The year of the vine


The image of Big Ben striking 12 accompanied by dazzling fireworks has long pervaded into the auspices of memory; the Christmas trees are long forgotten, the January gloom is consigned to history, and February is upon us. The FA Cup has long grown out of its giant-killing phase, and we await the Champions League Knockout phase instead. Now back into the regular routine of once-a-week football action, there is a little more time to reflect back on a tumultuous 2014.

Steven Gerrard and Liverpool slipped up – excuse the pun – on their way to what would have been a first Premier League title. The World Cup lit up the summer with a blend of the sublime and the ridiculous. England were dreadful. Germany weren’t.

Yet 2014 won’t be remembered by the trophies won and lost, neither by David Moyes’ reign, nor his sacking in suitably farcical circumstances. Goals of sheer majesty will gradually fade away into the side margins of football’s History Book, and the shock results – Germany 7-1 Brazil for example – will gradually become part of a legend that is only sometimes revisited.

Instead, it is technology that will define 2014. Goal-line technology is good, but its implementation has been coming for a while, and a referee’s new ‘shaving foam’ magic spray is not the great invention of which I speak. Without a doubt the creation of the vine is by far the most significant feature of 2014.

The six-second video has changed the face of football; more accurately, it has changed the football fan and the way in which we consume the sport. As more and more people start to bypass football as a core activity of a day, the highlights reel is becoming ever more significant. No longer do people put aside a Saturday to watch Football Focus and slowly build the excitement for a game before making their way down to a stadium for the traditional 3pm kick off. The radio phone-in and even Match of the Day highlights in the evening are slowly ebbing away as a thing to do. They are increasingly there only if there is nothing else to do.

The Vine contributes to this changing nature of football. Being able to watch instant highlights of games from all over the world means that people can keep up to date with not just live scores, but live goals as well, without so much as logging out of Twitter. Thus football is now an extra, surplus to the requirements of everyday life.

This change manifests itself in the knowledge, or lack thereof, of the intricacies of football in the modern day fan. Supporters, in general, no longer possess a deep understanding of footballers and their attributes. They lack the ability to watch a full match and form an opinion based on positional sense, vision and anticipation. The more psychological attributes of composure and leadership are lost to the blur of a Vine. Consigned to irrelevance, in the eyes of a fan.

Instead players are judged on short explosions of skill, a wonder strike or a defence-splitting pass. These eye-catching moments are saved onto the inescapable eyes of Ipads and Iphones in a stadium. Within an instant the entire Twittersphere can watch such heroics. Although entertaining, this undermines the nature of the football fan.

Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion – despite some opinions not being worth the time it takes to hear them – but Vines skew reality. Judgements are made on the basis of an isolated piece of skill. Whether or not someone can pull off a rabona is now more important than their passing ability, to the average fan at least.

Now what can only be called football-indulgers rather than football-enthusiasts have infiltrated the game. Twitter is swarmed with these six-second fans and their endless ‘retweets’ and ‘favourites’ have rubbed off on us all. Thanks to those two Vines of that Romanian born Kosovan playing in the Vietnamese league we can all comment confidently on why that wonderkid will make it to the very top as opposed to ending his career as the highest-paid player in the Venezuelan second tier. That back-heel shows why he is not just another prodigy doomed for the overcrowded abyss of unfulfilled potential.

The transfer window – yes that joyous time of year where all hopeful supporters religiously follow the BBC Gossip page – is lent extra hype by the six second video of fraudulent reality. Once a footballer’s name is mentioned as a possible purchase for Swansea City the internet is awash with the inevitably named ‘The best of’ Vines. They show a tidy finish, a strong tackle and a Cruyff turn and suddenly the Welsh outfit are bound for European glory. Apparently, some believe, the best six seconds of one’s career equates to adequate scouting.

This is utterly farcical. And then some. Yes, the Vine has it benefits; instant goal-highlights and the cyclical repetition of funny videos helps us all through life. But the modern supporter needs to calm down and take a very hefty dose of a reality pill. Or maybe a few pills. Definitely more than one. Judging foreign imports on less than 30 seconds worth of football is idiotic. Yet this isn’t going to change.

Football has constantly evolved, if sometimes slowly, with modern technology. All-seater stadiums, lightweight boots and goal-line technology are just some of the advances that have been made on the pitch. But off the pitch the Vine is changing – no, has already changed – football. The need for a concerted effort to see a game’s highlights is slowly drifting away as Vines are shoved down your face on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Thus the football fan is less an optional choice and more of a societal necessity now. Football, basically, is unavoidable. And in a culture that promotes everyone to have an opinion on something, we are set to be treated to what can only be described as a diverse set of views as football is flown through 2015 on a Vine.


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