THE FEAR FACTOR by Don McMahon
While pondering the mysteries and obfuscations of the universe and the AAA, I suddenly realized that there is a common thread running through life and professional sports, like football, that could help explain, in some small way, the strange goings-on that occur in our beloved Game.
Let us start at the beginning and end at the end, (a bit radical, but this is Untold and we do it our way here). What exactly am I trying to say? Well, given that all the stakeholders involved in the Beautiful Game seem to behave rather aberrantly and mysteriously at least once a day (or thereabouts), it behoves me to try, as a retired psychologist, to explain these aberrations. So here goes:
Fear is a natural and essential response to a threat, perceived or real, which presents itself in our environment. Anything or anyone can become that threat, and can do so out of the blue, without warning or reason. In terms of football, the fear factor can be very real, or at least imminent and ubiquitous.
SAF was an object of fear for all and sundry in his entourage, with the exception of his wife, of course, whose role could have been to drive him to drink (apparently not much of a challenge), but of course we don’t really know that.
Let’s start with the earliest years of a footballer’s experience. Most parents encourage their children in football in a positive manner. However, because of the dependent relationship the child has with his or her parents, the kid wants to do well and not shame their parents, so they feel fear of failure or disappointing their parents.
In the worse case scenario, the parent(s) can exacerbate this fear by deriding their child’s efforts and bullying them. So even the most talented and gifted children like Beckham, can face this emotion more than once in his young life.
Once the child turns into an adolescent, and IF the child’s talent and skills have developed properly, the child can relish the prospect of considering a professional Football career. Fear accompanies them at all times; fear of failing to make the ¨grade¨, fear of long-term or terminal injuries, fear of personal or inter-personal conflicts, etc. By the time they reach adulthood, a good percentage of their experiences have been based on fear and its effects on them.
ManU were reputed to be one of the most fearless Clubs in the EPL but one of the most fearful collection of players when dealing with SAF. I once read that they won so much NOT just because they were driven to win BUT they were afraid to lose and piss off their dear leader.
Every EPL player plays in a climate of fear, even our beloved Gunners. Wenger is NOT seen as a fear figure but rather a father figure who you don’t want to disappoint. That partly explains some of our less loyal ex-pats who had no compunction about betraying his trust and jumping ship. Yet, despite this climate of forgiveness and support, many feared their futures.
Players, whose livelihood depends on them staying fit, in form and eligible to play naturally fear the consequences of long-term injury, a poor run of form, regular disciplinary punishments and so on. Those people who can cause such setbacks are seen as real and immediate objects of fear. Orc-like Neanderthals who scythe their opponents, teammates who fail to support and include them in the game, officials who turn their backs on the Laws that protect players, managers who dislike them for one reason or another, supporters who identify them as ¨deadwood¨ and ¨not worthy¨, media hipsters who latch onto the slightest of rumours to vilify and denigrate them for a cheap headline, football administration who treat the same events differently based on which Club they play for, and so on. Some entire teams will play in fear of losing rather than in the determination to win!
Game officials face a constant threat and fear of abuse, retribution, ¨discipline¨, demotion as well. Some apparently even fear certain figures based on their reputations as ogres, and will do everything in their power to assuage the wrath awaiting them if they make unfavourable calls.
This self same fear drives some supporters and fans to behave in a rather bizarre fashion, myself among them. On occasion, during a very difficult, crucial and trying game, I’ll switch the channel or surf to another site rather than suffer through the stress of watching AFC. When I eventually switch back, after a complete change of clothes and a shower, I usually rejoice at the scoreline (at least for most of this season) and breathe a great sigh of relief.
There are those, however, who cannot abandon their fear of failure. They are often seen to criticize all and sundry at AFC (or another Club) and prefer the pessimistic, apocalyptic view of events, thus, rather ineffectively (but in their own minds, rationally) diminishing the fear felt at the prospect of their team failing. The worst of this lot we call the Anti-Arsenal Arsenal, the AAA.
They are afraid of HOPE and prefer to wish ill on everyone and everything Arsenal, mocking those who do keep the faith as wearing ¨rose-coloured glasses¨ and being eternal optimists. For them, fear is the key element in their relationship with AFC and they thrive in spreading it like the plague.
Finally, we see the administrators of Fifa, Uefa, the national associations, their FA’s and the various amateur and professional leagues. FIFA and the Blatterfull live in constant fear of being exposed as the sycophants and bottom-feeders they are. They spend excessive amounts of time and energy (and money) covering up and denying the putrid odours emanating from their septic Association. Uefa is afraid of Fifa, the FA’s are afraid of both, amateur and professional leagues are afraid of everybody and the Sports minister is afraid of the electors and his party leadership. The police are afraid of corruption and criminality in the game, the other authorities don’t give a damn or pay lip-service to efforts to eradicate it.
Fans are afraid of rising ticket prices (and other costs), of their team getting relegated or dropping into the Europa Entropy Cup, of bankruptcy or receivership, of being emptied of their promising youth, of dropping attendances, etc. The only ones who seem to be really enjoying the game without much fear are the amateurs joyfully kicking about preserving the original intent of Association Football.
Fear, among other things drives the professional game today. Greed, indifference, corruption, subterfuge, abuse, racism, sexism, bias, injustice, manipulation, intimidation, brutality, and numerous other excesses also mitigate this toxic mix. An association of people who experience this distressing cocktail, when all they wanted was to participate and be entertained, are experiencing a counter-productive way of life.
If this fear factor continues to increase, there is a very likely outcome….paralysis and dissociation from their original, noble goals and the possible demise of a great tradition. What can we do to avoid this happening, or is it too late?
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