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Paulo di Canio off to Sunderland - I have fallen out of love with football & sport

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 1 April 2013

Announced just before April 1st Paulo di Canio has been appointed the new manager of Sunderland on a 30 month contract. Good luck to him.  He replaces Martin O’Neill whose managerial career seems to be heading rapidly south and who was fired after Sunderland’s most recent defeat. The team now lies just 1 point ahead of Villa and in form Wigan and the last relegation spot. If di Canio can turn this around he will be a hero. And it should not take much. Both Villa and Newcastle who are a place above Sunderland look pretty useless. Wigan are useless but always seem to escape the drop.

Di Canio has seven games to secure two wins and a couple of draws and ensure safety. Naturally I now hope that he manages to save his side from the drop (unless it is at the expense of West Ham who still need one more win). In response, David Miliband has announced that he is quitting the board in protest at di Canio’s “past political views.” That would be the David Miliband who is also quitting his poor constituents because he fancies earning loads of wonga in New York. Di Canio is a well-known anti-racist campaigner. Admittedly he is also a great admirer of Mussolini and Fascism, a philosophy rooted not (like Nazism) in concepts of racial purity but in the idea of a big state which controls the economy and spends lots of money. A bit like the last Labour administration in which Miliband served.

I cannot see how Miliband added much to Sunderland’s board. As a London boy I am sure his support for the team was down to appealing to his constituents rather than a real passion. And the man was clearly happy for an excuse to sever another tie with the UK. I suspect that Miliband will be missed at the Wearside club almost as much as they will miss Martin O’Neill.

And sadly I am now resigned to Fat Sam Allardyce staying on at Upton Park after May for at least another two years.

The performance on Saturday by the Irons was exciting and attractive. But that has been the way this season. One game on and a couple off. It is not enough to get me to renew my season ticket. I may renew in a couple of years but £650 for 19 games when half of them are dire and I only manage to attend nine games (all of which are the dire ones) seems poor value for money.

I suppose that for a number of years I have felt less and less minded to renew my season tickets. The truth is that I have just fallen out of love with football. The rubbish talked by pundits as if it really mattered and the behaviour of the spoiled brats who play the game has just put me off. It seems as if the whole world revolves around the Premiership when in fact it is just some men kicking a ball. Those men and the pundits and whole circus involved live one one planet and expect "fans" who they treat with contempt to fund the lifestyle of that planet. It is all about money.

And becuase it is about money there is soccer played and rammed down our throats seven days a week. There was once upon a time an excitement of waiting for Saturday, for the big day. That has all gone. It is like being served Sunday lunch seven days a week. After a while it just becomes routine. There is no great excitement. I don't really care what happens any more.

It is not just soccer. Cricket is now a year round game. I lose track of which tournament England is playing in and why. I can't say that I give a damn about the result. It all blurs into one. I look at the Six Nations Rugby and even the bloody Boat race. Every match now needs a corporate sponsor and a trophy presented at the end. Who gives a toss about the trophy in the Wales Ireland game? There are so many trophies and medals handed out that their worth is devalued. In a forest of pointless silverware we almost forget the pleasure of just watching a great sporting battle. 

And then, after every game, we suffer a grossly overpaid Clare or Gabby or someone else prattling on with soft questions for the professionals to be answered with cliches. Most of the sportsmen interviewed have not got two brain cells to rub together so a cliche is all that you will ever hear. And they know that if they actually say something interesting they will get in trouble so you hear platitudes and banalities only.

It is all about money. It is one great big industry. That I have to pay my part via the TV license fee is regrettable. But I can at least opt out of chipping in to the circus via a West Ham season ticket. I once played sport (rugby) very seriously. I also played competitive croquet but that is another matter. I played soccer quite a bit too. And cricket. Sport has been a core part of my life. But the disconnect with the professional world is just too large, it is time to let go and find an activity suitable for a middle aged man to participate in. Gardening?

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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