‘Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.’ Not my words, Carol, the words of German philosopher and economist Karl Marx.
When he wrote this around 1844, football didn’t exist in an organised form, let alone as a globally popular sport; that was some decades away. But if it had existed, he would surely have said the same thing about football.
There is a parallel between our consumption of football and what opium does for someone ill or in pain. It numbs us to the ache, it takes away our suffering and makes us feel good, often via pleasant illusions and imaginings. It distracts and satisfies. If we’re worrying about our club being relegated, excited by the prospect of a new striker, or furious at an inept manager, we do not have to think about real life and what is actually going on.
It soaks up time and mental energy. It allows us to lose ourselves in its soap opera and this is probably why many people hate anyone who brings politics into football; they do not want the real world intruding into their escapism.
If you fully immerse yourself in football it is a complete world in and of itself. It can occupy your mind and time almost completely. And in 2020 when football media is everywhere all of the time, it is so easy to fill every day with the game and have little or no time for anything else.
This is what so many of us are missing now. With football, there is always something new to talk about both on a micro and a macro level. It is breakfast, dinner, tea and supper.
Marx saw religion as harmful because it ameliorated the suffering of the oppressed and took their eyes away from who and what was oppressing them. Thus, religion stifled the chances for a revolution to overthrow those oppressors and institute a society and economy run for and by the people, not for a powerful and monied elite.
While it seems unlikely that a socialist revolution in England has only been prevented by our obsession with football, we should not underestimate its influence on those in power.
If we imagine for a moment, a failing government which has presided over a pandemic that has killed almost double the number of people who died during the Blitz. A government headed by a grotesque dishonest amoral superior slob, too inferior to lead, who is surrounded by a self-serving cabal of the vacuous, the vacant and the vile. Imagine that. Well, if you had an ounce of self-awareness (which may be asking too much of this lot) you’d want to take the voters’ minds off its utter uselessness, wouldn’t you? You’d want to set sail some dazzle ships to distract and blind us. The last thing any administration wants is a restless public with time on its hands to study in depth what the hell they’re doing – or indeed not doing – and start inflicting some serious revolution upon them.
And what would do that better for at least a few million people than football or sport more generally? Good old football. That’ll placate the arsey bastards. Dope them up on their favourite sport and leave us free to f*ck everything up with impunity. So it was no surprise to hear Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, say that “the Government is opening the door for competitive football to return safely in June” nor for increasingly positive talk about all competitive sports returning next month.
Whether it is the right or wrong thing to do is irrelevant to this government. They will say or do anything to hide their own failings, as we have quite shamelessly seen over the weekend. Nothing seems beneath them.
So of course, even if it’s not safe for footballers to play football, they’ll endorse it. They will protest that it should only return if it is safe, but they are proven time and again to be morally incontinent liars.
Nothing they say has any heft, except for the weight of guilt, a guilt that they do not seem capable of feeling. There is a moral vacuum at the centre of those who would govern us. A gaping cavern that they try to fill with PR, spin and deceit. Meanwhile, thousands of lives have been needlessly lost and still the deaths come, still the tears of the bereaved spill.
And yet there the government are, trying to gaslight us into believing this sick and seedy dystopia is somehow natural, normal and not of their making, by retro-editing videos, selectively quoting their own statements and even unblinkingly contradicting themselves in order to protect, not the public, but a government advisor.
Football is going to have to do a lot of distracting for them to get away with the litany of crimes, so it better get going sooner rather than later.
They accuse their critics of merely playing politics, which of course is exactly what they themselves are doing, thus wrongly judging us by their own syphilitic levels of moral decrepitude. Not only does truth not matter anymore, but there seems no consequence to even the worst behaviour.
Damn right they need football to return.
If you encourage a sense of bleak nihilism in the public, we are more likely to retreat into a narcoleptic state, suck deep on the football bong and try to pretend it isn’t happening at all. That is what they want. This is why sport matters to them all of a sudden.
The return of live sport, they hope, will take the heat off them. They hope our opium will kick in, do its job, cloud our minds, lead us away from the truth and let them scuttle away like rats fleeing the putrid sewer of their own existence.
The return of football, for whatever reasons offered, be they right or wrong, has a strong political dimension in this most appalling of situations and we need to be very aware of that. This isn’t to do with left or right, or politics at all; this a soulless, amoral mob. They will stop at nothing to hide the truth and deflect the blame, including using the People’s Game to hide their own moral and intellectual failings.
We will not let you. It is our game. It is our drug, and you are not our dealers. And, yes, we know what you’re f**king well doing. It will never be forgotten.