Ipswich Town are seventeen points ahead of our club, Charlton, in the Championship. But I do love the ‘tractor boys’. It is possible to co-operate as well as compete in football.
My school maths teacher, Mr Goldsmith, was a fan and used to give us double homework if they lost at home and time off if they won away. The year I did my Maths O levels, Ipswich won the FA Cup – although to be frank, while loving the time off, I was probably lucky to pass.
A second reason this week is a fabulous article in the limited edition rag of Ipswich’s Turnstile Blues supporters co-operative, written by Grant Bage. I will summarise rather than quote, but he gives a set of reasons why football is not how the media portray it, which is as a form of cut-throat competition managed by sociopaths and played by villains.
Football is about co-operating to compete, because:
1. It is played by teams, drawn from wider squads, which succeed when members pull together.
2. For every professional football team on the field, there is another team off the field supporting them – trainers, dieticians, laundry workers, coaches.
3. Teams agree to play by the rules – developed and codified over time, from muddy fights in 1860s Sheffield to today,with 208 associations subscribed to FIFA (more than there are nations who are members of the UN) in an extraordinary story of communal co-operation.
4.Teams play on a pitch, which is dug, levelled, cared for by honest manual workers, and by nature, open to sun, rain, drought, frost and snow. The universal truth persists, says Bage, that “apart from in South Norfolk’s Sunday League, the pitch is a level playing field.”
5. Teams are watched in a ground – an ‘asset of community value’ – where fans, alongside a people’s army of hot dog sellers, terrace sweepers, police constables and programme sellers, have all agreed to meet, on time, and where the home-made songs of home and away teams rise and fall.
Of course, Yeovil fans, bottom of the league and facing relegation, may not agree. But, with good luck for you or bad for us, we will see you again very soon the pitch, to co-operate again.