BROWNE ON THE BALL: Football - the twisted, spiteful, hateful sport or the beautiful game?

Marc Newsham.
Marc Newsham.
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Football. It’s a horrible, spiteful, twisted world isn’t it?

It’s a world where athletes with season-ending injuries are pelted with coins while being stretchered off. It’s a place where the integrity of officials is brought into question because of where they choose to live, or how they respond to an international’s tirade of abuse when they decide not to give a penalty.

Football is the place where fans take more pleasure in a family man in charge of the opposition losing his job than they do their own team winning. A place where serial offenders are rewarded with a T-shirt campaign and new £200,000 per week contract.

It’s a world where overpaid, flash Bentley-driving twentysomethings can serially cheat on their WAGs and not care because their bank balance means there’s already a queue of wannabes in tight LBDs and Jimmy Choos waiting to be the next hanger on.

At least, this is what we are led to believe. Because certain publications are aware that they get more web hits and paper sales when they anger their readers rather then melt their hearts.

Football has become this cauldron of hate breeding hate, where message boards are plagued by the noisy, mindless minority looking to score points which count towards nothing.

If you read on the internet that a small cluster of fans sang a song about a plane clash, then others believe that gives them the right of reply to chant about wives, children, bonfires, gas chambers and tragedies ranging from Hillsborough to Heysel.

It’s a shame that hate, horror and failure should be the stories that are lapped up.

But fortunately, football isn’t really like that.

Craig Bellamy may be portrayed as a pantomime villain, but he is really the man who spent one summer off travelling Africa and being disturbed by the poverty he saw.

Blagging a load of balls from his boot sponsor Adidas, he began returning regularly to Sierra Leone - where he now runs the country’s only soccer academy, which also puts emphasis on heavily educating its students about the dangers of AIDS.

Jonathan Woodgate may have been labelled a crock who was never good enough for Real Madrid. But even when living in London and playing for Spurs, he would spend his days off travelling to Middlesbrough to volunteer at an old folks’ home, offering companionship to the lonely and serving tea.

Last month Burnley’s Danny Ings gave his matchworn boots to a disabled youngster straight after a game.

This week Bournemouth fans raised £3,000 to pay for Burton Albion supporters to travel to their rearranged FA Cup game after many arived on the south coast only to see Saturday’s fixture postponed at the 11th hour.

On Saturday, we witnessed something else truly moving at Boston United.

Prior to kick off Marc Newsham was commended with a shirt to mark his 100th goal for the club before joining the crowd and both sets of players in a minute’s applause for Boston United Supporters Association committee member and journalist Barbara Singleton, who had recently lost her fight with cancer.

When Newsham slotted home his first of the game to give United the lead, he would have been excused a mad celebration to cast away the frustrations of Telford.

Instead, he ran to where Barbara’s family were watching the game and offered a hand of condolence.

At full time Scott Garner could have basked in the glory of his goal, instead he dedicated the match to the memory of ‘Craig’s mum’.

Football thrives on rivalry, but loses its worth through bitterness. It should bring together communities, not divide towns.

Fortunately, there are enough touches of class off the pitch to prove this sport remains the beautiful game.