If any of you saw this weekend’s UEFA Champions League Magazine programme, you’ll probably have seen the interview they did with Ronaldinho. In it, to coincide with Barcelona’s recent meeting against Chelsea, they looked back at the trilogy of ties the two sides played against each other back in the Brazilian’s heyday.
They showed Ronaldinho’s goal against the Blues in 2006, in a game also involving a young, long-haired and clean-shaven Lionel Messi. As Ronaldinho wheeled away towards the Camp Nou faithful of many moons ago, there was one major visible difference to Messi’s celebration on Wednesday.
No, not the Qatar sponsorship or the fact that in 2006 Qatar wasn’t so much a country but rather a huge desert. Instead, it was the lack of the camera phone.
2006, what a time it was to be alive. The internet and global communications widely available, but still in the pre-selfie and pre-Snapchat era. I’ll be honest, it makes me cringe more than pretty much anything else in modern football. A so-called fan filming the celebrations, because it will make for good visual content. What is meant to be a moment of pure bliss and euphoria, with limbs flying everywhere in the stands, heavily diluted by the need for likes on a video you’ll probably never watch again.
Why will you never watch it again? Well, why would you? It’s not a special moment to look back on and it’s not a great experience to cherish, because you can barely remember who the goalscorer was. You were too busy changing filter while getting a clear view of the only lads around you who weren’t on their phones, the players.
It’s clearly a broader societal issue, with concerts being the obvious non-sporting equivalent. Nowadays, instead of “flicking the Vs” or the classic wanking sign, football fans resort to directing their camera lenses at opposition players. So consumed in showing others and their future selves of what a good time they’re having, they forget to do exactly that in the process.
People blame all-seater stadiums and high ticket prices for the quietening down of atmospheres in recent years, but the unspoken factor of James from Kent updating his Snapchat story every time his team wins a throw-in, needs to be brought up more.
A lot of it is all part of “lad culture” and an admiration from people for pages such as Benchwarmers. Fair-weather supporters desperate to get a good video of the boys on tour singing “your fans are shit, but your birds are fit”. It has benefits, there’s no doubt about that. Phones in stadiums have helped expose stewards and police just this week for their reaction to Chelsea fans’ pro-Spain chant in Catalonia last Wednesday.
By the way, if any other British team went to the Camp Nou and sang “Barcelona, you’ll always be Spain” repeatedly, we’d all laugh it off and admire the working-class sense of humour we possess. But since its Chelsea, we’ve done the right thing and have branded them, and General Franco, as dickheads.
On the topic of fascists, I don’t want to appear as one. I’ve got no problem with phones and filming in stadiums. A picture of a child’s first match will be precious in 50 or 60 years time, and everyone has the right to take a few pictures for a new cover photo or screensaver. But when the action gets serious and your team need you, put it away.
Get behind your team and call the other side cunts for 90 minutes, regardless of who you support. It might just make the difference between 3 points and none. And if you’d rather have 3 likes on Instagram then 3 points on the pitch, football’s not for you.
All the best.