Pieces of Hate: Fantasy Football

As the dust settles on an underwhelming January transfer window, several million fantasy league players will have embraced the spirit of blind panic displayed by many a real-life manager.

The transfer wildcard system allows fans to emulate their favourite bosses by ripping up their teams and starting again. Harry Redknapp would be proud of those who replaced every single player in a ten-minute burst, while Kenny Dalglish would certainly empathise with anyone who brought in Andy Carroll at great expense because he scored that bicycle kick.

You’ll undoubtedly have shared some top banter with people in the office about it. You’ll have laughed at Colin in Finance being below you in the table despite how seriously he takes the whole thing, and you’ll have rolled your eyes as others claim not to have checked their team since September.

It’s all clean, harmless fun – just a bit of a laugh, right? Wrong. Fantasy football is complete and utter bullshit.

The reasons for this are plentiful. Firstly, the excruciating team names. Yes, Colin, I do understand that you have made a pun based on the fact that some well-known football teams have the word ‘Athletic’ in their names whereas you are 55-years-old and weigh 26 stone. It’s truly excellent stuff, it really is.

And yes Colin, I realise I am perhaps taking things too seriously by openly seething at the fact that your team is so unbalanced as to be guaranteed relegation were it to play in real life. But I really cannot agree with you playing four left-backs and no defensive midfielders. It is beyond fantasy.

Similarly, I must take issue with your choice of Diego Costa as captain, in spite of his most recent example of inspirational leadership which saw him agitate for a move to China. This is not some sort of reverse psychology masterstroke – he gets double points and therefore represents another fundamental flaw in a game which bears no resemblance to the sport on which it is based.

And no, Colin, it is not your fault it is usually far better to have an average Arsenal player in your side than an exceptional Sunderland one, were such a thing to exist. Don’t hate the player, hate the game, as they say. I do, Colin, believe me I do.

Which reminds me, you support Manchester United, so why were you so eager to tell me you have Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero in your team. Shouldn’t you wish nothing but harm on them? Is it because each year there is a pool of players without whom you simply cannot do well and, rather than take the honourable route and not pick them, your fear of missing out leads you to cheer for your most hated rivals?

One year I recall that if you didn’t have Marcus Gayle, you really weren’t going to get very far. Marcus. Gayle. On this point alone I would be within my rights to smugly state that ‘I have no further questions your honour’ and get off my Pieces of Hate soap box, a landmark case assured in spite of the fact that this wasn’t actually a question and we are not actually in court.

But there’s more. The cast iron, indisputable proof that fantasy football is a stupid game is as follows: My dad, who knew absolutely nothing about football, came 12th in the Daily Telegraph’s Euro 2004 fantasy league. At one point he was as high as eighth, and in with a realistic chance of winning serious money.

While my studiously researched, perfectly balanced side laboured in 120,000th place, my dad’s team – which consisted of Milan Baros (whom he got mixed up with Djibril Cisse, naturally), Zinedine Zidane (whose surname he insisted on pronouncing Zyedayne in spite of ample evidence to the contrary), plus nine randoms that he couldn’t pick out of a line-up (and as the horror unfolded I really did put one together and put it to the test) – swept aside all before them.

His tactics extended little further than picking some expensive players he had heard of (and as we have established, he didn’t even get that right) and then padding the side out with a load of cheap blokes from Greece.

Oh how I laughed at his folly, as I finished my marathon scouting session of talented unknowns from the likes of Croatia, Italy and Germany. If fantasy football rewarded knowledge of the game and tactical insight, I was a shoo-in. I forgot one important detail: fantasy football does not reward knowledge of the game and tactical insight. It is a rubbish game which rewards idiots.

My dad died last year, so I will now never get the chance to exact revenge (not that I’d want to, as I think I’ve made perfectly clear I am in no way bitter and I don’t even care). You might expect my first piece of football-related writing since then to focus on all the times he watched my youth games on his one morning off as I hopelessly flailed about the pitch. Or that I would express my gratitude for all the times he drove me the 190-odd miles from home to Anfield so I could watch the likes of Bjorn Tore Kvarme and Salif Diao flail about the pitch.

But I am distinctly comfortable with instead using this opportunity to summarily discredit his one football-related achievement; he would, after all, expect nothing less. So screw you, fantasy football.

Pieces of Hate: Fantasy Football
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