May 16, 2011 § 12 Comments
So, that Avram Grant. He’s bobbins then.
Following the dismissal of the Premier League’s most wonderfully miserablist manager — a man once lampooned by Martin Kelner as “looking like he goes to work on a gondola of skulls” — it’s been open season on the poor sod. The well-connected on Twitter have been dripping stories of his organisational and operational inadequacy into the public domain, while those of us less in the loop have been reduced to making jokes about his resemblance to Baron von Greenback.
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April 15, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to.
– Jorges Luis Borges, “Borges and I”
The weekend before last, one of the more magnificently ridiculous decisions in the history of football occurred. A footballer cast into doubt the very fundamental nature of the sport, throwing all around him into paroxysms of self-doubt, condemnation, counter-condemnation, amusement, disdain, and despair. He did it on television. In front of millions. And the repercussions for the sport are as profound as they are shocking. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 30, 2011 § 4 Comments
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March 20, 2011 § 10 Comments
Strictly speaking, the captain of a football team has one job, and one job only: to call the coin toss. And there are plenty of teams that seem content to let the armband simply be a technicality; give it to the oldest, the most capped, or the goalkeeper, let them exchange pennants and call heads, then get on with it. Job done. Yet for England (as pointed out by Barney Ronay) it matters, and it matters because it matters. That is, it matters to the team because it matters to the players. Some of them. John Terry, anyway. (Insert your own “tosser” joke here.) « Read the rest of this entry »
March 9, 2011 § 10 Comments
I think it’s a total joke – how can I hear this whistle with 95,000 people jumping up?
– Robin van Persie
As an excuse goes, it feels right, doesn’t it? Football crowds are noisy bastards when they’re in the mood, and by all accounts the Camp Nou last night was fizzing and bouncing like a spacehopper full of sherbet. (Yes, okay, that would likely just be a soggy waste of both sherbet and spacehopper. Shush.) « Read the rest of this entry »
January 25, 2011 § 4 Comments
Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity
– William of Ockham (attrib.)
It is hugely tempting to ascribe the fall of Andy Gray to the dark hand of Rupert Murdoch, extracting swift revenge for the Scottish bigot’s temerity in pursuing a lawsuit against the News of the World …
“Come at the king,” drawled Rupert, accepting the cigar from his red-haired consigliere, “and you’d best not miss.” Rebekah cackled sycophantically, and nodded to the waiting technicians. Operation Pair Of Tits was go.
… after all, it has a neatly sinister symmetry to it. However — while your correspondent bows to nobody in his all-round loathing of Murdoch and fully endorses Dennis Potter’s views on the man* — the notion that Gray has been the victim of a lawsuit-inspired intra-family hit is, on consideration, a touch far-fetched. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 24, 2011 § 7 Comments
Richard Keys: Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.
Andy Gray: Yeah, I know. Can you believe that? Female linesman. Forget what I said – they probably don’t know the offside rule.
RK: Course they don’t.
AG: Why is there a female linesman? Somebody’s fucked up big.
RK: I can guarantee you there’ll be a big one today. Kenny [Dalglish, Liverpool's manager] will go potty. This is not the first time. Didn’t we have one before?
RK: Wendy Toms.
AG: Wendy Toms, something like that. She was fucking hopeless as well.
RK: [exasperated groan]
RK: No, no, it’s got to be done, it’s good. The game’s gone mad. See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love.
It is worth listening to Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ mind-numbingly moronic off-air musings on the capacity of referee’s assistant Sian Massey – though you should first brace for impending fury – simply because “exasperated groan” in the transcript above doesn’t quite convey the staggering contempt with which Keys transmits his disquiet. Suitably angry, we can then address some fundamentals: they should be sacked; they probably won’t be; they’ve got form. And the apology is weak, is unlikely to have been made to Massey herself, and is running alongside a breathtakingly ill-advised poll. [UPDATE: The poll - 'Is football a man's game? - has been removed.]
January 18, 2011 § 2 Comments
Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it
– Publilius Syrus
No transfer is an island. The price of a player is almost never an isolated assessment of the player’s ability translated into currency. Rather, it is a product of the players ability refracted through a host of external factors, most notably the relative status and financial positions of the clubs, the composition of the two squads, the contractual and personal obligations of the player, the chicanery of agents, the nationality of the player and, since the introduction of the transfer window, the timing of the deal. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 7, 2011 § 2 Comments
The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance
– John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
One of life’s finer pleasures is to watch a football match behind the veil of ignorance, in a state of grace.This is to watch a game unfold knowing nothing: not the form of the players, the history of the manager, the rivalry between the teams, the competitive context, the name of the mascot, nothing. It is to see the game entirely without prejudice. It is a liberating experience.
Obviously, the more football you follow, the harder it becomes to escape your own knowledge (though Vietnam-Malaysia a month or so back was excellent). However, the state of grace is also valuable as a thought experiment. Watch any game about which you have prior knowledge, but consider nothing but what you see happening in front of you: the football, the whole football, and nothing but the football. (So help me Eric.)
With this in mind, consider Liverpool’s recent defeat to Blackburn. Bear in mind that, in a self-imposed state of grace, this is not a team in crisis; this is not a manager clinging on by his well-chewed nails; this is not a side that used to win the league quite a lot twenty-odd years ago; this is not a clutch of heavily-remunerated internationals. This is 11 men in red, playing 11 men in blue-and-white halves, and that’s it. So why did the men in red lose? « Read the rest of this entry »
December 14, 2010 § 1 Comment
In this life, one thing counts. In the bank, large amounts … — Fagin
There is a very good reason why Ashley Cole is the most generally loathed footballer in the country, and it strikes to the very heart of the ongoing Carlos Tevez stropfest. It’s not because Cole cheated on the nation’s favourite talent show gigglebot. Nor is it because he reportedly took a quick break mid-adultery to vomit on the carpet. It’s not even because he once responded to the question “soap or shower gel?” by saying “Armani bodywash”. It was that autobiography, which thousands of years hence will be analysed as a testament to the hideous vacuity of the times in which we find ourselves.
When I heard Jonathan [Cole's agent] repeat the figure of £55k-a-week, I nearly swerved off the road. ‘He is taking the piss, Jonathan!’ I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard
Bless. Obviously not all high-end footballers are such overt Coles; otherwise they’d all be despised and we’d all be watching the mighty Dulwich Hamlet. But as well as firmly establishing Cole as the English football fans Jeremy Hunt of choise, this crass extract — in a work of self-justification entitled, with mind-numbing gall, My Defence — firmly established the disjunct between fan and player at the top of the game, a disjunct I’ve decided to call the empathy gap. « Read the rest of this entry »