The Brazilian World Cup is just around the corner & plenty of us are inventing bizarre rituals to bring luck to the England side. My dad’s a life-long West Ham fan, which is where I get my innate sense of underdog moral authority. He often refuses to watch the very games he obsesses over because of bad omens over Upton Park his viewing brings.
Talking about his own footballing superstitions Arsenal fan Nick Hornby writes, “I have tried ‘smoking’ goals in & eating cheese-&-onion crisps at certain points in the 1st half; I have tried not setting the video for live games. I have tried lucky socks, lucky shirts, lucky hats & lucky friends, & have attempted to exclude others who I feel bring with them nothing but trouble for the team”.
Why do we create these comedy sports rituals?
Hornby goes on to write, “What else can we do when we’re so weak? We invest hours each day, months each year, years each lifetime in something over which we have no control; is it any wonder then, that we are reduced to creating ingenious but bizarre liturgies designed to give us the illusion that we are powerful after all?”
World Cup research has revealed domestic violence in Britain increases by up to 38% after England games
Why is this? In the Hillsborough disaster alcohol was infamously blamed as part of the cover up. Blaming alcohol alone is often a pat answer to a complex question. In a game where we’ve invested so much energy as fans for 90 minutes we have no control over the players. No control over the managers’ or referees’ decisions. No control over the results. This can be unbearable if we think we’re entitled to control. There needs to be some relief. A loss engulfs us in self pity.
Ad men exploit this unhappy tension in a well-known chocolate bar World Cup advert. I enjoy watching England more when I ignore the ads & ditch illusions of control. Unless we men become aware that there are many things in life (more than we like to admit) over which we have no control then domestic violence against women will never end.
As Christian & Muslim football fans our faith teaches us that we find strength in weakness. Recognising our weaknesses as men is not easy but is really good for us. It makes us more honest, more true to ourselves & therefore better at relationships with women. Over the past 10 years in Britain football fan culture & the FA have been largely successful in tackling racism, which is good news. 2014 is the time for fans + FIFA to eradicate sexism + domestic violence against women & to save football as the beautiful game.