Ode to Football marks 150 years of our favourite game

Wednesday 18 Dec 2013
Bill Shankly features in 'This is Football'

As a year of celebration draws to an end, The FA has today released an Ode to Football to commemorate its 150th anniversary.

The poem talks of the nation’s love for the game, from a grassroots through to elite level and captures the emotions experienced by football fans around the country.

It is being released in the week that marks 150 years since the first game was played using the laws drafted by Ebenezer Cobb Morley in 1863.

Ode to Football


Entitled ‘This is Football’, Ode to Football was commissioned by The FA and written by poet, author and sportswriter Musa Okwonga.

A host of famous faces have shown their support by appearing in a video of the ode. Led by England captain Steven Gerrard, the video also features other notable football names including Arsene Wenger, Theo Walcott and Sky Sports’ Jim White. Celebrity football fans Ant and Dec, Dizzee Rascal, Amanda Holden, Nick Grimshaw and John Bishop have also delivered lines of the poem.

The video also features footage from the National Football Museum’s film, ‘Our Beautiful Game’, the full version of which can be seen by visitors to the Museum's new galleries in Manchester.

With nods to legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly and the iconic Match of the Day theme tune, taking home your team’s laundry and playing online tournaments, the ode features all the aspects of the game that players and fans experience week in, week out.

The poem also brings to life the battles fought on the pitch, the fans cheering and waving scarves, and that moment a goal is scored. England legends Sir Geoff Hurst and Paul Gascoigne are the focus of specific lines.

Okwonga said: "Football is a passion for almost every person in this country and The FA’s 150th year presents the perfect opportunity to honour this great game that we all love.

"The ode showcases how diverse the game has become since 1863. From the grassroots level to the professional game, from video games to the huge media spotlight, from mums washing kit to jumpers for goalposts.

"Hopefully the poem unites football fans everywhere to celebrate 150 years of football."

FA Chairman Greg Dyke added: "After an incredible year of celebration that has particularly allowed us to highlight the great work The FA’s army of grassroots heroes does throughout all levels of the game.

"The Ode to Football captures the essence of football. Whether that is the ups and downs of watching your team play, the simple pleasure of a kickabout in the park or cheering on England with all your mates.

"Football brings people together like nothing else. As we reach the end of our 150th anniversary year, it is great there will be a lasting tribute to the game’s simple pleasures."

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 shin pads 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.

By FA Staff