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The Beautiful Game

IMDb. The Daily Mail. The Daily Mirror. The Guardian. The Hollywood Reporter. The Guardian again (“pure cinematic excrement”). United passions, indeed.

Added later: The Guardian yet again. Marina Hyde calls for a new Oscar for Best Instance of Professional Adequacy in Extremely Unsatisfactory Circumstances and reminds us of a “positively legendary” quote from Michael Caine regarding his presence in Jaws 4,

“I have never seen it,” Caine told an interviewer, “but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

I also liked this from Chris Tilly writing for entertainment website IGN: The 19 Most Ridiculous Moments in FIFA Movie United Passions.

Later still: I wish I had the strength to stop this. Here’s What I Learned Watching FIFA’s Incredible Propaganda Movie. Can’t – make – myself – stop – googling… Best Unintentional Comedy of 2015

I am not really a football person, though I did once understood the offside rule for about ten minutes. Who would have guessed what enjoyment a film about FIFA could bring me and so many others? The only thing that could have made this masterpiece better would have been to have Sepp Blatter play himself. After all, Montgomery Burns managed it.

42 comments to The Beautiful Game

  • But we are united. Almost to a man, football supporters in Europe who have no link to FIFA consider Sepp Blatter corrupt and both Russia 2018 and to a greater extent Qatar 2022 to be the result of corruption.

    Blatter has been under the spotlight for more than a decade, but his exploitation of sponsors brought vast sums of money into the game that trickled down to FIFA members worldwide, especially the 3rd world. These guys weren’t going to kill their corrupt golden goose.

    The only way it could have happened was by a 1st World boycott or criminal charges undermining Blatter as it eventually did.

    Cue the trial with Blatter repeatedly saying

    “I had no knowledge. These were individual actions unrelated to FIFA. I cannot be held responsible”.

  • Greytop

    Football may be tribalism and working-class angst and all that, but of all the things football fans are least interested in are the administrators. Even more so the ‘international’ administrators. A fan might just tolerate the chairman at his or her own club but no one thinks much of the fat cats in some money heaven who never could play the game.

    I suppose it is a bit like wanting to know a lot more about the people who run the servers for your favourite website. Maybe essential in some vague and distant way but sure as hell not why you go to the site.

  • Thailover

    The good news is that mass media has the opporutnity to teach each other such interesting phrases like “hagiographic film”, unless we are to assume that the use of the mantra in context is pure coincedence and the phrase has been waiting patiently on the tips of countless tongues for decades, waiting patiently for it’s day in the sun. lol.

  • mojo

    Please, futbol or soccer. Football is something else.

    And I hear it leads to (shudder) cricket

  • Ryuujin

    Now, now mojo… Football is the correct term for the sport in the UK. It is best to distinguish between the two games by calling them American Football and Un-American Football.

  • Mr Ed

    Well full credit to the US Department of Justice for getting this turkey Thanksgiving, er, the kind of pre-release publicity that money simply cannot buy.

  • Alsadius

    Mr Ed: Disagree. Money quite certainly bought them this publicity.

  • Laird

    John Oliver had his usual amusing take on FIFA just days before Blatter was forced to resign.

  • John Galt III

    The word soccer is short for association football. 6 private schools in England came up with the game by setting uniform rules, and it was imported by the US shortly thereafter- the name stuck and has been called soccer ever since in the US.

    The only school invited to set the rules but which didn’t attend was the Rugby School in case anyone wanted to know where that sport came from.

    This is from Wikipedia so it could be wrong.

    I attended the 1965 Rutgers/Princeton game of our football in Princeton, NJ which was the 100th anniversary of the game in the US. The captains of the teams were twin brothers and played opposite one another for 60 minutes. Both were grads of my prep school in Princeton.

    American football is so central to our secondary schools and colleges/universities I don’t see soccer ever taking its place. I don’t believe we will ever win the World Cup, unless the Clinton Foundation improves its bribery and they are world class at that.

  • No, JG III, you’re dead right. “Rugger” = rugby football; “soccer” = association football. There’s no great mystery to it. Adding “er” or “ers” to one syllable of a word was very common in English university slang in the late 19th Century, and well into the 20th. And, since the universities were instrumental in popularising the two major forms of football at that time, the names stuck. (I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at that Daily Fail article Vinegar Joe linked to. “Researchers have found…”. Wow. You don’t say. In common use in Britain until a whole 30 years ago? That must have taken some digging, eh?)

    But “Football” for soccer isn’t even universal in Britain. In the Scottish borders (and, I think, the rugby league areas of the north of England), “football” means rugby.

  • American football is so central to our secondary schools and colleges/universities I don’t see soccer ever taking its place.

    I wonder what will happen after a generation of motherly concern over concussions.

  • I wonder what will happen after a generation of motherly concern over concussions.

    More protective body armour until high school footballers look like Robocop I would suspect.

    Whereas with “soccer”, the armour seems limited to shin pads and maybe a tooth guard for all that expensive orthodontistry.

  • bob sykes

    unAmerican football. Lovin’ it in all its allusions.

    By the way, once the soccer moms find out about soccer concussions, especially among girls, soccer will revert to a minor sport.

  • Greytop

    This football argument… It is entirely possible that in a game of (American) football the ball is kicked no more than half-a-dozen times. You Americans will forgive us then for calling our game football where the ball is kicked at least two dozen times in a game.

    Of course, (American) football may be so called because it takes place with everyone on their feet, but that would mean most sports should be preceded by the word foot, as in foot jump, foot javelin and my all time favourite, foot wrestling.

    Before any US readers explode in anger, this is from someone who watches quite a bit of gridiron.

  • My understanding of the etymology of the word “football” is that “foot” refers to running, not kicking. This was to distinguish the sport from polo, which did not involve running.

    There was great variation in the rules of sports called “football” in England prior to the 1950s. At that point, codification efforts took place to find common rules to allow people from different parts of the county to play one another. The Football Association was formed for one such effort at codification, and the Rugby Union came out of another such effort at codification. (Some people later left the Rugby Union and formed the Rugby League which then settled on a different set of rules). In the Australia of my youth, one always referred to the various “codes” of football rather than referring to them as different sports.

    The two dominant football codes in the south of England were referred to as “soccer” and “rugger” as abbreviations of the names of their governing bodies. “Rugger” reverted to “Rugby”, and “soccer” didn’t revert to anything, due to lacking a unique name that was not a mouthful to pronounce. Claiming that the sport has a unique claim to the word “football” for reasons that ultimately amount to not having a unique name that is easy to pronounce is idiotic, though.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Natalie highlights an extraordinary example of hubris. Another, slightly milder, one that gets my goat is FIFA’s insistence that the World Cup be referred to as the “FIFA World Cup”. Not only does it illustrate their pomposity but it devalues their main product. “You mean there are other World Cups?”

  • Patrick Crozier

    By the way, when I am in charge, libertarian or not, sports administration will become a criminal offence.

  • Mr Ed

    By the way, when I am in charge, libertarian or not, sports administration will become a criminal offence.

    I too have a visceral loathing of sports governance, I know not why, perhaps it is an uneasy suspicion that sports governing bodies secretly yearn to govern in the legal sense. I should perhaps confine my diktat to making the International Automobile Federation change its name (in my realm) to a ‘Bunch of Grand Prix’, which might actually describe FIFA quite well.

  • Genuine question: whom did FIFA defraud?

  • Mr. Pants

    Hailing from the Northern badlands of St Helens as I do, the game played there is Rugby League. This is always referred to locally as ‘Rugby’. The other version being referred to as either ‘Yawnion’, or ‘That-Soft-Puffy-Shandy-Drinkers-Girls-Game-Of-Kick-And-Run’. Football is universally referred to as ‘Footy’, and you may support Liverpool (or Everton at a push). Calling it ‘soccer’ or, dare I say it, supporting Manchester United (pronounced ManUre) is an invitation for a fat man to tap dance on your face.

    Them’s the rules.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Whom did FIFA defraud? Losing bidders for tournaments who thought it was a level playing field (so to speak). Losing bidders for sponsorship (assuming there were some). Players who would rather not play in 45˚C heat. Honest officials. There are probably a few others.

  • Patrick:

    As opposed to Wimbledon’s pomposity on calling itself “The Championships”, as though there were no other championships out there. Or that cricket stadium that calls itself “The Oval”, the only other oval I suppose being the one where Bill Clinton got his hummers from Monica Lewinsky.

  • Thailover

    Professional sport,
    Plural, sports:
    1. A feigned artificially “equal” war between two tribes, each named after their own spirit totem, (usually an animal spirit guide) to hold our attention for a few hours while we’re each waiting to die.
    2. A senseless and meaningless diversion from real life.
    3. For some, a religion with adverts, converts, perverts, and the occasional drunken thug.

    I’m a true anomaly. I don’t care for sports at all, and I’m not gay. LOL

  • Thailover

    Greytop, even as an American, I have to admit that calling the American game “football” is absurd at best. It should be pass and run ball at best, or just call it anything, like Alfred, lol.

  • mojo

    “We’ll be saying a big hello to all intelligent lifeforms everywhere and to everyone else out there, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys.”

    ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • Laird

    A comment on the title of this essay: “Beautiful”? Hardly. Watching 22 people run around an immense field (far larger than an American football field) for roughly two hours (plus some arbitrary amount of time added to the end if the referees aren’t tired enough, or if the score isn’t to their liking), to score a total of perhaps 2 or 3 goals, is the epitome of boring.

  • Fraser Orr

    Living as I do in Chicago where the Chicago Blackhawks are playing in the final series to win the Stanley Cup, I have been watching a bit of (ice) hockey. It was described to me as “like soccer, but with sticks and real fights” which seems like a great summary. I’d recommend it to sports fans who haven’t watched.

    Now what fascinates me is this: many of the biggest sports in the US (football excepted) including baseball, basketball and hockey, have their finals played as a series of games — best out of seven, for example. Now this seems to me to offer all sorts of benefits — many more tickets to sell, more advertising space to sell, more TV rights to sell, a fairer outcome since it eliminates lucky shots as excessively significant etc. — basically more money for the same. They don’t do it in football because the players’ bodies just couldn’t take it. However, one wonders why such a financially profitable scheme has not been foisted on us by FIFA or UEFA? I suppose it could be done relatively easily as a response to some particularly unfair championship where “the wrong team” won due to some lucky shot. Maradona’s “hand of God” for example.

  • Kevin B

    Fraser, the money in the English League, (the premiership), is all with the clubs; the money with international football goes to the various FAs. The clubs already hate releasing their players for international duty what with the risks of injury and they also begrudge the time, (and money), all the international qualifying tournaments take from the season.

    There is a delicate balance between these two strands of the game and extra international games could well prompt the major european clubs to tell FIFA and EUEFA and the rest to clear off.

  • For those in the southern and western states of Australia, there’s AFL.

  • JohnW

    “-It’s made clear that FIFA is no fan of the Nazis.”

    I wouldn’t count on that.

  • Jake Haye

    A professed interest in football always seems like pure conformity signalling to me, though that may be because I have no interest in it myself.

  • Cal

    But Natalie, have you actually seen it?

  • Cal

    >A professed interest in football always seems like pure conformity signalling to me

    Funnily enough, a professed uninterest in football always seems like pure conformity signalling to me.

  • I don’t care for sports at all, and I’m not gay. LOL

    Likewise. That said, I have been known to watch women’s tennis and beach volleyball with great interest.

  • Thailover

    Mojo quotes the THGTGG,

    “We’ll be saying a big hello to all intelligent lifeforms everywhere and to everyone else out there, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys.”

    I would say instead, We’ll be saying a big hello to all intelligent lifeforms everywhere and to everyone else out there, the secret is that there is no such thing as a trade deficit because voluntary trade is win-win. Win-win free trade is to treat each other as sovereign equals, with no masters and no slaves. (See, “the opposite of politics”).

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Cal asks, “But Natalie, have you actually seen it?”

    A nice person at a football website has done a minute by minute so I didn’t have to.

  • Rob Fisher
    June 5, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Genuine question: whom did FIFA defraud?

    The low bidders?

  • Perry de Havilland (London)
    June 7, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Well in polite company – Yes.

    In impolite company I prefer a different sport.

  • robert

    The people defrauded are everyone who donated to FIFA because they believed that their money would go where FIFA said it would. mainly promoting the game worldwide and improving facilities in poorer countries.

  • JohnW

    John Oliver’s extremely prescient and amusing critique of FIFA here.