Football in Utania, today
Utanian football is as strong as ever. A conservative estimate, taken by a pollster,
suggests that 18 million people played football, be it a full, formal match, or
streetball in the past month.
Utanian fans are also very keen to belong to football clubs, with an estimated
14.4 million members of football clubs, albeit with considerable overlap between
clubs that is, members belonging to, typically, two or perhaps three clubs
paying between Û5 and Û250 per annum for the privilege.
And Utanians don't shy away from paying for club merchandising, either.
Millions are spent each year on club clothing, flags, and other merchandising.
Unfortunately, this mostly applies to those in the wealthier parts of the country.
And while they're not playing or belonging to football clubs, they're watching
the games: 18 million tickets were sold to UFA matches in Utania though this
is substantially down on previous years and one-third of the population
claim to have viewed a football match in the past month, much of it on television.
Streetball is the unofficial name of football in the street. In unofficial
games between friends, and is, to be expected, the most popular way the game is
played. But this does not diminish the number of semi-official games. Companies,
particularly in the Utani-dominated south of the country, will sponsor company-teams,
and pit them against other companies in the city.
The Utani Employers Federation says the companies win by having fitter
employees fitness, they say, is known to contribute to alertness, which means
better safety records on site and a greater sense of community within the
company, amongst employees, which helps morale.
Curiously, it is not a trend Uta-Decashi companies have taken on, but, when
they open factories or branches in the south of the country, they are finding that
they are forced to at least make allowances.
The UFA will now actively participate in encouraging companies to make greater
allowances for employees playing the game. It will provide funds to struggling
companies, equipment and encouragement to all, and drive the game further forward.
Just for kids
For children, the obvious football match is in school-grounds. And in the
streets. And on parks. In fact, the average Utanian child is said to play six hours
of impromptu football a week. For schoolchildren, it is the only playground
The UFA is seeking to encourage this even more. With child obesity
an emerging problem in the developed world, and, to a lesser extent, in Utania's
wealthier suburbs, getting children to exercise is the key. And there is no better
way than to play a social skills developing game like football, which teaches
social interaction, team-building and physical awareness skills as well as football
The UFA will develop relationships will all schools in the country to encourage
the playing of football, though certainly not exclusively. The UFA will provide
equipment everything from balls, boots and scoresheets to scoreboards
for football, but also for other sports, should that be required.
The UFA will provide free in-school clinics with the stars of the game
showing kids how to play the game, teaching them the essential skills. And, UFA
representatives will help kids with a real future in the game to develop their skills
and get signed up the clubs, so that their talent is recognised and appropriately
Football clubs have become a significant social institution in certain parts of the
country, and earn an estimated Û680 million for themselves in membership fees,
which is an average of Û14.50 per person in the country.
Memberships offer a variety of benefits to members, from free or reduced-cost
entry to games, special membership clubs, free merchandising and "Meet the team"
nights for the more dedicated fans. Membership clubs, for example, earn an estimated
Û300 million for clubs serving meals, drinks and entertainment exclusively
The UFA, nor the Department of Culture (which includes sports), keep
statistics on football clubs, however, estimates vary between 15,000 and 20,000
clubs nationwide. If Utani communities that play inter-village games are included
that number could be as much as doubled.
It is estimated that there are 14.4 million club memberships, owned by an
estimated 7 million people, that contribute some Û680 million into the clubs.
The largest of these is Luka Central with a massive 264,000 members, which
charges an average Û130 per annum to be a member. Needless to say, the revenue
from memberships, at Û34 million, makes the club the wealthiest in the
country. (See "Teams" for more details.)
However, the majority of clubs in Utania are estimated to be small, with
less than 4,000 members, and charging less than Û60 membership. None are,
of course, teams in the national UFA competition, and few make it through to the
major regional competitions, which means that number of members still helps to
determine success, at least in terms of the competitions they belong to.
Though their influence is waning in urban Utania, for some time in the
70s, Football clubs were much of the glue that cemented a sense of community in
numerous cities in Utania, filled with recently arrived people from a great variety
of backgrounds. In the absense of a nation-state, football clubs provided something
to believe in, to hold on to. Or so the anthropologists say.
For urban Utani this has particularly been the case. Distant from their tribal
communities so as to get work in the big cities, Utani formed urban, tribal clubs,
such as the Eastern Ujam Tigers or the Savaj-Petopae in Luka.
The essense of Utania
Yet, despite the prevalence of football clubs in Utania, the average game is
still a group of friends who take a football down to the local park. Or farm workers
returning to their village after a day's hard labour play a relaxing game before
settling down to the evening meal, or perhaps playing after their meal.
It is the children in the street, squealing with delight as they boot the ball
into the chalk-drawn goal marked on the wall at the end of the street.
It is the factory workers who take the ball outside at lunch, and play a
friendly match in the carpark against the metal-workers from next door.
These are the images of football in Utania. It is the game of Utania.
And the UFA will always be here to support, promote and play the game that
is part of the essence of Utania.