Phuket man launches bid to save the 'beautiful game'
Monday, 3rd October 2011 at 11:34am
The etymology of the term the 'beautiful game' used to describe football is unclear. Famous eccentric English commentator Stuart Hall claims he coined the phrase back in 1958 when watching Peter Doherty play for his beloved Manchester City, although Valdir Pereira, a Brazilian footballer, is thought to be the man responsible, labeling football the 'jogo bonito' Portuguese for the beautiful game.
Whoever coined the phrase and where it came from, ultimately, is irrelevant. What is indesputible is that football has given its supporters moments of breathtaking beauty; moments when its players become artists, creating masterpieces on the canvas that is the hallowed turf of grounds around the world.
Brazil's fourth goal against Italy in the 1970 World Cup scored by Carlos Alberto, considered to be the ultimate team goal; Johan Cruyff leaving Swedish defender Jan Olsson dazed and confused in 1974 using a move that would later become known as the 'Cruyff Turn'; Maradona's solo effort against England, where the Argentine genius left half the Three Lions trailing in his wake; all poetry in motion, all beautiful.
In recent years, however, the beautiful game has lost its way.
True, there are still moments when we are reminded why football is considered the jogo bonito - you only need to watch Barcelona's Lionel Messi to be reminded of the game's artistry - but it is away from the field of play where the world's most popular sport has lost its beauty.
Many of football's current plights stem from its governing body Fifa, from its incessant interference in the game's laws, many of which have reduced aspects of the game to farce, to its constant state of self-interest so that the concerns of football fans are put on the backburner.
And then there's the corruption. The foul stench of it has been emanating from football's governing body for sometime now, yet it has really only come to the forefront of our consciousness in the past 12 months, starting with the lead up to the votes that determined the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which saw the suspension of Fifa members Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Tahaiti's Reynald Temarii.
Following the decision to award the finals to Russia and Qatar respectively, Fifa, its president Sepp Blatter and members of its 'old boys' Executive Committee have pointed the finger at each other and, in turn, been accused of corruption from those outside football's inner circle - politicians, the media and fans - which eventually led to the resignation of Fifa Vive-president Jack Warner and the lifetime banning of Asian Football Federation chief Mohammad Bin Hammam, who, just months previous, was a challenger to Blatter for president.
As part of his election pledge, Blatter has promised to clean up his house and create a more transparent Fifa, yet football fans around the world will be forgiven for not holding their breath as these were the same promises made when the Swiss national was re-elected for the second term in 2002.
Nine years down the line and, if anything, the corruption and dodgy dealing in the shadowy corridors of power has grown worse.
If the head of Fifa appears unwilling to change anything - and why would he? He lives a great life - then what hope can there be for the 'beautiful game'?
It's often said that one man cannot change things on his own but one Phuket resident, Peter Grimes, is determined to be the exception that disproves the rule.
As a West Ham United and Torquay fan, Grimes is no stranger to the uglier side of football but the current managing partner in Shoreline Asia Consulting is as concerned with how the game as a whole is being run as he is with the trials and tribulations at Upton Park.
In a bid to rescue the sport that has brought him both happiness and sadness Grimes has launched the website save-football.com and spoke exclusively to The Phuket News about his hopes for the site.
"It's a web-based advocacy movement for football supporters worldwide to come together collectively as an action or pressure group," he said.
"We have a very clear vision and mission for the website where we hope to bring about popular change and the essential restructuring of football by uniting fans locally and globally with a view to getting them to register and vote in our 'Referendum for Change' poll.
"We then hope to use the results to generate a manifesto that can be presented to FIFA, UEFA and national football associations to actively oversee football for the good of the game and supporters everywhere."
While a number of other sports have developed and grown over the years, Grimes feels that football - despite being the most supported sport in the world - has been allowed to stand still.
"The stagnation of the game and the complete lack of transparency from the authorities has really frustrated me.
"The world macros are constantly changing and it just feels as if football's governing bodies are oblivious to this or simply don't care.
"Over the last five to 10 years you have seen many of the major sporting bodies engineer significant changes to their sports by providing fans with a better experience and/or more accurate in-game decisions.
On top of that many have introduced more sustainable economic models for the long-term betterment of their respective sports - football has done little if any of this."
Is, therefore, football teetering over a precipice?
"It's subjective but in my opinion, yes it is."
"If your name is Sepp Blatter, however, then clearly not as he demonstrated with his "Crisis... What is a crisis?" comments at the FIFA press conference in Zurich.
"The one thing that seems to be undeniable is that football has some serious underlying problems, much of which has to be laid squarely at the door of the game's governing bodies. They have shown poor leadership and shockingly poor judgement on occasions.
"I think we can all accept that issues like the introduction of technology are more debatable than others; if it's not introduced will the game die? - of course not.
"But the alarming financial position which many clubs find themselves in is deeply concerning; UEFA's financial fair play rules don't go far enough and the whole financial management of the game needs urgent attention."
The trouble with football's powerbrokers is that they have been in control of the game for such a long period of time and will be resilient to change. As a result they are going to take some shifting but Grimes believes that 'fan power' counts for a lot.
"I believe we, as supporters, can make a difference but the biggest hurdle to overcome is human apathy.
"Even within my group of friends, many of whom are passionate about football, you can see that some of them simply think airing their individual voice is futile and that ultimately the status quo will simply remain.
"I am more optimistic, or naive, and certainly feel compelled to try to galvanise supporters around the world to take a stand and establish a voice that hopefully can be heard and responded to."
At least fans now have the tools through which they can press for action.
The use of social media in helping to push through change has come to the fore in 2011 and, like its use during the protests against the Mubarak government in Egypt, Grimes believes the internet has provided the man on the street with a voice in a way that could help to make a difference to the way football is run.
"The internet and social media are increasingly influential platforms which can enable an initiative like save-football.com to reach out and unite fans around the world; new media provides the opportunity to bring people, opinions, information and action together in a way that was impossible 10 years ago.
"This has the potential to be very powerful and I see no reason why it could not become an audible voice in world football in the future, assuming we manage to achieve the scale that would justify this.
"I don't know whether save-football.com will ultimately achieve its objectives, but I do believe that at the very least it will get its 15 minutes of fame and, by doing so, will show the game's administrators that there is genuine discontent within large swathes of supporters and that the game must change."
To register to help football and let your voice be heard visit save-football.com.