words: David Marples
It’s 1719 and an eerie, swirling green face stares down at you from upon high, dancing intermittently, painting a mystical canvass across the sky.
The first recorded sightings of aurura borealis occurred in this year in New England. One can only imagine the fear such a sight instilled upon those who witnessed it, deeming it to be a sign from the gods of impending doom or punishment. Yet despite this, the natural beauty of such a sight must have surely outweighed the horror. How could one not be utterly captivated by such an overwhelming phenomenon and restrain from staring at it, utterly rapt and bewitched, despite fearing its power to destroy you at any given time?
Sometimes it’s difficult to remain in love with modern football. Jonny-come-lately owners lurk in waiting, ready to pounce on the slightest opportunity to either flog a poor unsuspecting club’s home for ‘affordable’ housing or mortgage the club up to its eyeballs in order to secure a healthy dividend for its shareholders. Fans are clients in a corporate world in which £30 for a ticket to see their team play away in the second tier is routinely seen as ‘not too bad’. TV companies are overlords who dictate kick-off times based upon audience share with not a first or second thought about travel logistics for the away traveller. Betting companies have their claws sunk firmly into the heart of the game, convincing each generation that like a fallen tree in the forest, a game doesn’t happen unless you have cold, hard cash riding on it. Matches and players are reduced to statistics – how far did he run? How many passes did he complete? If it’s below average, he or she is deemed to be a failure who will simply never learn or improve. Clubs stockpile promising young talent just so a rival club can’t access, nurture and develop it. He who runs the Professional Footballer’s Association – the world’s oldest professional sport union – pockets eye-watering amounts of money while the Kick It Out operates on a miniscule budget and kids run around on dog-turd laden pitches in the summer or simply don’t play as yet another game is postponed due to the weather while the rest of Northern Europe gets on with playing inside purpose built domes with a view to developing technique.
It’s easy to fall out of love, to turn your back, to not bother anymore. And yet…
Events at Villa Park on an otherwise ordinary evening are why we remain in love, why we face forwards, why we continue to go to the footy. We were rapt, bewitched and bewildered. We ranted at the inability to defend, to stop the cross, to challenge, to keep the ball, to head the ball. We delighted in sublime skill, mental fortitude and sheer bloody brilliance…from both teams.
The fact the game ended as a draw was somehow fitting – a perfect epitaph for a truly pulsating and never to be repeated game of football. Beyond the circus, the side-show and shenanigans, we were reminded that football truly is absolutely bloody brilliant.
Issue Ten is out now and available to buy here and MSR newsagents on Trent Bridge and Angel Row where you will also find loads of Forest books and memorabilia to stick on your Christmas list.