When one thinks of the average football fan and their common interests with fellow followers of the beautiful game, high-brow literature is surely not a notion that immediately, if at all, the mind entertains. However, as I read another few chapters of Homer’s ‘Iliad’ the other night, enjoying classical literature as much as I do playing and watching football, the apparent comparisons struck me as unbelievably obvious.
To start with, the ‘Iliad’, and indeed a large proportion of classical texts, contain two famous sides pitted against each other and prepared to battle for an ultimate prize. Whilst there is luckily no mortal combat involved in today’s football matches (surely the number of substitutions would need to be raised if this were the case), huge matches are indeed, two high-profile powers clashing to claim some much-publicised spoils.
The heroes of yesteryear’s Homeric prose – Diomedes, Odysseus, Achilles, Hector and Menelaus for example, were all famed warriors, revered and celebrated by their relevant followers for their skill, accomplishments and talent. Similarly, football superstars such as Ronaldo, Gerrard, Lampard and Fabregas are likewise championed by their respective clans for the very same attributes.
And again, ancient warfare relied on immense tactical skill, courage and cleverness in order to win battles – all concepts that the modern day football manager must employ successfully if he is to win the match, along with the allegiance of his team’s followers. So why is it that classical texts and football are considered mutually exclusive? Surely Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger et al could learn a thing or two by perusing the ‘Iliad’s’ ancient pages…