I will start harshly: Sitting in front of a television-screen for more than 90 minutes, watching, say, Man-U versus Arsenal, did you think you were completely lucid?Have you ever questioned the beauty of football? What if the “beautiful game” slogan is – well – a slogan?
Although the modern standard ball, made of synthetic materials, is somewhat lighter than the leather globes of way back, or the skulls from human sacrifices that some archaeologists have suggested the Aztecs may have played as balls in the misty origins of the game, the ball is still lumpy.Even with the fiercest and smoothest kick, the ball’s flight cannot quite achieve the kind of beauty of some other ball games.Not a golfer myself, I still cannot fail to note the crisp beauty of an efficiently hit golf ball on its long journey from the Tee.Being solid, a golf ball is actually relatively denser than a football, but because the golf missile is so small, and it is delivered by a long club-ended stick, the strong skilled player uses the mechanical advantage to make the flight of the ball a sweet spectacle.
Hit by skilled players, a tennis ball has even more flight beauty as it travels (often very fast) along various trajectories, forming a dynamic geometrical pattern-in-time. The complexity of the pattern keeps increasing until the rally – and the point – ends.The golfer’s top enemy is the golf course itself, with its set obstacles. With tennis, the players at the opposite ends of the net are in deadly combat, albeit abstract combat.As combat, football can be raw, even if not as primitive as rugby, where a player seizes and flees with the ball like a thief with a loaf of bread chased by savages; but football combat sufficiently resembles a street-dog fight for a meaty bone.
Surely, we can live without watching this highly skilled Western ruffianism.But then maybe we can’t. If there was an instrument that accurately measures the intensity of passion, football would make Africans return very high readings.When Ghana beat South Korea in the group stage of the Qatar World Cup, Ghana apparently exploded.Ghanaians, who normally speak with a beautiful accent that other people can only mimic by talking when swallowing a kola nut, were churning out such a volume of emotion, plus a torrent of words and song, that coherence was completely lost.
Earlier, when a son of Cameroonian soil who had evolved into a Swiss citizen scored for Switzerland against Cameroon in far-away Qatar, the home-based Cameroonians could not bear this act of high treason.Cameroonian warriors attacked the footballer’s pre-evolution home, intending to kill and disembowel his entire family, and possibly dismantling the family graveyard, so that this wretched bloodline was wiped from the face of Cameroon.Beyond Africa, the protest for the rights of women against Iranian/Islamic authoritarianism spilled into the Qatar World Cup as a kind of boycott of happiness.
A range of symbolic statements involving the national anthem, the flag and the refusal to cheer the players were made to send the message to the authorities in Tehran that football could be weaponised against the regime.Ugandans could pick a leaf from the Iranian protest form book.Why not start with a total boycott of the Cranes, including every article or smile that reflects football happy-go-nationalism?That would be a level higher than mindlessly killing each other again in their current power games.After all, football by itself is not such a beautiful game.