Many years ago, channel-hopping was actually considered for the Olympics as a kind of triathlon, involving as it did the skills of jumping the dog, sprinting to the set and beating up your little sister. At least it did in my house; whether because of my parents’ foresight in recognising the dangers of childhood obesity represented by the remote control or the latter’s stubborn resistance to having been invented, I’m not sure. Sadly, my sister grew bigger and more aggressive, which is how I came to watch Korfball.
It was on Channel 4, of course, late one night. The ‘philosophy’ of this combination of team chess, netball and rambling, apart from emphasising co-operation over individual flair, means that teams are made up of an equal number of men and women.
You may be surprised to hear that, far from being the invention of a 1980s left wing council committee meeting charged with involving young people through non-sexist, not-too-threateningly competitive sport, the game dates back to the year 1902. What is not surprising is that it fails to attract huge crowds or juicy broadcasting packages.
I suppose that morally we ought to prefer the world of Korfball and if it came to hosting a training camp or giving my blessing on my daughter’s marriage plans, there would be no contest. I might change my allegiance to Korfball tomorrow, if only it could be imbued with a little of the excitement of football. Yet this is an impossible dream: to add to korfball the elements that attract me to football would make it, well, football.
So why not try to introduce the ethos of Korf to Foot? After all, this is a nice game; the Woodcraft Folk could play it without risking too many parental complaints. Of course, that’s hardly an original idea; commentators and newspaper columnists have been involved in this project for years.
Up until now, these warriors for decent behaviour have largely restricted themselves to an internecine battle for hyperbolic supremacy, as reprehensible cuts down disgraceful, only to be crushed in its turn by despicable. I suspect that most would be happy to leave it at that, yet what if they banded together and actually began to have an effect? Would those digital revisionists be turning their attention from cleaning Bogart’s grimace of fags to leaving Cantona’s kick hanging safely in mid-air? Would a host of potential Zidanes, Bellamys and Fowlers be banned for life for sulking whilst representing a cubs’ eleven? I fear so.
Then what are we to do? Accept the kind of behaviour which spoils (BIFF!), mars (POW!!) and sullies (KERSPLATT!!!) the game? Even applaud it, perhaps? Maybe the status quo is the ideal situation: we can shake our heads over the latest example of how the game is going to the dogs and then download it on youtube to enjoy it in guilty secrecy.
The diving; the headbutts; the shirt-pulling; the outrageous celebrations; the time-wasting? In the words of Huxley’s savage, "I claim them all".