Football vs Cycling

Football vs Cycling is like Chelsea vs Tottenham - no competition. In fact, it's cruel, but since the gauntlet has been thrown down I must respond. Actually, it was my idea, because I was bullied at school and want the chance to do some bullying myself. Football vs Cycling is like the weediest boy being forced to box the biggest. But let's not get carried away with this analogy because it implies that football is all about brutality and strength which, of course, it's not.

Cycling is more about brute strength than anything else, which is why a competitor can battle on with a broken collar bone. The physical requirements of the pro footballer are so much greater, and more complex, that the smallest broken bone in his foot renders him useless. At the end of the day cycling is just about who's got the best legs, by which I mean strongest, of course, not best-looking. Jane's a more suitable judge of that, and takes the opportunity to cast her expert eye over muscular lycra-clad thighs whenever she gets the chance. By which I mean that she doesn't watch the Tour De France, but does watch cyclists in all their gear when they whiz past.

Jane does watch football when it's a big England game, like so many casual viewers, because it's an exciting event. To my knowledge, no-one has ever been swept up in the event that is The Tour, and the bars aren't brimming with viewers whilst it's on and, well, nobody cares except the dedicated few. There's no mystery as to why those who don't necessarily follow football are capable of getting involved in a big match; it's football.

What is there to see in the Tour de France? Er, men cycling. Those who reduce football to merely ´men kicking a ball about' are desperate in their efforts to reduce the game to such a simple thing. Football is comprised of so many elements that it would take me ages to describe them all in detail, so don't worry, I won't bother. Instead, here's a basic run down:

Fans - fans make a game although it's possible to enjoy one on a Sunday morning even if you're only watching your local team, on your own, in the rain. Fans can be trouble but hooliganism is mostly tabloid nonsense and nowhere near as bad as it was in the 70s. The connection between fans and footie takes place in an arena, a bar, a living-room. Poor cycling fans...who can they share their ´excitement' with? What excitement?

Goalkeepers - guardians of the magical net which must be protected at all costs by means of extreme agility, bravery, and an ability to determine the exact trajectory of the ball.

Defenders - the best have all the skills but even the most basic require excellent coordination and timing to be able to execute the perfect tackle, in their own box, without conceding a penalty. They must also read attacker's intentions and master the art of positioning themselves in relation to those attackers.

Midfielders - ideally in possession of all required attributes but with greater application than anyone else as in spot-on passes, tackling, running past opponents (still keeping the ball, ideally), heading, and generally running things.

Attackers - at the ´sexy' end of things, they can specialise in simply getting goals by the most basic means, or taking free-kicks, heading, hitting the ball with grace or pure power, sprinting, or outwitting defenders.

Referees - poor souls, destined to evoke the wrath of all fans at some point, must be everywhere at once, lenient or tough when needed, intelligent, and able to fathom the psychological working of the player's minds (not easy, as you can imagine).

Managers - tacticians and motivators...managing the national team is acknowledged as the second toughest job after being prime minister (and just as likely to make lots of people hate you).

All these elements come together for 90 minutes for the spectacle that is football. All of life is here; joy, sorrow, grace, grit, intellect, courage, cunning, stamina, skill, boredom - everything apart from sex, although female viewers might suggest otherwise, and goals can be equated with orgasms, of course. Cycling? It's just men cycling.

The only thing the Tour De France has over football is a record by Kraftwerk named after the event, and even that's not brilliant. All football connections with music are rubbish, except Depth Charge's ´Goal'. It's fitting that the Kraut masters of techno should choose cycling as a subject. After all, they've paid homage to the Autobahn and driving which, like the sport of cycling, amount to hours of monotony.

© 2003 Robin Tomens