THE CHANGING FACE OF FOOTBALL

This is an English language lesson about the changing face of football.

You may want to read and practice speaking the lesson I also wrote today called ‘Me and Football’ or ‘The Football Fairytale’ which i wrote yesterday with reference to Leicester City.

So much has changed about football since I watched my first live football match at Highfield Road, Coventry on an Easter Tuesday evening as the Sky Blues entertained the European Cup holders Manchester United.

Jimmy Hill, an evolutionary and a Sky Blue, oversaw the transition from amateur to professional football and players became paid for the wonderful skills they displayed on the pitch.

Crowded banked terraces of standing spectators have in recent years given way to all seater stadiums, many of them new and purpose-built, lined by executive boxes where middle-class businessmen do corporate entertaining.

Teams are no longer composed of players derived from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales but from nations from every corner of the globe, just like the managers and the coaches and the financial backers who invest from the United States and the Arab-rich countries.

The experiment with plastic pitches, thankfully, never lasted beyond a few short years in the 1980s.  Football pitches today are properly and expertly prepared and laid, enabling football players to perform their art with higher levels of fitness and skill.

Dieticians, nutritionists, fitness trainers and psychologists work with football players to prepare them for a football match.  Training methods with modern technology are vastly different from the days of yesteryear.

Today, the referee does not always wear the colour black, he is aided by a line assistant (rather than a linesman) (and who can be either a man or woman).  In addition, there is a fourth official on the sidelines who performs a number of technical duties during the game.

Some things do not really change despite a few rule adjustments.  The offside rule, the use of the elbow and accidental handball by a defender in the penalty box remain open to questionable interpretation.

But we have goal-line technology to decide whether the whole of the ball crossed the line to be a goal or not and the introduction of red and yellow cards shown to offending players during the game.

A team can now make three substitutions during a game instead of one and sponsorship is allowed on shirts which encourages multi-market merchandising and the power of global cable television to a huge world audience.

The sheer structure of leagues and the demand for games to be watched live suggests that the tradition of fixtures played home and away will be taken to a new dimension where, for example Manchester United v Liverpool or Real Madrid v Barcelona might be played in Shanghai or New York City in he future.

I have a student.  She is fifteen years old.  She learns English at a language school in Indonesia twice a week.  She likes wearing football shirts to class.  One week, she will wear a Barcelona shirt, next week a Manchester United or Bayern Munich one.

It matters not that the shirts are original or counterfeit fakes.

The student has never watched a football match.  She does not know any of the players who play for the teams of the shirts she wears.  She does not really like football.  She sees the football shirts as fashion accessories rather than a representation of football allegiance and loyalty.

It’s one small example of the changing face of football.

Football is a global brand.

England  gave football to the world as we know it today and called it Association Football.

The United States of America decided to call it ‘Soccer’ as an acronym for Association Football because they did not want it to be confused with other regulatory forms of football in their own country.

I have not even mentioned the Play-offs or the Penalty Shootout at the end of extra time.

Or the spray paint referees use on the pitch to keep defenders behind the line for a free kick awarded to the opposition.

Or even the back-pass to the goalkeeper.

Or the weird and fanciful headgear certain players wear as a result of an injury.

Let alone playing football on a Sunday!  What was wrong with it?  I played Sunday league football as a kid and nobody complained about that.

So much for the changing face of football.

 

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