Football holds a concerningly large space in my life, if anything because of how constant it is. There’s always something ongoing within the sport to tug at your attention – be it the mother of a French player flipping shit, a shock equalizer in extra time, or it somehow coming Rome. To badly quote that one ‘Mitchell and Web’ skit, football means so much as there’s “everything to play for and forever to play it in” – there’ll never be any real resolution, meaning you can tune in and out at ease. The sport is always there in some form or guise, eating away at time, boredom, and the awkwardness of small talk in the barbers. It’s hard to understate how comforting endless highlight shows can become, especially at a time where any shred of normality has been stripped from our lives. As Sam Diss put it for ‘Mundial’, there’s “no better salve for a sore head or a tired body than to sit in front of the warming glow of the 13” laptop screen and quietly watch Spurs and Chelsea scrap it out for two-and-a-bit hours including the inane chit-chat”. This calming certainty is hard to understate – you almost know what exact emotions to expect, what players will get shouted about on Twitter, what talking points you’ll pad out inane chatter with. But what happens when these expectations get shattered?
I don’t remember exactly when I was first exposed to the /r/soccer headline list, in part as you can’t really seek it out. The post has no central location or author, with random members of the subreddit reposting it under cursed stories. This list compiles weird events in the sport without context or discretion – almost overwhelming the reader through sheer absurdity. These weird headlines cover all aspects of the sport (and life in general) – be it Leroy Fer accidentally buying a horse, Wayne Hennessy being ‘desperate’ to learn about the Nazis, or Zlatan calling France a shit country. In the six years following its first appearance, the list has grown to comical lengths – you always discover something new each time you revisit it, as if the punchlines are waiting to reveal themselves. On account of this, I’ve found myself showing the list to new acquaintances as a weird quasi-icebreaker, in one case reading it out to an (admittedly quite ambivalent) ex as I sat there in a McDonald’s. This collection of dumb football stories has taken on a significant role in my life, even if I can’t work out exactly why.