production team to orgasm quicker than an army of nymphomaniac Playboy bunnies would ever have been able to manage.)

When, after several minutes, the players finally treat us to the unmissable spectacle of actually emerging from the tunnel, it usually takes on one of two forms. The first is the solo form, whereby players are trusted to navigate the five yard journey from tunnel to pitch all by themselves. The second form (usually saved for Internationals and European competitions) is the kiddy accessorised form, whereby each and every player is assigned a minor with whom they can hold hands as they embark on their treacherous trek. Apart from the rare, hilarious spectacle of the mascot being taller than the player, this particular leg provides the creepiest aspect of the pre-match marathon, looking as it does like some sort of Nonce Solidarity March.

Having finally reached the pitch, any hope the players have of getting on with the play are soon dashed as they are instructed to line up either side of a cardboard trestle or (if it’s a Champions League night) listen to woeful opera being piped through a rusty tannoy system. And if the players think they have it bad, they should spare a thought for the other gaggle of match day kids in the centre circle who not only have to endure the same operatic din but do so whilst furiously fluttering a giant banner, containing some sort of trite message like ‘Fair Play’ or ‘Kick Racism Out’. Turns out Martin Luther King wasn’t needed after all; seemingly all we needed to heal the racial divide was a dozen kids giving themselves asthma attacks whilst doing the work of a hundred tumble driers.

Having endured this rendition of the exact type of music the average fan despises, we move on to the next leg of the pre-match marathon – the pre-match handshake.

The pre-match handshake is merely the latest in an ever increasing list of pointless, telly-driven gimmicks that have absolutely nothing to do with the event about to unfold. The whole point of the football handshake has always been to act as a kind of ‘no hard feelings’ gesture after – what ought to have been- a fiercely competed contest. After all, what’s the point in shaking hands with a player you intend to hurt in a few minutes’ time? It’s the equivalent of your doctor giving you a clean bill of health before kicking you full force in the swingers.

Apart from being an empty gesture, the pre-match handshake has had the effect of turning the Premiership into a particularly bad episode of a teenage soap opera with several players refusing to shake hands and several more refusing out of solidarity to their friends who have previously refused to shake hands. Confused? Try this for size: Rio wont shake hands with Ashley because he supported JT, whose hand both Bridgey and Anton wont shake for different reasons, whilst neither Patrice nor Rio shook hands with Luis even though Luis claims he tried to shake Patrice’s hand, which is more than could be said for Park, who refused to shake JT’s hand because his old mate Rio had decided not to shake JT’s hand. All that’s missing is a threat from Alf Stewart to throw someone off Yabby Creek.

Not that the (non) shaking of hands represents the end of the ceremonies. There are still the matters of the coin toss, the swapping of pennants and the captains posing for further pictures as those of us unlucky enough to be sat in the stand wonder how much cheaper our ticket would be if we got rid of the multitude of superfluous props we see before us.

And so, after what feels like an eternity and having doffed its cap to nasal hair, intergenerational relations, racism, high society entertainment and enforced child labour, Football Match Day finally gets around to providing some actual football. Unfortunately, by this time the fans have been divided into two camps; those lucky enough to have been able to skip the entire build up farce via Sky Plus, and those wishing the aforementioned medical pioneers would get off their arse and create a cure for pre-match build-up boredom.

Article first published in Late Tackle Magazine, November 2012



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s