Becoming a professional footballer is not easy. Most of us aren’t blessed with the exhilarating ability of Lionel Messi, the sultry good looks of David Beckham or Carlos Tevez’s agent so we try and sate our football desire in other ways.
Some people become match officials. Referees and linesmen, they get to rub shoulders with players and show them who is boss with their whistle, cards and flags.
But really for anyone who is a keen student of the game, or is just football daft, it’s a real last resort. Because for people who really know football, such positions maybe vital but not something you’d want to boast about to close friends at dinner parties or in the pub.
Other frustrated players get more involved in their local club. They may start fanzines or blogs, design and sell T-shirts or just do their best to never miss a game home or away and make sure as many people as possible are aware of their limitless devotion.
Then we have match-day stewards. What better way of showing how “in” you are with football than wearing a yellow jacket every home game, watching for free and telling everyone else to sit down and shut up.
The high-profile role of stewards at football matches is a relatively recent phenomenon. They have always been around but it’s only in recent years they have taken over many of the duties formerly carried out by policemen in stadiums.
Now, instead of policemen telling you not to raise that middle finger so often or asking you politely to sit down because the lady behind you can’t see through you, it’s stewards.
And whereas before, stewards were fans of the club and only too happy to help out, now they’re brought in, often by subcontractors, and instead of fans they are people on power kicks.
Give them a uniform and the power to kick out football fans for celebrating a goal or questioning the parentage of the man with the whistle and a whole new persona takes over. They become a jobsworth.
They’ll quite happily tell off a first-time visitor to the stadium for eating a bag of chips they had bought outside, perhaps even threaten them with eviction, for no other reason than they can. It’s the regulations, and it’s more than his, or her, job is worth to overlook the matter.
It’s not just England where these busy little people have made their mark.
The Southeast Asian Games football competition started last week in Jakarta with teams like Burma, Brunei, East Timor, Vietnam and Laos doing their best to excite the fans. Without the hosts Indonesia, or even local powerhouses Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, turnout was always going to be low.
So far empty seats have surrounded security officials and stewards as games are played in front of a few expats and a plethora of uninterested people with clipboards. And stewards. Stewards are standing everywhere.
I don’t doubt the stewards were told by their bosses to stand up during the game. The problem with that idea is that the fans who actually bought tickets had their view blocked by these mannequins.
Good stewarding, like good policing and good refereeing, should be invisible.
Unfortunately, given the fragile egos who take up the glow in the dark jacket, being anonymous isn’t on the menu.