George Graham

They Call This Football?

soccer shoes


I played football, the kind where you actually use your feet. I kept goal at school, and in a league while working for the Sault Star in Northern Ontario bck in the late Fifties.  And when I watch the World Cup, I hardly recognize the game.

For one thing, we wore football boots. Big, clunky things made of rawhide. With cleats. When those forwards stepped on my hand as I dived the ball off their feet (which they did not hesitate to do), I saw stars. What are those things they wear on their feet today as they tiptoe through the tulips? They look like slippers. And the colors! I even saw some US players in pink footwear (photo above).

Are they getting in touch with their feminine side or what?

And those referees! They blow their whistles more often than a Jon Canoo band at Christmas. Of course, they’re not entirely to blame. The players seem more skilled at diving than at kicking. If an opposing player gets within a foot or two, they throw themselves to the ground, weeping and grimacing like an abandoned debutante.

Somebody must have rewritten the rule book while I wasn’t looking.

Aren’t they allowed to bump each other with their shoulders any longer? I don’t see anyone trying to do that. They poke their pretty pink shoes between the opposing player’s legs instead. Isn’t that tripping?

I swear the US women’s team look more like football players than the men. They look sturdier. They run faster and with more purpose. They are unafraid of physical contact.

And the women actually try to get the ball in the opponent’s net. The men seem more interested in making dainty little passes to each other, often heading back toward their own goal instead of trying to advance into their opponent’s end of the field.

Look, I can see that today’s footballers are incredibly skilled. But at what? At trapping and controlling and precision-passing  – yes. But they don’t shoot the ball the way players of my generation did. The pros of my time hung heir heads in shame if they lofted a shot over the goal. They fired bullets. And they pulled the trigger often.

Today, you’re lucky if you see four or five shots total in a game. The scores are one-nil or one-all, or even nil-all. Rarely does a team score more than twice. How dull is that?

So call me a curmudgeon, but football (like everything else, I guess) just ain’t what it used to be.

Anyway, that’s it for me today. I have to go watch the US play Belgium.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for