The Beauty of the Beautiful Game

“It’s just a game”. A phrase we’ve all heard and probably disagreed with, because it isn’t just a game. It’s an emotion, a chance to escape whatever is wrong and wherever you are and for those few minutes feel on top of the world. I’m talking, of course, about the euphoria which football can cause. That feeling that courses through your veins and sends you potty.

It can come in the form of a last minute equaliser, a last minute winner, or if you’re lucky enough a trophy. What would normally be two points dropped becomes a point gained when the 90th minute equaliser goes in to earn a draw in a match which your team really should’ve won. Rationality and common sense often go out of the window. You turn from a normal human being into a snarling, roaring, jumping lunatic. You’ll hug your friends next to you and lock arms with total strangers and for those few moments you experience something which those who don’t follow a team simply cannot begin to imagine.

Much research has been done into exactly what it is that causes such euphoria, and what it can be compared to. Having had a good hour long Google session and read some scientific journals on the matter it seems that two common comparables pop up frequently. What, from now on, I shall refer to as ‘football euphoria’ is often compared to the emotions usually felt as a direct result of two things; love and cocaine. Yes, love and cocaine. Whilst it comes as no surprise that most people would claim to have been in love at some point in their lives, an astonishing 46% of people admit to trying cocaine (as per a 2005/2006 drugs survey). When looking at how the brain reacts to such stimulants certain similarities can be drawn. Oxytocin, Dopamine, Adrenaline and Vasopression are all natural hormones released when you experience feelings of love, a dose of certain illegal drugs and, you guessed it, football euphoria. It’s no wonder we find our teams so addictive.

So it seems that football euphoria exists on two very different, but intrinsically linked levels; a physical and emotional one. Everyone has moments of madness they remember, and no matter who you support you will have had a dose of football euphoria. It ties your memory down to where you were at that moment, who you were with and how you felt, those memories stay with you for years.

As an Arsenal fan I’ve had two mental moments which I remember above all others for the 2010/11 season so far. The first was flicking on the radio whilst staying in a cottage in the middle of nowhere to hear “Arsenal now with just 5 minutes to play until they record a 3-1 victory over Chelsea at the Emirates”. I jumped up from the sofa so quickly that I elbowed my girlfriend in the head. The other was, of course, the comeback against Barcelona. An exam the following day meant I was resigned to watching it with my flatmate (a Man Utd supporter) and if I was ecstatic at the equaliser then the noises I made when Arshavin scored the winner can best be described as roaring. Lying on my living room floor, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was having a fit. I just shook, shouted and lost it. We were 2-1 up against the best team in the world when no one gave us a chance.

This feeling of euphoria can continue for days, as you watch the highlights over and over again and relive it in your mind. Those of you who follow a team closely enough will know that a match can make, or break, an entire weekend. An important win and you’re flying high and waking up with a spring in your step. A loss and you sludge off in a grump, saying things like “if only he’d not made that deflection” or “if that screamer had gone in”. Yes your team may be Barcelona who caress the ball into the goal via Lionel Messi’s dazzling left foot, but the feeling of happiness when your team scores would be the same if you support Rushden & Diamonds or Millwall.

Football can take you to places nothing else can, it can wipe sadness from your mind and allow you to bask in the sensational glory of a goal. It unites and divides in equal measures both at club and international levels. It causes you to love men you’ve never met, and despise opponents you’ve misjudged. But for those few moments of football euphoria it sends adrenaline pumping through your veins, whatever was wrong is forgotten and you feel like the king of the world. Embrace it, go mad when your team scores, and never lose that passion. Because in today’s uncertain footballing world of rising prices and managerial sackings it might just be the one thing you can be sure of. The one thing you know is yours that no one can take away; your right to have a football euphoria fuelled, arms waving and legs jumping, stranger hugging yelling shouting screaming celebration. And that, above all, is the beauty of football.

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