Football as its known today was first organized in England in the 1800’s and played on school fields across the country. Football has come from its humble origins 200 years ago to be one of the most popular sports on earth played in virtually every county in the world. This month 1.5 billion people are expected to watch the world cup final in the German capital of Berlin making it the most watched sporting event of all time. For many people football is more than just a sport, it has brought communities together and started its own cultures and sub cultures. Bill Shankly once said ‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’
In the early 1900’s football began to gain a lot of publicity and soon thousands of working class fans across the country began following there local clubs. The world famous FA cup became the goal for many clubs across the land and was followed religiously by supporters. Thousands of fans watched the games in particular the FA cup final which is still a special event even today. In 1923 200 000 spectators descended into the capital and crammed themselves into the newly built Wembley stadium to watch Bolton Wanderers beat West Ham United 2-0. The record breaking crowd is a fantastic example of the passion and excitement for the game in the pre war years.
In 1939 the Second World War broke out between Germany and Britain which almost brought football to a stand still over the next five years. All of Britain was pre occupied with the war effort but football still lived on in the streets with children and even famously on Christmas day in the trenches. The war ended and slowly but surely football began to gain publicity again and the masses were returning to the football terraces to watch there local clubs in action. The post war years saw plenty of social and economic unrest for the working class and football was seen as something they could watch and enjoy for a small price. As the sixties loomed a handful a fans began not only to support there team at home but also follow there teams in away matches all over the country. English clubs began to enter European competition’s competing with Italian and Spanish giants such as Real Madrid and AC Milan. 1966 saw England host the FIFA world cup a competition the English public had previously had no interest in. The competition was a huge success as the host England won the trophy and the English public was ecstatic.
The seventies came and brought the world Pele and George Best who would inspire millions of children throughout the world with there footballing skills. Towards the end of the decade English clubs such as Liverpool were having a great success in European competitions giving the opportunity for there supporters to visit continental cities. The Liverpool fans known as casuals became especially famous for stealing exotic sportswear abroad bringing labels such as tachinni, lacoste and fila which in the seventies were almost unheard of.
The eighties became famous for Diego Maradona and the continued success of English teams in Europe. Liverpool, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest all won the European cup. However the eighties was a decade of economic unrest and angry working class young men began to take their frustration out on opposing fans outside the football stadiums. What had once been harmless scraps in seventies had escalated into mass organized violence and this resulted in the death of a few young men. Hundreds of supporters also died at the disasters that were Hillsborough and Heysel. UEFA and the FA were very quick to pass the buck and accuse the hooligans for the deaths covering their own backs. The state of the stadiums before the matches were overlooked some what by the media and the authorities. If a night club collapsed today and hundreds of people died then you would like to think the owners were brought to justice, wouldn’t you? As the eighties came to a close football was in a mini crisis with attendances falling and the national team failing once more to meet the grade.
Football entered the early nineties and radical changes were taking place. The premiership was formed and became the new top tier of English football unashamedly splitting the money making elite from the other clubs slowly descending into debt. Television rights were sold to SKY TV for millions of pounds and a new breed of McDonalds eating replica shirt wearing commercialized fan was introduced to the game. The hooligans went missing for a few years due to marriage and other commitments many people say the rise of ecstasy and acid house was the reason they disappeared from the football stadiums. As the nineties progressed so did the attendances at football grounds, slowly the quality of football in Britain was rising. For the first time in forty years England had been chosen to host a major football tournament in the UEFA European Championships. Terry Venebales England team reached the semi finals but to the despair of the public lost to Germany on penalties.
The casuals returned from their acid house raves back to football stadiums but thankfully the violence did not quite reach the catastrophic proportions of the eighties. The big labels on the terraces were mainly British formal wear such as Burberry, Aquascutum and Barbour which at the time were exclusive to the casuals. A small Italian label called Stone Island had also became ubigouos in casual circles which in the naughties went on to be huge and influence the general public like many of the original casual labels. As the nineties drew to a close English teams were beginning to be successful in Europe again and in 1999 Manchester United won the Champions League. The Man United team had an abundance of young English talent which set the national team up perfectly for the naughties.
However in many football fans eyes Manchester United PLC was everything football had become and didn’t stand for. It had became more of a company than football club, more interested in acquiring new fans than looking after its old ones, too busy selling replica kits than looking out for the real fans who’d been watching them since the sixties and seventies. In one circumstance a group of new commercial united fans were heard to sing ‘united’ in a pub before the match in response to this many of the united hardcore replied singing ‘city’.
The naughties arrived and there was a new optimism for the English national team with players such as Michael Owen and David Beckham leading the way. The collapse of the ITV television deal disgracefully put the majority clubs in debt and many went into financial administration. The FA and Premier league had catastrophically mucked up. The attendances though were still high despite the unbelievably high ticket prices for premiership matches. Worryingly the top player’s wages went into the hundreds of thousands which led to the increasing inflation of ticket prices once more. The England teams reached the later stages of all the European Championships and world cup and currently are awaiting their quarter final world cup match against Portugal next Saturday.
The country will once again be united once more as the nations hopes are rested on the football team. Football now seems the only circumstance where someone can be openly patriotic and not be branded a racist by the politically correct system we live in. Working class supporters still are as passionate today as they ever have been and football is still a fantastic game which brings together communities. Football has made millions of friendships world wide and started off its own culture that has influenced music and fashion forever. Bands such as Oasis, the stone roses and the happy Mondays are superb examples of the football orientated music and fashion has that has penetrated main stream culture. If football had not existed we would not be living in the same society as we do today. No other sport offers as much as football has for people. For the players there are no racial, class or age barriers and for the spectators there is nothing more rewarding than watching the team you have supported become successful.