I have no interest in football, nor in any other sports. I actively dislike men’s football when it comes to the international competitions that are such an utter fucking nuisance most summers, when you have to deal with the possibility of event after event getting wrecked because some people would rather watch men chase balls round fields than anything else.
I don’t mind if you like football, whether playing it or watching it. Liking men’s football doesn’t automatically make you a misogynist or a racist, honest, despite the behaviour of some players and some fans. Some of my best friends are interested in football. My own offspring at least gives as much attention to women’s football as men’s football. (She still has limits set on the amount of time she is allowed to spend telling me about who scored a ball or whatever.)
But if to be human is to be an ape that tells stories, then football has its stories as well. Some of the narrative about football and its fans is one riddled with bigotry and violence against women – the revolting Yaxley-Lennon, the equally revolting Ched Evans. But then there are stories like the one embodied by Neville Southall. There’s Marcus Rashford. And now the remarkable open letter from Gareth Southgate. Stories have the power to transform the way we see the world and it appears that the stories around football and footballers could be some of the most necessary and powerful ones being shared, round about now.
(I don’t think there are many erotic stories around football in the bookshop. Decades ago I beta-read Elizabeth Coldwell’s Playing The Field, an erotic romance about footballers, having been asked to advise on whether the balance between football worldbuilding, plot and sex was about right. As I recall, it was pretty good but I don’t have it in stock. There have been a few other erotic stories about various sports produced over the years, including anthologies with an upfront sporting theme: some about ice hockey, one about diving that I seem to remember reading in 2015 and if regular romance is more your thing, there are plenty of stories which feature at least one plot strand about the footballer and the WAG. Though the dubiousness of the whole WAG concept is probably a subject for a different blog post. And there is always pony-carting, though that probably isn’t quite in the same, er, playing field as the rest of the discussion.)