ALL the world’s a pitch, as Shakespeare would have said, had he been born in Glasgow – and a green or blue shawl wrapped around his tiny neck before the midwife even had time to cut the umbilical chord.

Football, Will would have learned, is pure theatre. It’s full of drama, tragedy and comedy. It features heroes, villains and clowns. And like theatre, its doors are presently closed to Scottish fans.

Right now, the story being told is of the internecine war taking place in the game (the winners will be the lawyers, currently rubbing their hands like Ralph Slater-suited Shylocks in anticipation of legal disputes to come.)

Not since Ally McLeod uttered the immortal words, “You can mark down June 25 as the day Scottish football conquers the world,” has our football looked so comedic on the world stage.

And the fact that football is back – except for viewers in Scotland – only serves to reinforce fans’ sense of feeling bereft, sick and despondent, all the more heightened by the impact of lockdown.

Many are left to wonder why English football has been allowed to complete the third act to its own story.

But why is football really so important to us? Football, like theatre, allows us to see the human condition being played out over 90-minute periods.

We get to see performances of strength, commitment and passion. We get to see pettiness, exuberance and sometimes brutality. We are often treated to buffoonery – yet at times we see skill levels that can reach almost mythical endeavour (eg, James McFadyen’s World Cup qualifier goal for Scotland against France in Paris).

JB Priestley in his novel The Good Companions rhapsodies over the beautiful game. “To say that these men paid their shillings to watch 22 hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink.” Football he says, like theatre, offers us “conflict and art.”

But why do we become so emotional when watching the game? Why does it makes us want to kiss the person standing next to us? Why, at times, does it make us want to wheelie bin a cat (please note; no moggy has ever suffered at my hands after a poor result).

Professor and psychologist Susan Whitmore explains the emotional release. “The feeling of binding with fellow supporters comes about when neuro-transmitters responsible for empathy and social connection are released.”

When our teams are playing well, a flood of the dopamine to the brain means we will hug a total stranger. Conversely, when we lose the stress hormone cortisol can be produced.

When we were children and wearing our first football strip we all believed we were Denis Law. Apparently, as adults we still do that. The specialized mirror neurons in the brain which allow us to put ourselves in another person’s shoes allow us to put ourselves in a player’s kangaroo skin football boots. We can truly imagine what they are going through in a particular moment the team scores.

There are other reasons why football is so important to our lives. Theatre writer Andy Field argues: “In football, the shirt belongs as much to the fans as it does to the players – they are part of the same team.”

He stresses the sense of community football creates, which is underlined emphatically in Netflix documentary Sunderland ‘Till We Die.

At one point in the series, local priest Father Marc Lyden-Smith prays to God to grant the club’s players “self-belief and a spirit of confidence because the success of our team leads to the success and prosperity of our city.”

The connection to a town is undeniable. The team represents hope for the poor and struggling. And yet, the modern game has paradoxically even greater appeal, despite its absurdist relationship with wealth and the insane transfer system.

Football fans, it seems, are part of their team’s story. And as in theatre, there is appreciation of the aesthetics of the performers. Football hasn’t always offered this of course. Who could forget the body shapes of a Joe Harper, a Dixie Deans, or either of the Andy Gorams? But who now can’t fail to admire the pecs of a Ronaldo – or even the quads of a Messi?

What’s clear is we need the game. We can’t wait for August to come, to see the manager (directors) choose the cast that will create and sometimes wreck our dreams. For a little while.

Because while we know how life ends, right now, like no other time in recent memory, we need to see it played out on the large green stage.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.