As an avid supporter of both London Wasps and Manchester United, I’m not holding out too much hope for a top-table finish this year. Even so, I enjoyed watching the Red Devils in a rare 3-0 victory last night. Each of Robin van Persie’s three goals was as enjoyable to watch as the others, but while watching I couldn’t help notice certain discrepancies between the two games – and not just the shape of the ball.
I’m in no doubt that there is a thing or two that we could learn from the football industry, but after last night’s viewing I began thinking about the massive differences in on- and off-field conduct between the two games. More specifically, the things that the likes of Lionel Messi, John Terry and Cristiano Ronaldo could learn from the game of rugby. I am in no doubt of the talent and hard work put in by professional football players, and I will always appreciate the amazing feats which they perform on a weekly basis, but there remains certain issues which stop me from enjoying the sport.
Which brings me to the question: Why is rugby better than football?
Whether we’re playing sport or watching it, unnecessary stops in play can be one of the biggest irritations. Diving is just that – a cheap attempt to stop play and turn over possession. Most of us remember Rivaldo’s Oscar-winning display for Brazil in the 2002 World Cup, where a Turkish player was sent off for kicking the ball at his face. The only issue was that the ball struck him in the leg. In the game of rugby we’re more likely to pretend NOT to be hurt, making for a much fairer and enjoyable game (if not more injuries).
As a Manchester United fan, the closing of the 2012 season was a brutal reminder of the massive part that money plays in the game of football today. The win was Manchester City’s first championship in 44 years, with the team becoming a dominant side after a buy-out by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008. Again, I don’t doubt the hard work put in by the Manchester City players, but would they have climbed the table so dramatically without spending hundreds of millions of pounds? And on top of this, have the massively inflated wages which today’s football players received contributed to the following…
They say that rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen, and football vice versa. Watch the latest Premiership game and you’ll see proof that this remains true today. You will rarely last 90 minutes without seeing crowds of football players surrounding the referee, screaming over his latest decision. As rugby players we will see yellow just for questioning the ref, let alone getting in his face. Despite the “Respect” anti-racism campaign, it seems that conduct can sometimes be just as bad off the field. As rugby spectators we are not angels, but there remains a respect between fans – that’s why we can all sit together. We’ve all seen films like Green Street and Mean Machine, and while they’re only fictional blockbusters, the films demonstrate the lack of respect which can easily ruin a game of football.
The Six Nations has just come to a close, and what Brian O’Driscoll’s final performance showed me more than anything was the immense pride which rugby players and fans have for their team and country. From the national anthems to the consistency of the performances themselves, I can’t help but think that my country’s rugby team are more proud to represent me than our football team is. In return, I’ve noticed that rugby fans are some of the most faithful and enthusiastic sports fans in the world. We don’t cheer and whoop as much as NFL spectators, and we don’t start fights to defend our team’s honour, but we back our team no matter the final score. I speak from experience when I say that this also goes right through to amateur level. All of our fans at Thanet Wanderers, where I play, stuck behind the team when we faced relegation in two straight seasons, and I’m pleased to say that we’re on our way back up!
So there you have it, just a few of the reasons that I think rugby is better than football. If you have any ideas of your own, or if you’d like to point out exactly why or how I’m wrong, then why not leave a comment below?