The Death of the Beautiful Game

Football is dying. More and more, it is becoming dominated by hyper-rich football clubs owned by international conglomerates, billionaires and morally corrupt regimes. The domination of top clubs and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening every year. Yes, it is still a low scoring game, so there will be the odd anomaly. And yes, teams like West Ham this year can break the mould briefly, but we are walking into a world where the winners of all the major trophies will be from a small handful of clubs. This never used to be the case. In fact, this dystopia is one we largely already inhabit, a reason why Leicester City’s title win in 2015-16 is still to my mind the greatest achievement in the history of sport. Football was beautiful because of its unpredictability, the underdog story, and the fans. But this is all being eroded, and the game's soul is slowly ebbing away. It is for this reason that Erling Haaland should sign for Leeds United.

“The dream is to win the Premier League with Leeds."

Erling Haaland is set to become one of the greatest, if not the greatest, centre forward of all time. At the age of 21, he is the most coveted centre forward in the world. Though he is already playing for a fantastic club in Dortmund, he is regularly linked with elite clubs such as PSG, Man City and Real Madrid. Haaland is already a prolific goalscorer and has everything: pace, power, athleticism, the ability to finish with both feet and a ruthless eye for goal that has seen him nicknamed ‘The Terminator’. Yet the above quote about winning the league with Leeds is what he told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten at the start of his career.

This is because Haaland was born in Leeds, as his father Alf-Inge Haaland played for Leeds United at the time and was a fan favourite at the club. I can relate to this, having also been born in Leeds but leaving at around three years old. The city and the football club always lived within me. For as long as I can remember, I was obsessed with Leeds, and my Mum would tell me how I would put on anything yellow and call it a Leeds shirt (I obviously had an innate understanding of away kits). Leeds always called to me, and I moved back at 19 and have been here ever since. It is my home. It can be yours again, Erling.

Haaland uses the word ‘dream’ in the above quote – it was his cherished ambition to win the league with Leeds. Yet dreams, sadly, can be eroded by reality as time progresses. As Haaland has become the phenomenal player he is today, I can only imagine that the reality of huge money, glory and worldwide acclaim will slowly make this dream just that, a dream. And a fading one.

Yet I want Erling to think deeply on this. I want him to hold on to that dream. True, the likelihood of winning major honours at Leeds United is low, but it will be far greater if he is there. More importantly, it will matter so much more than winning a trophy at one of the elite clubs. It is almost guaranteed that you will pick up some trophies if you stay for a certain amount of time. And Haaland is only 21 – he could spend four years at Leeds and still have many, many seasons to rack up trophies at one of the elite football clubs if he wishes. We often make decisions that our future selves come to regret. We aren’t wired for long-termism. Immediate success, huge wealth and trophies will be alluring. Still, our future selves might regret not doing something that really matters, which was truly special and had a purpose beyond the money and glory. If Haaland came to Leeds, it would really matter. Bielsa has restored my faith in the beauty of football. Its capacity to create memories and moments matters so much more when the club's soul hasn’t been eroded by greed. Bielsa has helped me live my dream as a Leeds fan; Haaland can keep that dream going.

The Meditator’s Choice

Haaland has spoken in the past of his desire to be a better person and a better footballer. He’s also talked about his keen love for meditation and how it helps people become more altruistic (I would also love to consider the Giving What We Can Pledge). Signing for Leeds United is the meditator’s choice – it goes against the grain of modern football, it takes him back to where he was born, and he would be joining one of the most truly moral men in football, Marcelo Bielsa. Haaland has the choice to play for any of the elite clubs in the world – Real Madrid, Man City, Chelsea etc. – but what does winning with those clubs really mean? As mentioned, with the exception of Spurs, if you stick around at any of the supposed Super League clubs for long enough, you will rack up some trophies. But who would care? If he won a trophy at Leeds, he would create memories that would live on for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. This is not an exaggeration. Haaland can walk into the casino and join the house, or he can roll the dice and win a fortune that will mean so much more. Choose life Haaland, choose Leeds.

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