Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Seasoned competitors

Reading were my second team when I was a child. Why I had two teams, I don't know, but I did. I followed their results and was happy when they won, sad when they lost. Not as happy or sad as I was about Leeds, but faintly so. Reading were one of those teams who yo-yo'd between the bottom two divisions, whose highest aspiration was to make it to the Second. So it's with some joy that I see that Reading won their first match in the Premiership, which was unthinkable when I used to stand in the terraces and watch Davey Crown kick lumps out of opposition strikers.

My second team has since childhood always been the local side, wherever I have lived. Briefly that was Reading, coincidentally, but it has also been Brighton, QPR, Gloucester City and Queensland Roar, who I will go to watch on Saturday. I suppose it would have been Palace when I lived in Clapham but I didn't go to football then. I have been to other grounds, of course, mainly to watch Leeds.

Nothing beats live football. You could compare it with watching a band live against listening to their records (or more accurately watching them perform live on TV). It is the fellow feeling: the suffering together, the joy of scoring, winning, and something more. The more is that you can understand football so much more if you are watching it live. The agonies of the players are realler; the intricacies clearer; the skills more impressive. The beautiful game is just more beautiful in the flesh.

I do not have particularly high hopes of the new season. For Leeds, it is looking like an uphill struggle. They sold the best of their strikers and the new signings do not look to me like those of an ambitious, upwardly mobile team; rather, they seem the water-treading shufflings of the permanent second-level outfit. For the Roar, the exciting talents of Brosque and Williams are gone, and in their place are players who do not inspire much hope of improvement. Worst of all, Bleiberg was not sacked, although he thoroughly deserved it, and there is no sign at all that he has learned anything from last season. In the preseason, the Roar have been as muddled and hopeless as they were in the worst of last season. Still, football is one of the few areas of life in which it feels about as good to suffer as it does to succeed, so I am sure I will enjoy the season nonetheless, if only because I'll have plenty to moan about.

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