On Mortality And Football

The culture of association football is sometimes best regarded as a blank canvas onto which we can project just about any value system. Over the years, it has come to take on its own ecosystem as a world of its own. It has clearly defined seasons, its own judiciary – which mirrors but seldom matches that of the outside world – and it demands its own autonomy, free from what  it haughtily describes as “outside interference.” There are limits to this independence, though, and this is no more true than when death’s icy hand reaches in and reminds us that we are all, as it were, only here on a short term loan. This season, those of us that immerse ourselves in the peculiar physics of this parallel universe have seen this intrusion force itself upon us several times over this season. The death of the Wales manager Gary Speed last year, for example, was a horrible reminder to all of us that notions of “success” and “failure” within this universe are fleeting and that the hidden depths of those amongst with everything invested in this particular universe can easily be interrupted by the world outside. The universal praise for Speed after his passing was as much about this man as a human being as it was about him as a professional footballer or as the manager of a football...

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