Football is everywhere. We can hardly leave the house for want of another advert, selling us yet another game, brand or player. The internet is similarly saturated, abounding with bland player Instagram accounts, even blander match reports, fan forums, hype montages and transfer gossip. If 50% of the internet is pornography, football must account for the next biggest percentile.
So why do we need another magazine about football? Because so much commentary treats it as a game, when it is so much more than that. This may sound like a commonplace, but it is far from conventional wisdom. Enthusiasts and critics, those within and outside the sport, are eager to insist that football commentary should be confined to analysis of the game. Fifa bureaucrats would have us believe that football is not political. They warn us that mixing football and politics compromises the game’s integrity. Yet the same people repeatedly make decisions that, whether intentionally or not, become political interventions. Sceptics of the modern game moan about exorbitant transfer fees and the excesses of player salaries, with little reflection on what that might say about the society they live in.
Football does not exist in a vacuum. Viewing it as such impoverishes our understanding of the world and of football. More than any other sport, it reflects our society. This truth can easily get lost in the endless reams of commentary which focus on whether Ramos fouled Messi (he probably did), or whether Benteke was offside (he probably was).
Football’s ubiquity makes it a unique platform for appreciating and celebrating the diversity of human experience, but also what we have in common. Yet Midfield Generalities is anything but a eulogy to football’s greatness: the contributions to this maiden edition probe football’s absurdities and its corruptions, as much as they celebrate its vitality. Our writers range enormously in their subject-matter, style and opinions. Whether reflecting ironically on the search for English football’s ‘DNA’, uncovering how the game has become a vehicle for creeping totalitarianism in Chechnya, unwittingly mixing it with Vietnamese ultras or wondering how they became the accidental messiah of the United Parcel Service Kazakhstan branch’s 7 a-side team, all of them express, in their own way, one common idea: football can never be merely a game. Football is a mirror to be held up to our society. Midfield Generalities is an attempt to construct the mirror.