The beautiful game is coming home but not in politics

The beautiful game is coming home but not in politics

Trollies are being wheeled out of supermarkets stacked with booze. The BBQs will be lit to sear burgers and sausages to the point of incineration. It’s party time because it’s coming home. And the final is against Germany, our nation’s favourite enemy in what used to be called the beautiful game.

Today’s newspapers are not only full of coverage of the Lionesses, they cover the other contest gripping the nation (or probably not actually). The battle to become Tory leader and the prime minister of our nation. With the backing on Ben Wallace, Tom Tugendhat and Brandon Lewis, Liz Truss probably thinks it’s all over. It is not over until the final whistle.

I think most of us wish it was over. Why has the Conservative Party imposed this lengthy torture on us? It’s a huge home goal for the party, which is showing itself in the worst possible light. Not for nothing has the Tory party long been known as the nasty party and its nastiness is at the forefront of the leadership campaign.

When the Lionesses win today, I am not going say “if they win”, politicians of all colours will line up to shout in support and broadcast their congratulations. Boris Johnson will no doubt be at the forefront to claim credit:

“Got Brexit done! Got Covid done! Got Germany done!”

We are well used to rubbish from our prime minister who will shortly be relegated to the second division. But there are more serious issues.

As in everything in sport, the outcome of today’s match is uncertain. The same is true of the leadership election. Rishi Sunak is the cautious tortoise while Liz Truss is haring ahead. Both deserve to lose.

The women’s game in football meanwhile is outclassing the men. The men’s game is no longer beautiful. It has been tainted by money. It’s about egos more than skills and personalities. About WAGS. About trading and making money for already wealthy owners of clubs.

But for now, at least, the women’s game is not dominated by the distractions off the pitch in the way the men’s game has been.

The Football Association will need to raise its game. There is paucity of opportunities for women to play. And, unbelievable in the 21st century, many girls have to ask their parents to cough up £50 a month to play, while the boys get a free ticket. Boys and men do not have a superior right to football. The right to play without discrimination or hinderance should be universal. With cricket and other sports too.

The FA needs to change the ingrained attitude that women’s football is inferior to the beautiful game played by men. Women’s football is not inferior. It is much more enjoyable to watch.

Women are reinventing football by taking it back to its roots. To a time when fouls happened but the fouler accepted the referee’s discipline without much of a fuss. When players did not throw themselves on the ground despite no obvious injury. When the fans of each side didn’t think the attending a match was an opportunity to beat up the opponents’ supporters. When racism chants were mostly unheard of. When fans were there to cheer good play and goals, no matter who kicked the ball into the net.

But that was also a time when women were frowned on for taking part in a man’s sport. We are at the cusp of changing that.

Will this honeymoon last? Or will money and aggression yet again corrupt a game that is at last showing its beauty?

Beautiful football. Fair football. Enjoyable football. Let’s hope today’s game keeps that dream alive.

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