Football: The Beautiful Pain

The Crude Commentator

Heartbreakers

There are many, many instances as a follower of football in which you can feel like your heart has been torn clean from your chest and ripped to shreds in front of your very eyes. Or like you have just been punched repeatedly in the face. Or like your soul has been sucked from your mouth and disappeared into an alternative realm.

Basically, anything emotionally akin to that “WHY ME???” dismay of playing 5-a-side on a frosty, tinglingly cold December night and having a ball spanked against the bare skin of the flabby part of your leg. God that stings.

Most of us will have an understanding of what that experience feels like – not least because thigh-spanking footballs are a genuinely pandemic issue, especially at this time of year.

But what I’m talking about is the excruciating emotional pain associated with football. I’m talking last-gasp winners as your underdog team clings to a horrendously hard-fought point. Or massive capitulating comebacks. We all know that feeling of being there on the terraces and wanting the concrete ground beneath you to swallow you up as the opposition fans go mental.

Think Manchester City. And think Raheem Sterling. Serial heartbreaker Sterling has made a habit of scoring late – and important – goals this season. His injury time goals broke the hearts of Huddersfield and Southampton fans within three days of each other at the end of November.

But it was the silky Spaniard David Silva who stepped up for City at the weekend to crush the dreams of West Ham fans. Bookies had predicted longer odds for an 8-0 City drubbing than a 1-0 West Ham win at the Etihad on Sunday, so you could almost hear their hands rubbing together when Angelo Ogbonna’s goal saw the Hammers go into the break 1-0 up.

But a Nicolas Otamendi goal followed by a late Silva strike kept the wheels on the City gravy train to resume normal service and stamp on the furtively optimistic hopes of Hammers fans.

Peacockers

Now, different people interpret football pain in different ways. For some, the sorrow turns to anger, which then manifests itself in those strange arm movements in which one pretends to throw something towards the pitch in a dramatised metaphorical attack on the players, the referee, the manager, or whoever they deem to be responsible for their searing anguish.

This combative form of peacocking is definitely unique to the angry football fan on the terraces – I don’t think I’ve ever seen groups of arguing youths stood opposite each other on the streets pretending to throw things, but maybe that’s just me.

Gamers

Players of the immensely popular FIFA football games will know that this emotional heartbreak – and the raw, unadulterated rage that comes with it – is not just limited to real-life football.

By some form of cruel, addictive, sorcerous evil, FIFA manages to instill into all its victims a feeling that playing the game has genuine consequences. And by that virtue, it actually does: most commonly smashed controllers, smashed TV screens, smashed phones, smashed walls, smashed cupboards.

Many will have direct, experienced understanding of this phenomenon, but if you have never been sucked into this deeply irrational, obsessive vortex of emotional agony then count yourself lucky.

Online montages of this sort of thing are, however, well worth a watch for a boosted feeling of self-worth, and of course a good chuckle.

Bet-busters

Yes, football hurts. And that’s without any additional factors. Just imagine what putting MONEY into the equation does to things! That’s right – I’m talking bet-busters. Coupon-spoilers. Whatever you want to call them.

For some insane reason, you’ve decided today is your day. Let’s stick a cheeky acca on. The games go on, and things are looking good, each team is winning – we’re in the money!! Then – last minute – that guaranteed Ecuadorian second division U19s team concedes a last-gasp equaliser and the world ends. All that money you never had. Gone.

Think Tottenham. Tottenham are the kings of bet busting. With just two points from a possible 12 in their last four Premier League games, the former high flyers have hit a downward spiral that means only goal difference separates them and over-performers Burnley.

I guarantee many a bet slip was torn up in dismay on Saturday as Spurs defender Davinson Sanchez thwacked Watford forward Richarlison and got given his marching orders. The match finished 1-1 after Spurs failed to break down the stubborn home side.

But if you want an absolute peach of a bet buster, look no further than Benevento. Bottom of Serie A, without a single point in their first 14 games, they faced a Milan side who aren’t doing too brilliantly themselves, sitting 8th after a host of summer signings, but arrived at the Stadio Ciro Vigorito on Sunday as the clear favourites.

Milan led 2-1 in the dying moments of the game. Step forward Benevento goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli. He netted from a diving header in the fifth minute of injury time to the audibly exasperated cries of “OH FOR GOD SAKE” from ruined accumulators all over the world. Incredible.

Lovers, not fighters

Many will say – and they are right – that this sort of artificial football pain is nothing compared to the hurt of following the club you love unconditionally. There’s nothing you can do about it.

When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s bad, it’s heartbreaking. Sometimes you think hey, maybe it’s time for us to go our separate ways. Maybe you’ve seen some other ostensibly prettier football club giving you a flirtatious eye. They’ve got success. They’ve got pedigree.

But you can never drag yourself away from your one true love. Yes, it’s tough watching your team. It’s sometimes the greatest footballing pain there is. But it’s your team. And inside her you’ll find sanctuary.