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An Ode to Football by Musa Okwonga

Commemorating its 150th anniversary, The FA reached out to our friend Musa Okwonga to create a poem that captures England’s love for the game, from a grassroots level to the top flight, embracing the emotions experienced by football fans around the country. Joining Musa in the poem are the likes of Arsene Wenger, Theo Walcott, Dizzee Rascal, and Steven Gerrard. Not bad company to keep. An Ode to Football by Musa Okwonga img 1 “An Ode to Football” This is football: Yes, jumpers for goalposts in your local park With the lamp-posts as your floodlights, And no-one watching but the stars: This is football – Where the groundstaff cut grass with a barber’s care Where the terraces forever sing hymns to their favourite players: This is football – Hot coffee in the stands on midweek nights This is players squaring up But never actually starting fights This is football Each battle lasts an hour-and-a-half It’s that war of rival scarves You can fight fair, or plunge to grass – This is football Imitating that voice that reads Final Score This is transfer-window shopping, It’s Deadline Day on Sky Sports This is football Last in that half-time queue for the loo then food: This is Sir Geoff Hurst on Wembley’s turf in destiny’s pursuit This is football Humming Match of the Day’s theme tune as it starts: Keeping your head down from thirty yards, and shivering crossbars: This is football This is panic, Your defenders scrambling back When they realised the other team sitting deep Was just a trap This is football, this is football Cracked shinpads and all It’s the innocent protest – It’s the “I barely touched him, ref!” This is football This is not just 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 This is what you do when you go one player down, and then concede This is football This is that banter you get at away grounds Which when you score that last-minute winning goal Is not so loud This is football Cup tie: You’ve gone to penalties to sever the knot But your guts are all you’ve got And sudden death now marks the spot: This is football Not prawn sandwiches You can find it in all languages It’s your spilled pint in the pub When your team goes one-nil up: This is football This is that fanzine which calls it harsh but fair This is catching coaches, planes and trains since your club needs you there This is football Practised against the wall, and in the hall It’s those concrete playground moves That have ruined all your shoes: This is football Lugging your team’s laundry home from Sunday league This is playing online tournaments until sleep intervenes This is football: It’s a very big deal, You can ask Bill Shankly It’s that click-clack of the turnstile, It’s that Gazza-needs-a-hanky This is football Brought to you by the Football Association Formed in the Tavern of Freemasons One-fifty years in the making This is football: Of all the sports, this is our nation’s favourite And we speak to celebrate it So if you have a drink, please raise it You can find Musa on Twitter at @Okwonga.
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