The meaning of football is found within the goal. The centre of the footballing universe is a ball, thrashed into a net, by a boot. An integer. Expanding from that centre are positions, the theory, the legends, the narrative, the matches, league tables, data, concepts and history. We wildly fling ourselves to the nearest footballing star, something that can tell us more about the goal - how to achieve it, how to prevent it. All that matters in this ever-extending universe is the goal - whether it exists or not.
Aston Villa found two of them tonight, two goals dripping in narrative. Wesley Moraes, a figure of semi-mythological humour to almost everyone apart from Aston Villa fans. How much have they spent on him? Why? Well, to jump into the heart of the footballing universe, cut away the meaning, and deliver the tangible asset of the goal - that’s why. Anwar El Ghazi’s goal, after coming in for criticism himself, was no doubt relished by the winger and an adoring, forgiving Holte End.
The Holte End probably did score that second goal, though. The slanting hill, a throbbing mass of Villa faithful, all singing, all cheering - a non-stop chorus of Allez, Allez, Allez fading into ‘Ain’t Nobody, Like El Ghazi’ was the incantation that saw thousands embody El Ghazi, and drag the Dutchman towards goal - dancing on ecstasy. Writhing and screaming bodies greeted the second goal with rapturous roars - even more so than the surprise of the first goal. The stand itself uprooted from the floor and marched up to the ball, punting it into the goal.Sound, tearing off at the eardrum, bled into the sky hanging over Villa Park as an underlying bed to the action unfolding on the pitch, before the watching eyes of the world. On prime-time, Villa stood tall to defy the odds and expectations. Backed by an ever-present support. Nobody could stand before Dean Smith and his Villa to take this away - nobody.
Was it destiny? Hard work? Good luck? A mixture? It’s hard to tell. Nobody will ever know. We can apply so much meaning to football, but it’s really about those goals. It’s only ever been about the goal. The crisis in the lack of the them, the pre-crisis leading up to that. We are only happy as long as the goal is within our constant grasp. Looking towards the sky, pounding the footpath with victory swelling your heart - catch yourself - how long can this last?
Shattered shards of broken glass twinkle like stars in the black cosmos of the footpath. Cars queue along the road, their brake lights singeing the dusk with red glare. The throbbing neon of an Esso garage beacons out to the walking, and the driving. Light shining from Saqib Kebab pours onto the street, which is emptying with every passing moment. The smell of gyro meat greases the nostrils as revellers tear into their food. Slow, mournful, meaningful versions of the matchday pitchside ballads echo in the distance. The Esso garage is being emptied of alcohol and Aston Villa have won in the Premier League.