I can think of many places I’d prefer to be than my living room when my four brothers and my Dad watch football: next to a sweaty fat guy on a plane or maybe getting my crotch waxed. I don’t understand the manic ‘G’WON SON’s!’ and corners and the offside onside whatever side rules. I definitely don’t understand why the players themselves are idolised to the degree they are. At the end of the day, Cristiano Ronaldo’s shit still stinks.
Either way, the passionate solidarity events like the World Cup and the Champions League seems to stir is nice, whether you’re particularly interested in the sport or not. It does make me smile when I remember how my little brother, who always loved football the most, would get closer and closer to the screen as the minutes disappeared, his knobbly knees and elbows sticking out of whatever was the latest Chelsea strip.
It makes me smile when I remember how, when several team’s worth of kit was donated to my parents’ Oxfam store, it was saved especially for the young boys in the Ghanaian village of Wantugu. I have never seen such feverish delight as when I watched the video of those boys playing in their kits, and thanking Oxfam for helping them to play ‘a real game.’
We all dream dreams. But there is something exceptionally beautiful and honest about the dreams of a child. You could see them alight in the faces of those Ghanaian boys, and it felt almost wicked to doubt that any of them could really be Kanu or Drogba.
Let them dream their dreams, I thought.
But recently, I read something that made me think again.
As these boys mature into men, the dream doesn’t quell. They post their names, their contact numbers and their passport details on football networking websites, in a desperate bid to attract the attention of those with connections in the industry. If they can just get an agent, they might get a trial for a bigtime European club, like Chelsea, Man City, or Real Madrid.
Imagine how the little boy in them feels when they receive an invite to a significant trial. The £3000 plus fee is neither here nor there. The family are so proud that one of theirs is going to make it, and they give everything they have to make it real. They sign the official papers, hand over the goods, and fly to Europe alone to attend their trial.
And that’s when the cruelty of reality smacks them round the head and laughs at their dreams. Because they’ve been conned. They’ve all been conned by a gang of professional criminals who pose as football scouts and agents online and rob thousands of young, disadvantaged lads of all they have. They prey on human dreams. And we don’t see it. Our attention is distracted, as ever, by the decorated celebrity players of the FIFA World Cup.