This post is a much extended version of a 500-word assignment on why football is “more than a game”, written for an online course. It has been edited to take account of some helpful comments from reviewers, and to include some slightly more coherent conclusions than could be accommodated in the original word-count.
I have just completed an online course with FutureLearn — Football — more than a game?, with University of Edinburgh. History, finance & governance, community engagement, just a little politics…fascinating!
The course provided lots of data on revenues and TV viewing figures, and reports of the social, economic, diplomatic and philanthropic activities delivered by, or in the name of, “football”. But I don’t think this evidence of the global reach of football really captures the essence of why football, or sport in general, matters to fans.
For me, the question seems to be more about “ownership” of the game, and that sense of “belonging” to a “tribe” — beyond being a fan of a particular team or national side, this is more to do with those who “get” sports, and those who don’t.
“Root’s complaints about not replicating exactly the conditions of Test cricket in advance are the words of a sports person who has been cosseted through a system from boyhood, who feels it is an oversight not to be spoon-fed the perfect prep…”
Not, perhaps, that players expect to be spoon-fed, but that they perhaps don’t know how to learn if they are not spoon-fed?
This might be key, beyond discussion of central contracts and what the England coaches actually do, beyond CAG & Academy pathways and inclusion, right back to how young players are first introduced to the game.
So the question might be — do coaches know how to teach young players to learn?