I prefer short to long titles on blogposts. That's why I've posed the question like that. But, fully spelled out, it would be: why does football matter to those to whom it does matter, even if it also doesn't matter? The question is prompted by a column of Simon Kuper's in the FT, in which he explains why he's fallen out of love with football. There are several strands to Simon's explanation, and most of them I find quite understandable: he's 'got too close to the adored object and seen what it's really like'; a lot of football is boring; there's too much repetition (including in watching Lionel Messi); the anger over refereeing decisions; and the hatred directed by rival fans at one another.
One strand, however, consists of football's not mattering. This is what Simon reports a friend of his as having realized, and it's how he's come to feel too. The same point is reflected in his comment on the vast critical apparatus attached to football when 'the media lack resources to cover actual news'.
Despite all that, here is why football matters. It matters because it isn't a reasonable expectation on anyone that they should devote all their time to paying attention to and trying to do something about things in the world that really matter, on account of affecting people adversely. Even if one thinks - as I do - that we have obligations as human beings to others in grave need, difficulty or danger, to demand of people that they give all of their time and attention to such things amounts to demanding of them that they sacrifice the whole part of their lives which might otherwise be given to pursuing their own enjoyments and their own happiness. That would be an exorbitant expectation.
Football matters to those to whom it does matter just in the way that, for others, ballet, music, walking in the countryside, literature, movies and gardening matter - in the way, indeed, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness matter. And those other things that, so to say, really matter often matter because they are about situations where life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness are being denied to others. If we care about that sort of denial, we should have no problem with the pursuit of happiness when it takes forms that do not happen to interest us.
That's how and why football matters.