Islam encourages its followers to entertain themselves within the limits set out by the sharia. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Entertain your hearts; for hearts become blind when they are tired” (Al-Bukhari). No one can say that watching matches is unlawful. However the whole thing is to be judged within the boundaries that are clarified below.
The earnings of football players are lawful, as they earn this money in return for the efforts they exert.
On this matter, Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi states the following:
According to the agreed-upon legal rule, there is nothing unlawful except what Allah has declared unlawful in the Qur’an or by His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Other similar cases can be judged according to these texts. Thus, there is no text that prohibits watching sport matches, and we find no aspect to compare it to the matters that the Almighty prohibited.
As for those who say that it is considered to be a waste of time, we tell them that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered us to entertain ourselves through lawful means. He (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Entertain your hearts, for hearts become blind when they are tired” (Al-Bukhari).
Watching matches would be unlawful if they include something unlawful such as watching some players wearing immodest clothes. Also, watching matches would be unlawful if one spends an inordinate amount of time doing so or neglects an obligatory religious act.
It is true that Muslims are accountable before Almighty Allah on how they spend their time. However, Muslims will not be committing sins if they entertain themselves through lawful means. But they will be regarded as sinners if they spend their time in doing unlawful things, or if they spend large amounts of time in entertainment, or if they neglect the obligatory religious acts.
Also, Dr. Jamal Ad-Din `Atiyyah, said following:
There is no harm in watching football matches or other sporting matches, on condition that we not waste most of our time in watching. Watching such matches will not benefit us; the benefit will be for the one who practices sports.
As for the earnings of the football players, they are lawful, as they earn this money in return for the efforts they exert. If the matches aim at creating competition among the sporting teams, they are also lawful.
What is more important is that we practice sports to get their great benefits. Governments should build recreation centers and playgrounds, and encourage people to practice sports, rather than spending much money on matches and celebrations. It is important to encourage our children to practice sports in order to be healthy, rather than encouraging them to watch TV and play computer games.