Welcome return to the beautiful game

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By Paul McCabe

You might not have realised it due to the week upon week of biblical flood weather but that was what counted as our summer. And now it’s nearly over. Sorry.

It’s sad in one way but rather fantastic in another because it means that another season of football is about to begin in all its ridiculous, over-the-top glory and I can hardly wait.

Starved as we were of any summer competition this year, and Wimbledon aside, any sport worth watching (Golf? I’ll pass. Cricket? Pfffft!!), I’m more eager than ever to get the new season underway.

Of course, if you look at football with a critical eye it can appear to be slightly ridiculous and it’s certainly not above criticism.

The recent FIFA scandal is sickening, the cost of going to a match is hefty and the players themselves can be spoilt, dislikable prima donnas who don’t seem to live in the real world.

But once football’s got you, you’re hooked and it’s impossible to resist.

I was first taken to a match at the age of four apparently, though I’ve no memory. When I started going week in, week out, I was seven and all these years later I’m still trooping faithfully along and find it as exciting as ever.

Part of the reason for this is I’ve always seen it as an event. I’ve never been the type just to go along for the kick off, then go home straight after. That’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about meeting up with like-minded friends and family beforehand, discussing the team line-up, moaning, disagreeing and laughing, then meeting up again after to spout your ill-informed opinion of the previous 90 minutes.

As for the game itself, I find it to be something quite special. Sitting in a noisy stadium with thousands of other people and shouting and cheering on the team you’ve been following for nearly all your life? That’s not something that happens on a daily basis. It’s unusual and unique and is something to cherish I reckon.

My normal football experience is, of course, rattling about in Scotland but I got a little taste of what it’s like at the top with a trip to the Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. It really was quite incredible.

The behind the scenes tour with Lionel Messi’s array of Golden Boots and Palme d’Ors on display, not to mention the European Cup, was a thrill, but getting down to the side of the pitch and taking in the 98,000 capacity stadium was simply breath-taking.

Just to highlight the brilliant absurdity that football is, the next football ground I was at was Central Park for the Cowdenbeath v Rovers match on Saturday. Never was the phrase ‘polar opposites’ more apt.

Then the following day I was off to Tynecastle to see Hearts take on Everton and despite it being only a friendly the award of a penalty-that-should-never-have-been to Everton in the first half had me out of my seat in an expletive-ridden tirade of eye-bulging fury.

Yep, nobody’s favourite referee Willie ‘it’s all about me’ Collum has started the season as he means to go on.

And clearly, so have I.