After a week of Super League chaos and talk of greed and profit share and news that certain clubs have a current price tag of 4 billion pounds (United, apparently)... viewers might have felt jaded with football.
This journalist was certainly less inclined to switch it on.
For a moment, it had felt tainted. Major officials mudslinging each other in the press, key players and managers kept in the dark, half-baked and ugly propositions changing with the wind... This wasn’t what any of us had signed up for.
Football had already been strained after a pandemic-stricken season. Plagued with terrible VAR calls, racist abuse on social media, injuries galore, scheduling controversies, and venues void of fan spirit, surreally replaced by artifical cheers and jeers controlled from the sound room.
The recent ESL fiasco, however, delivered the nail in the coffin of an already off-kilter season.
Pure, unrehearsed, free of alterior motives
Suddenly, money was the king and football was simply a pawn. Fans (particularly Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United supporters) were enraged, energised and ever-ready to take to the streets to protest what they felt was corrupt ownership.
Of course, sport is a business — a massive one, at that — and without money, it sinks. But a reminder of what it’s all about has been direly needed. No more talk of big clubs monopolising air time. No more statements about binding contracts. No more talk of local leagues dying and smaller teams being left in the dust. A glimmer of hope and humanity - something pure, unrehearsed and free of alterior motives. That’s what the football world needed.
And that’s exactly it got on Sunday evening, moments after Manchester City made history with their fourth Carabao cup win in a row.
A tender moment of sportsmanship unfolded, as Spurs star Son Heung-min broke down in tears on the pitch and two of City’s big scorers this season, Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden, crouched by his side to console him. Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t too far behind.
It was a sight for sore eyes, despite the mixture of ridicule and sympathy from social media (the usual). Some viewers saw it fit to criticise Son for his frequent displays of emotion, while others appreciated his readiness to wear his vulnerability and passion on his sleeve, as well as the underlying hunger for a trophy that never seems to come.
Regardless, it was that one small, fleeting gesture that felt comparatively priceless.
Maybe it’s time to switch football back on afterall.