An ode to football: From Calais to Chapecó, Syria to Sunderland, football continues to bring us closer together in 2016

An ode to football: From Calais to Chapecó, Syria to Sunderland, football continues to bring us closer together in 2016

A reminder of football's astonishing power and far-reaching impact.

harry-robinson
Harry Robinson

This article has no title, nor plan, nor thought process behind it, yet. All it hopes to be, is a collection of football's immense power on our lives, the lives of others both rich and poor across the world, a brief glance at why this game (some would suggest it is much more than that) is so important to so many.

This year has been turbulent in many ways. The political landscape supposedly shaken up, football has had its own Brexit or Trump-like moments, too. Leicester City's Premier League triumph in May was a moment of the most magnificent topsy-turviness. Yet a few months later, it is the Chapecoense air disaster which has brought football together to mourn, not celebrate.

Perhaps, then, the bringing together of people is a good place to begin this ode-like piece on football. It's Christmas. A time, for the majority of the population certainly, for family. Football forms the tightest of families for many who do not have it. No matter the size of the football club, Manchester United or Macclesfield Town, there is a unity. Sometimes such a unity can digress into a dangerous violence between two otherwise like-minded people who would freely socialise, if only it were not a matchday. In general, though, football teams' support allows people to be with like-minded individuals.

Or, perhaps an even greater testament to the game, a fan can watch their team and be sat, no matter how many people are in attendance, amongst the most diverse of age ranges, an incredible association of races. Gender is an issue still being fought, but the unified nature of football is astonishing. There is nothing that can compare to football's ability to unite people. The Chapecoense air disaster showed such, as has little Bradley Lowery's brave fight against cancer and the response to that. And for those who say that football is simply a game, by nature, of course, they are entirely correct, but its impact is far greater-reaching that any other game, and a great deal of other industries. There is certainly an us against the world mentality, but when it comes to life and death (and even much less than that) football has an incredible ability to show unity and create lasting change in times of difficulties. Bradley's fight has shown that.

Lasting change, there is another theme that is so vital when appreciating football’s greatness. The moment that homosexuality becomes fully accepted in football may be some time away yet, but when it arrives, hundreds of millions across the planet will be influenced by it, respond to it, be more inclusive; football is a great driver for change. This is another astonishing feature of football, the far-reaching power it holds for change. Footballers are idols to both adults and children, not many games nor industries can create idols for adults. Some footballers are frustratingly irresponsible with this ability, but others are pioneers for change in people’s lives. Footballers' foundations may seem as a cheap way of publicity by the more cynical Scrooges around at this time of year, but really, despite often lacking the skills to articulate this, footballers have a strong desire to use their power well.

Football is immense in its power. Of course, a single moment in a match can be the greatest in a supporters' life (think Istanbul for Liverpool fans and '99 at the Camp Nou for Manchester United fans or the moment a goalkeeper scored to keep Carlisle United in the Football League).

But it's often more than that, the action of a footballer can fundamentally change lives. Football is a rollercoaster of emotions, it's easy to question why fans put themselves through the misery of losing every week (Aston Villa fans can help you with this). But a single moment can mean so much.

Football, for all its change since 1992, remains a fundamentally working-class sport in its origins. Its greatest power is its ability to rid a life of all its troubles for 90 minutes of emotion. For those struggling - working-class, middle-class, male, female, white, black, Asian, Latino, anything - football is an escape, a wonderful route towards forgetting any issues. Its role remains vital even for those lucky enough to not be burdened with any issues, it is the greatest form of entertainment possible. But for those struggling, it's power is unrivalled, its reach astonishingly large, it can make even the direst situation the greatest, or vice-versa.

As mentioned, this piece had no plan. It's ended as a tribute to the sport we love. Sometimes we become so immersed in the world of football that it appears a separate place. But football is never separate from the world, at every corner, it's there for those who are involved. It may seem obvious, but it's easy to forget how important football is, in life, in death, in happiness, in sadness, in the most glorious period of your life or the very bottom of the scale. Football, we love you, and we owe you a lot.

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