Let the ball do the talking

World Cup – arguably the most popular phrase in the UK, if not the world, at the current moment in time. With just two days until what some say is the second-biggest multi-national tournament (after the Olympics), I should be really excited. But I’m not. Yes, I’m looking forward to it, but I feel as though the tournament itself will be an anti-climax. Why? Because of the excessive coverage surrounding it.

It seems as though the only sporting thing anyone has talked about over the last two years is the World Cup. There has definitely been an almost non-stop focus on the event for about the last 6 months and, if I’m being completely honest, I’m sick of it. It’s got to the point where main sports stories have included out-of-date food being found at England’s hotel in Brazil – there is so much other sport going on at the moment that, to me, it’s incredulous as to how that is more of a story than, say, the wonderful performance of England’s under-strength rugby union team in New Zealand at the weekend. Why do we need to know what time Raheem Sterling went to the toilet or whether Joe Hart had fish for his dinner last night? I’d much rather read or hear about how England’s male and female teams are doing at the hockey World Cup in the Netherlands than that rubbish.

Of course, today’s world of the internet, smart phones and tablets means that there is now 24/7 access to sport. You would think that would lead to easier access to articles, podcasts etc. for sports like hockey but, if anything, it has actually pushed them further aside. Because newspapers now also have websites, they can post short articles about that on their website and use the paper itself for other things. Looking through the back pages of a well known paper even now, the amount of informative text is actually limited. Instead, there is a greater focus on the opinions of the journalists and guest writers who are often ex-sportsmen. And it all seems to centre around the more well-known sports, especially football. As a result, less followed sports such as hockey get much smaller spaces in the papers as people would rather know how the English football team should play against Italy in comparison to how the England hockey team performed the other day.

Football fans aren’t complaining, however, as their sport is being discussed more than ever. I think too much. Everyone now has to have an opinion and if you don’t, you’re not seen as a real fan. It’s as though you can only be seen to be a true supporter if you openly discuss the game at every opportunity, leading to too much focus on the small and trivial aspects. I follow and watch football for two reasons – to see my team/country win and to be entertained. But it seems as though many people aren’t satisfied with this – they need to know the players’ middle names, what pets they have and what they ate at 3p.m on the 3rd February. The media satisfy this need as it creates profit and this leads to everyone becoming instant experts. Listening to radio call-ins can be hilarious as you get people who, just because they have read a couple of things or listened to a pundit on Match of the Day, think they have the answer to all of their team’s problems and won’t listen to anyone else, often leading to arguments. Although it makes for entertaining radio, they are just fans at the end of the day and don’t really know the ins and outs of the game, despite what they think.

The huge focus on this World Cup in particular has already lead to stories being blown out of proportion and it hasn’t even started yet! For example, Steven Gerrard didn’t complete training yesterday due to a tight groin. Within a couple of hours, there were discussions and opinions flying around about who should replace him in the starting line-up, despite there being no suggestion he wouldn’t be fit for Saturday! It’s a huge contrast to thirty years ago, where no-one would have heard about it until the team sheets were handed in an hour before kick off or maybe just not at all.

When I turn on the TV on Saturday evening, all I want to do is watch England do everything they can to beat Italy. Even if they play ‘boring’ football, as long as they win then I can forgive that. I do have my favourite players, but I don’t care who plays as long as they give everything to the cause. I don’t want to spend hours pointlessly discussing or listening to people discussing something I and they have no control over, especially when we don’t have the knowledge of those who are being paid to make the decisions (i.e Roy Hodgson).

I feel that this increased coverage of sport, especially football, has actually taken away from the simple love people used to give it. The constant need to analyse and discuss even the most trivial things doesn’t make events such as the World Cup exciting. Tomorrow night, I want to feel like I do on Christmas Eve – I want to be tingling with excitement, knowing that the greatest football tournament is just around the corner. Instead, I’m just wishing it would hurry up and start so I don’t have to listen to people drivelling on about what teams should or shouldn’t do. For me, knowing more has actually taken away some of my love for the game and I don’t think I’m the only one.

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