Sunday, 15 August 2010

Red team, yellow cards and blue air

"Daddy, why don't you like the Blues?"
"Well...they've got too much money."
"Why don't you like them because they've got too much money?"
"It means they can get all the best players."
"Why don't you like them if they've got the best players?"

H'mm. This is much tougher than a post-match interview with Guy Mowbray. 'Too much money' could define much of what I don't like about modern football. But a lecture on the essentially anti-competitive nature of the Premier League is perhaps too complex for a three-year old.

The league kicked off again this weekend and despite my aversion to certain elements of post-1992 football, there is still little to beat the beautiful game. And for all the bitter reverse snobbery from fans in lower leagues who talk about their football being somehow more authentic, it is the Premier League - yes, powered by Skyperbole, inflated salaries, ludicrously pampered egos and leech-like agents - that is at the heart of the excitement. The World Cup is an occasional treat, but it's the weekly football calendar that we really love.

I use the Royal 'we' to a degree there - Little C's mum resents its tanks on our (still non existent) lawn - but actually, Little C is something of a fan. Ok, she won't usually sit through 90 minutes of me swearing, but she does take an interest along the lines of "I want Reds to win, like Daddy."

Much of her interest is colour-related. During the World Cup, she insisted on having a Brazil shirt as "yellow and green are my favourite colours". And yesterday, she was interested in yellow cards.

"Well, if a player cheats, the referee shows him a yellow card and writes his name in his little book. And if he cheats again, the referee shows him a red card. That means he's not allowed to play any more and has to go home."
"But what if he lives very far away?"
"Well...he shouldn't cheat, should he?"
"Daddy, that Blue cheated and the referee didn't show him a yellow card!"
Welcome to my world, Little C...we will talk about referees when you are old enough to understand those words that keep escaping when the football is on.

Watching football with Daddy is not always a relaxed experience. Well it is if you're watching the millionaires of Manchester City and their line-up of defensive midfielders playing for a draw at last season's over-achievers, Tottenham. But involve Liverpool and the air can contain a certain tension, with the risk of it turning blue ever-present. Little C was only 18 months when she sat through her first rollercoaster footie match, as Liverpool knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League, beating them 4-2 at Anfield with two late goals. The second of these was scored right at the death by Ryan Babel and it saw me charging down our hallway in celebration. As I turned to complete my lap of honour, I found a hysterical Little C hot on my tail. She ran round and round in circles like a puppy, laughing her little head off. An hour after the game, she was still throwing herself jubilantly at walls. Her Mum had given up all attempts to get her into bed. Actually, she looked ready to give up altogether at the idea there were now two of us.

Aside from the colours and tensions which seem to have made her an armchair fan (like I am, sadly, these days), Little C also likes to play the game. The rules are simple - we both have to wear our football shirts, we make a net out of a blanket hung over a chair and then we "have lots of fun" - which basically seems to mean we chase the ball round the living room very fast and try to kick it in the net. Perhaps the ego-maniacs we spend too much time watching could learn something from us.

So, my predictions for the season? Liverpool to be better than last year, but probably still not as good as they ought to be. One of the overspending Blue teams to win the Premier League - anyone but Manchester United overtaking our haul of titles. And Little C to continue to put the tiresome pundits to shame with logical questions which make me wonder why we all bother so much about it.

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