It’s all about the cash

2014-09-05 00:00

SOCCER is known as the beautiful game, but these days it’s fair to say it is also the game of “beautiful” money.

While many of us follow teams and leagues around the world, the professional era has heralded unheard of price tags being pinned on players; figures that boggle the mind.

Yes, the game is played worldwide and yes, there are some who have more than their fair share of talent when it comes to playing the game, but what constitutes the price tag on a player?

As the sport enthusiast watches matches from the comfort of the couch in the lounge, it’s plain to see that whoever is playing soccer, whoever the teams are, the ball is always round. These days though, it appears it is more round in some instances than normal. Questions run through the mind — what makes a player worth so much, who determines his value, what is the astronomical figure based on, is the said player really worth that much more than his 10 team-mates?

Soccer is a team game and a great player needs his mates to mould him into the player he becomes. A striker is no good unless he gets great ball from the flanks and midfield, yet the striker will have a massive price tag because he is scoring the goals. What about the bloke doing all the work in enabling him to have that opportunity?

These questions will not be answered and the issue will remain, but it’s safe to say the good old days were the backbone of the real characters of the day.

Finding a copy of the late great Stanley Matthews’s autobiography, published in 2000 shortly before his death, has been a rollicking read. The title, The Way it Was, is just that. Football how it used to be.

Matthews, regarded as one of the world’s greatest players, played for England, Stoke and Blackpool. He moved from Stoke to Blackpool for a princely sum of £11 500 (R202 300) and in the early fifties was earning £12 a week — if the team won the previous week’s match.

Players accepted defeat, congratulated the opposition and in his whole career — he played until he was 50 — he never received a card or was sent off.

That’s the way it was.

These days, it’s just a money game, the ball gathering more notes as it rolls along.

Stanley Matthews played in three FA Cup finals, finally winning the cherished medal in 1953, when Blackpool beat Bolton 4-3, coming back from 3-1 down to win.

Reaching the final at Wembley was what dreams were made of and his book sums up the moment perfectly. “In the dressing room, the mood was of quiet confidence. The sound of 100 000 muffled voices singing Abide with Me seeped into the dressing room with its towering glass-panelled window, bringing a moment of reverence. The terraces undulated. I looked over to where the Blackpool fans were in the main situated. It was as if someone from up on high had suddenly tipped a gigantic box of tangerines down on them [Blackpool play in orange shirts].

“The atmosphere was nerve-jangling as only Wembley in full cry on Cup final day can be.”

Is the FA Cup still that nerve-jangling? Have the European competitions taken away its value? Has money killed the characters of the game? The fans are still there, but the game has changed. The money ball is gobbling up all in its path.

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