The Antagonist - No football like snow football
Published: 15 Jan 2010 - 08:08:53
To read the newspapers this week you would have thought we had been snowed in for months rather than mildly inconvenienced for just over a week.
The supermarkets have been emptied of essential supplies of milk and bread by locust-like panic buyers who obviously believe that these conditions will prevail until early June.
More worryingly, of course, football matches have been postponed en masse due to a derisory amount of snow by alpine standards.
Now, you can understand why cricket or tennis would be called off in these conditions but, in an age when most Premier League teams have under soil heating, it beggars belief why we have lost so many football fixtures to the snow.
We hear that many of the games have been called off in the interests of crowd safety. Here we go, Messrs Health and Safety rearing their ugly heads again.
You would have thought that, with all-seater stadiums now universally in place in the top league, safety inside the grounds should be much improved and spectator access to grounds never seemed to be a problem in the 60s and 70s when matches were often played on several inches of snow.
Unfortunately I am old enough to have been around then and I don't recall any major crowd incidents caused by the weather at that time.
To be fair, a carpet of snow probably improved the normal playing surface on many grounds in those days when the average winter pitch resembled a First World War battlefield.
It initially gave a fairly level surface to play on (at least until Chopper Harris or Norman 'bites your legs' Hunter had executed their first few career- threatening sliding tackles).
In those days fans would be cajoled into pitch-clearing duties, lines would be marked out in black paint (or creosote if no one was looking!), an orange ball would be retrieved from the kit store and players would enter the fray adorned with several layers of underwear, tights, gloves and, on one memorable occasion, a balaclava.
Footballs in those days weren't your lightweight plastic coated variety but heavy, laced, leather balls which picked up snow rather like rolling a snowball down a hill.
After five minutes it often assumed the size of an oversized pumpkin and kicking it more than a few yards required quads of steel.
Crossing the ball from the wing in these conditions was a virtually impossible task, particularly as wingers in those days were usually stick insects who looked like they'd struggle to eat one Shredded Wheat let alone three.
If one of them actually managed to summon up enough strength to launch the ball into the ether, any sensible centre forward would suddenly feel the need to bend down and retie his boot laces rather than head it and risk permanent brain damage.
I recall one occasion when a player had rounded the goalkeeper, side footed the ball towards the goal and started to wheel around in celebration only to see the ball stop dead in the snow on the goal line where, perhaps, the goalkeeper had surreptitiously built a ridge of snow for this very purpose!
It was tricky, it was a real leveller, but it was fun.
The current ravaged fixture list will no doubt please the contingent of managers and players who are constantly whingeing on about a winter break.
Now they've got it let's see how they feel when they have to play catch-up at the end of a season that sees our international players going straight off to try and win the World Cup.
You can be sure Fabio will be a worried man if this weather continues.
So, what I say is, let's try to avoid homogenising football. Historically, players have had to adapt to different playing conditions and this is what sorted out the men from the boys.
Any reasonably talented player can strut his stuff on a billiard table flat, well drained, undersoil-heated playing surface but let's see who can do it when the white stuff rules.
You can be sure that the crowds would love it (at least those who could get there) and it would please the underwear, tights, gloves and balaclava manufacturers and rejuvenate the orange ball.
Overall it would be good business all round. After all, as the saying goes, 'there's no business like snow business'. (aaagh!)
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