Society’s Slaves

‘Work is the curse of the drinking classes’ (Oscar Wilde)

I have two passions in life, football and travel. Being a teacher enables me to indulge in both to a high extent, thanks to every weekend being free, and the thirteen weeks holiday a year. However, for one night in June, the perfect football ambience is shattered by the sound of over-enthusiastic clapping. Prize giving night was thrust upon us, on the same evening as the Germany v Italy semi-final.

There is a blessed feeling knowing that your passions do not fall agonisingly out of reach. Throughout the season, I go to watch my team home and away. Away games after work are all achievable, even if the next day sees more vacant than usual expression, thanks to the three hour drive back from an away defeat to Blackpool. A world without watching football creates a darkened sensation in the pit of my soul. If something magical exists that you are not a part of, then it is as stained as a politician’s conscience.

Last night, as I sat through subject prizes being awarded, as well as those individual prizes that only serve to build someone up to an unattainable standard, I began to contemplate. Should work be an enjoyable act, or should it always be viewed as a necessary means to a wider end? In any walk of life, opinions are divided. At my work, you can clearly distinguish between those who live for the job, and those who live and have a job. Often I hear of people working so hard that they spend their free time resting. The often churned out phrase about working to live rather than living to work instantly springs to mind.

Football, a product of the industrial revolution, has always identified itself as a truly working class sport. However, the terminology in itself needs examining. Football in England, for example, began as a sport that was occupied by factory owners and supported by factory workers. It was simply an extension to the production line, whilst creating the impression that it was the game for the masses. To draw the work parallel closer, can footballers merely treat the sport as a job?

In a game that impacts upon the emotions of so many via the actions of so few, should football players care more? Watching the recording of the game late last night, I found myself increasingly infuriated by Lukas Podolski. A man a year younger than me, and a man who has riches I will never hold, looked disinterested in a European Championship semi-final. Yet, there is a fine line between being disinterested and being unable to perform. On some days, we all want to succeed, but a barrier may be up. The salary doesn’t equate to an expectation that more is expected. If anything, how can millionaire footballers ever be truly motivated unless there is an intrinsic desire to succeed at all costs? At what stage, in any employment, does the realisation that it is merely a means to an end kick in, and life is happier?

Of course, we expect our professional athletes to have a moral duty to rise above lethargy and apathy. So we should, too. It’s the cycle of being a slave to a modern wage. Most of my disposable income goes on supporting my team, so in turn I expect those players to play each match like their life was on the line. But, with the weight of expectation placed upon a person’s psyche, does this have a detrimental effect upon performance? It certainly seemed that way with Germany’s lacklustre display in Warsaw.

As I looked up to see the Global Lifetime Achievement Award being presented to a 14 year old boy, the notion of pressure and expectation struck once more. We are all burdened by a perceived idea of success, with some desperately deluding themselves that sucking up to someone in a higher echelon of power is gratifying rather than poisoning. In Euro 2012, the Italians, a team devoid of expectancy before the tournament, look like they are the most liberated. Life, as well as sport, should be fun. If it isn’t, how can the participants be anything other than society’s slaves?

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