As I walk away from the Twickenham Stoop stadium beaming with a handful of autographs, a bunch of photos and a flag after the Harlequins vs. Saracens rugby match, it hits me in full pelt the superiority of rugby over football. A teacher once said to me that “Football is a gentleman’s game played by thugs, and rugby is a thug’s game played by gentlemen”, and for me it really rang true as I strolled towards Twickenham train station.
For starts, the atmosphere throughout the game was jovial and friendly between supporters of both teams. I mean, can you imagine that happening at a football game? Say “good game” to the supporters of a losing rugby team, and they’ll smile and reply that there’s always next year; say it to the supporters of a losing football team and they’ll grab the nearest glass bottle and smash it over your head. Fights after rugby games are non-existent when compared to the amount of injuries and even deaths sustained after a couple of sore losers at football. The inability to control their temper and take a joke is the exact reason why alcohol is not allowed into the stadium: add that to the mixture and you have one drunken angry crowd praying for violence. As for rugby, you are welcome to take alcohol, food and frankly anything into the stadium, as they are full aware that nothing is actually going to happen under the influence; a little more jolly and prone to swearing and singing perhaps, but nothing close to what would happen at football matches were this permitted. Of course, it is very unlikely that opposing supporters will even be sat anywhere near one another, in order to avoid the tumultuous chaos that is sure to occur. However, at a rugby game, home and away supporters are so well mingled and so polite that the only separation comes from the colours of their shirts.
Yet it seems that it doesn’t stop with the supporters: you wouldn’t see football players staying for hours after the match has finished autographing programmes and taking pictures with fans. They skulk off to their changing rooms leaving their fans disgruntled and disappointed by a no doubt below par performance; then again maybe they wouldn’t be dissatisfied – after all they can’t miss what they’ve never had. Over paid, narcissistic and ungrateful, these excuses for sportsmen are paid more than any other profession and do nothing to earn it. In complete contrast, rugby players earn vastly less than their counterparts and spend their time pleasing the fans rather than themselves. Not only do they appreciate their own fans, but they are just as friendly and willing with the followers of the opposing team.
What frustrates me most about football is that it is the nations most supported sport. It’s not the sport exactly that annoys me (despite the fact that rugby is more intricate, more exciting and an overall more interesting game), it’s the fact that as a country we suck at it! Millions of pounds are spent every four years to send our barely cobbled together English team to the world cup, where they will undoubtedly loose spectacularly and return in disgrace to a country who, for some reason, expected them to win. Meanwhile, our home teams are filled to the brim with foreign players: you can’t say an ‘English team’ has made it to the final of the European league when there is not one British person there – even amongst the management. This is not an offence against foreign players but the fact that home players aren’t even good enough to get onto our own teams for the ‘national sport’. And yet in rugby, where England does undeniably well as a country, there seems only lukewarm appreciation. For example: everybody in the country, from the young to the old knows when the football world cup is; yet how many people know that the rugby world cup starts in September, let alone where it is this year?
Rugby players play their game for the love of the sport, whereas footballers (barely) play it for the love of the money. As a very wise person always says: “Footballers spend 90 minutes pretending they’re injured; Rugby players spend 80 minutes pretending they’re not”. I can only hope that our country comes to its senses before we are ridiculed as the country that let true sporting victory get away from it.