Can Football Really Follow Up The Olympics?

The Olympics withdrawal has officially begun around the world. People will wake up to the post-London Olympics era on Monday morning teary-eyed and unable to comprehend how life can go on after the British gave us 17 days of truly glorious sporting action.

From David Rudisha and the Jamaican relay team breaking world records to 15-year-old Katie Ledecky winning a gold medal (800m freestyle), the London Olympics have been one of the most enthralling sporting events of all time. I found myself cheering on the likes of Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah along with the 80,000 others packed inside the Olympic Park – and I’m not even British. There should be a special gold medal given to the Britishers for organizing, supporting and pulling this off in spectacular fashion.

But the best thing to come out of the Olympics? It was conducted in such a clean, spirited and innocent manner – except the Badminton which courted controversy in the women’s double event. The very essence of sports – the patriotism, the fervour – it was all in evidence. Sports is supposed to be competitive, not ruthless.

Which brings me to the issue at hand. The football season begins in earnest this weekend, the off-season cobwebs dusted off, transfer dealings mostly done. All eyes turn to the next 8 months of what is expected to be another gripping season in the big European leagues. Football action week in week out, isn’t this what we’ve all waited for all this time?

But football will be hard-pressed to follow up the Olympics. The last 17 days have shown sports in a new light, a perspective we had all but forgotten could even exist. Sportsmen who are not only patriotic but are also down to earth, devoted familymen? What on earth are you talking about?!

Ennis: The real role model

We are so used to watching money-laden footballers strutting their stuff every week on television, abusing referees or fellow professionals when things don’t go their way. The sight of a player in a BMW convertible with a pretty lady on one arm is the stuff of dreams for most people, but not for these millionaire playboys. Stories of a player cheating on his better half have become a matter of habit now, you just shake your head and move on.

The chasm between today’s footballers and supporters has never been wider. Their luxurious lifestyle and lavish spending defies the debt-laden economy we are in. The John Terry-Anton Ferdinand court drama exposed the underbelly of modern footballers – you can earn millions upon millions but the amount of abuse and misconduct on the part of these players is unforgivable. The court case felt more like a game of who can out-insult the other person than a hearing. Is this what we aspire to be? Are these players really who we want our children to call role models?

I’ve been following football fervently for the last 13 years and slowly but surely, a rut has settled in. The innocence is gone, there is a feeling of corruption and betrayal hanging over the beautiful game. In the era of Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, Yogeshwar Dutt, Jessica Ennis, David Rudisha, Michael Phelps and countless others, the eternal light of football seems to have dimmed.

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