Friday 22 June 2018

Is football natural?

With millions tuning in to The World Cup, there’s no doubt that football is popular amongst humans, both to play and to watch. But is it a natural pastime?

Do any other animals play soccer, or any other ball-game for that matter? No! It’s a human invention and unique to humans which, by some definitions, makes in un-natural.

My home-office windows looks out over a small area of grass used by the neighbouring children to play all manner of games. There’s little question that football is the most popular and sometime there’ll be a proper game taking place. Or the younger ones will be learning some natural hand-eye coordination and getting some natural fresh air and exercise. But, all too often, the playing will be very half-hearted or the thud of boot on ball a clear indicator that ‘playing’ football is far more about relieving frustration or attempting to relieve boredom. Do any other creatures suffer from frustration and boredom? Both are very un-natural.

And then there’s the spectators. Do any other creatures sit for hours watching their follows in some pastime (sporting or otherwise)? Through all my decades watching David Attenborough I do not recall any such situation described. So, we could say that spectator sports are un-natural.

As for the commercialisation of sport, how un-natural can you get!?

Don’t get me wrong, there are, I have to admit, some amazing skillful footballers around. Their ability to control the ball and related athleticism is undoubtedly a God-given gift, a natural talent. And it’s only natural to want to develop and display such talents. Think of the wonderful displays of aerobatics by dolphins, for example. If football was always played in the same spirit, then yes, it might be considered natural. And, interestingly, if it were always played naturally, as other creatures play, we would probably get much better matches . . .

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