‘Every other Saturday’s me half day off and it’s off to the match I go.’
The chant has been routinely sung on The Kop for over 40 years, but, during the midst of a pandemic, the lyrics provide us with a sense of melancholy.
Rooted in the daily life of the working class in the industrial revolution, the words are a hark back to a generation of factory workers who were given just a few hours off, each week, for leisure time. Now though, they are symptomatic of how ingrained football is in our society.
For 150 years, the working class have flocked to football stadia of a weekend and the Saturday 3 pm kick-off has become a staple in the British week. Whether it be finding your own spot behind the goal or eagerly awaiting Sports Report’s long-established theme tune to hear the day’s results, everyone has their rituals, even if the habitual practices of a Saturday afternoon are today more attenuated thanks to television demands.
The section of society that doesn’t understand our sporting obsessions may find this is all trivial. They are of course right. Liverpool’s results should be trivial, and football is, after all, supposed to be a release from the monotonous tones of everyday life.
Football should take a backseat in these unprecedented, uncertain times and it shouldn’t be on anybody’s minds. But it is.
In 150 years a lot has changed. The money in football is nonsensical, players’ loyalties are no more, and the globalisation of the game has, in a sense, stolen the game from its roots. The passion involved, however; that has only elevated.
Emotional engagement have increased over the years. The football pink was one of the first ways of getting your football fix and, now with the introduction of mass media and the internet, we are immersed in a world of sport all times. It’s inescapable, except, now this space is blank.
Transfer rumour mills go on and I’m sure talkSPORT will continue to clickbait the latest outrageous comments made by particular presenters, however, the people who really interest us are behind closed doors, kicking toilet rolls instead of spherical balls.
So, how do we fill the football-shaped void in our lives at the moment? Many have more important things to worry about and others will enjoy the break. But, even for those with more pressing matters at mind, Liverpool’s title challenge will likely still skirt their thoughts each day.
The perpetual nature of football begs the question, is football still seen as a release from our daily worries? Perhaps the enforced sabbatical from the beautiful game will put the role of sport’s societal role in perspective.
Orwell once said: “On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved, it is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused.”
Orwell suggests that emotions around elite sport are negative. The invariable pressure that we put on ourselves and others, through football, can weigh us down, but we all know that football has the potential for greatness as well.
Besides from the obvious advantages, such as the positive impact of exercise on mental health, it gives us a sense of identity. Wherever we go as Liverpool supporters, we know there will always be people with something in common.
For all football’s failings and the negative aspects of tribalism which it can provoke, the absence of the game is undoubtedly a travesty. The mental health of those who use it as a weekend release may suffer and, for those of us who obsess over the latest day-to-day developments at Melwood, an eerily quiet couple of months are on the horizon.
Hopefully though, before we know it, the sun will be shining and Bill Shankly’s boys will once again be coming down the road.