By Ray Hamill
In a world as polarizing and bewildering as that of contemporary society, there really is only one thing we ever all agree on, and that’s our global fascination with football.
You see, it doesn’t matter where you come from, football doesn’t believe in borders.
And it doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, short or tall, a boy or a girl, or what religion you are. It captivates equally, without discrimination, allowing every one of us to dream as much as the next guy, and offering every one of us an escape from the rest of the relentless madness.
As for which type of football is the best, however, well, that’s an entirely different story, and something we rarely agree on.
Talk about opening a can of worms.
There’s soccer, of course, the rock star of the group and by far the most popular globally of all the football codes. When most of the world talks football, soccer is what they’re referring to.
But it’s not the only version.
The United States and Canada have their own football, every bit as thrilling and captivating, while Aussie Rules Football is king down under, Gaelic Football is hugely popular in Ireland, and rugby – both rugby union and rugby league – is the fastest growing sport in many parts of the world.
So many footballs. So little time.
But why do we love football – whatever kind – as much as we do?
Why do we invest so much emotion in players and teams we have no personal association with all in the name of football, and allow events and outcomes we have no control over to dictate our moods, demeanor and sometimes even our entire lives?
And why do we suffer with these players and teams when they fail, as if we ourselves were at fault?
Talk about weird.
But it is fun – for so many reasons.
It gives us a sense of identity, a sense of belonging, a sense of occasion.
It excites us, thrills us, inspires us.
It’s a love inspired by a particular geographical tie, or a father or mother’s influence, or sometimes nothing more complicated than the fact you really, really like a particular mascot or the color of a particular jersey.
Either way, once it gets a hold of you it takes you to extremes.
A rollercoaster of emotions, catapulting us from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, sometimes in an instant and often even quicker than that.
Football has become an integral part of contemporary society and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Because it’s been a part of who we are for some time.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have played versions of football, while massive games of mob ball were played out for hundreds of years in the middle ages between rivaling villages or towns in may parts of Europe and around the world.
A ball made out of an inflated pigs bladder was moved by any means possible to either end of a particular town, before the games were finally outlawed due to, well, too many deaths.
I’m not suggesting there were any Nike deals or Gatorade endorsements in those days, but it did serve as the early precursors to many modern codes of football, building a platform for future generations and the evolution of sports, and as a result the evolution of society.