Monday, 22 October 2012

Pick It Up Or Kick It Out

Once again football has been dominated by one issue this last week and indeed over the weekend.

No it's not the fact that a toddler's got more chance of finishing a bowl of soup with a plastic fork than Luis Suarez has of finishing a decent chance. It's not even the question as to why the Wayne Rooney who plays for Manchester United turns out wearing normal football boots, whereas the one in the England shirt wears boots made out of a fluffy Victoria sponge. No, it's not even the fact that Harry Redknapp continues to make the rest of the pundits on Match of the Day look like chumps of the highest order.

No, it's race. And racism. And what to do about it.

Jason Roberts sounded like a lone voice in the wilderness when he said he'd not wear his 'Kick It Out' t-shirt on Saturday. Certainly Sir Alex Ferguson seemed to think so, even snidely coupling Roberts's standpoint with his role as a TV pundit. So when Rio Ferdinand avoided putting one on too, the Govan Beetroot's face grew more purply than ever.

Fortunately, the issue has been sorted at United, not least because the rest of football's top managers rather thought it was down to the individual players to decide whether they wanted to wear the t-shirt or not, what with them being grown-ups and all. (I still wonder whether the adults at Liverpool Football Club really wanted to wear those Suarez supporting t-shirts but that's for them, too, I guess).

Mark Hughes said that it's hard to eradicate racism from the game entirely but "Any campaign that looks to address an ill in our game and in society needs to be supported irrespective of the fact of whether they are doing enough or not."

Well yes and no, Sparky. I mean I'm sure Nick Griffin thinks that he is addressing a lot of ills in our society but I don't think I'm going to signing up for his solution.

It looks like Roberts, Ferdinand et al are disassociating themselves from a campaign that almost every other footballer has signed up to and undermining the consensus. So the question is 'Why?'

The amount of money the Kick It Out campaign receives would make a football agent blush. In 2010-11, it was less than half a million pounds, or 2 weeks of Carlos Tevez's wages. Or the daily rate for John Terry's lawyers. Or the amount of cash the latest posh twats on Grand Designs have found down the back of their Chesterfield sofa to spend on a new build in the shape of an oyster-shell on the harbour-front at Whitstable or some such bloody place. Yawn. It is, as the modern parlance might have it, fuck-all.

Furthermore, Kick It Out hasn't played an enormous role in the recent issues surrounding the Uruguayan tumbler and the Chelsea skipper - and yes, despite everything, Terry remains the club captain. That's just embarrassing. That might have something to do with why some black players don't think the race issue is being addressed properly.

In a statement Kick It Out states that:  Kick It Out said it "works in partnership with the game's governing bodies" and added: "We are not a decision-making organisation with power and resource as some people think, and can only work effectively in the context of these partnerships."

In other words, we're not up to much really. We can't do anything. We do go round chatting to people and reminding them not to be horrible to each other. But we don't make the decisions. And frankly if I was a black player I'd start to wonder what the point of the whole thing was.

It's much like Sepp Blatter, a man who so patently treats the game with contempt, urging football to get behind this Respect campaign. It takes a lot more than a few handshakes and some nice tee-shirts to imbue respect and anti-racism.

We might start by banning Serbia from international competition until it sorts its scumbags out. Sinisa Mihajlovic, the current national manager, is a cast-iron racist. Unsurprisingly he was much-loved at Lazio, whose fan base loves a monkey chant and yet is ironically unevolved itself. There's a decent column on Mihajlovic here:

He's more complicated than he seems, and Vieira, for all his high-mindedness, was just as guilty of racism during a spat with the Serb, but nevertheless there's no debating the accusation. (Yes he was very good at free kicks too but then Mussolini made the trains run on time, Enoch Powell had a way with words and Josef Goebbels simply loved his kitten.)

And it wasn't very long ago that black Britons were subject to the usual crowd hoots in Spain and that led to the sort of smack on the hand that wouldn't make a three-year-old wince. In other words there's a history of quiet toleration around such issues.

On the one hand Kick It Out and Respect parade around wearing the badges of genuine concern but when an issue has to be tackled head-on the FA or UEFA or FIFA are less Lee Cattermole and more Daniel Sturridge. At their worst, they are Lip Service in action.

Now three-quarters of the funding for Kick It Out comes from the FA, the Premier League and the Professinal Footballers' Association. It is by definition dependent. And it's hard for a dependent organisation to criticise those on which it depends. (Although my kids don't seem to have any bother having a pop at us, the ungrateful beggars). Many would like Kick It Out to be independent.

There's a way this can be done but it might mean that footballers give up a little more of their paltry weekly wages to fund it. Perhaps 1% to get it up and running.  They could certainly afford it in these austere times and it would certainly give the campaign fresh impetus and single-mindedness. Maybe clubs could offer up a proportion of their gate receipts, too, if they really want to help.

Let's be clear, racism in British football is nowhere near the issue it was when Clyde Best was enduring obscene chanting, not least from the terraces at Ayresome Park. Old 'Arry was right about that on Match of the Day. But that's still no reason not to stamp it our where you find it.

And if Kick it Out isn't helping then what is the point of it?

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Lost Weekend

I’m not enjoying these Friday night internationals. It’s the latest in a string of attempts by the God of Television to fuck about with my weekends.

If there’s an England match of a Friday night that means that Saturday stretches out before you, vast and unenticing , like a fat lass’s nightdress, and you can’t wait for Sunday to arrive. Only you forgot that Sunday is as empty as a Bedouin’s beerhall.  

Jeez it’s dull. I even found myself getting drawn into the latest bout of Murray v Djokovic and given those bastards kept me up til two in the morning not long ago I couldn’t last the three and a half hours. It’s exhausting. There comes a time when that level of competence becomes almost tedious.

It reminds me of watching that British bloke at the end of the Olympic shooting. Wilson the lad’s name was, and he was in the double-trap summat or other and it was so rare for him or any of his competitors to miss that you ended up in this mixture of hypnosis and agony. I tell you it’s no fun.

Of course there’s always Formula 1, which the Blue Bell Clarksonettes tell me is the most exciting championship race for years. These jeans-and-jacketed petrol-heads like nothing more than the sound of high-pitched chain-saws and the smell of a pit-babes leather-clad perspiration. The twats.

I’m of the opinion that Formula 1 is the most underwhelming, overrated, self-aggrandising trade fair in the world. Little pumped-up billboards masquerading as drivers as they whizz around in their pimped little proxy pricks. Yawwwwn!!! If you like it you haven’t quite got over the thrill of getting your first matchbox toy and pushing it along the carpet shouting ‘vvvvvvrrrooooom!

Having said that, I’d’ve rather watched Lewis Hamilton talk about particle physics than watch the actual football match I witnessed on Friday night.

England trotted out against possibly the worst assemblage of playing personnel ever to take to a field since my brother took a claw hammer to my Middlesbrough subbuteo team in 1973. Playing a rigid 9-1-0 formation they held on against an England team who think Painting by Numbers passes for creativity.

Honestly these lads couldn’t unlock an open door. The amount of times they hurtled into a quick one-two on the edge of the box only for it to dissipate into a three-four-fall-on-the-floor beggared belief.

Rooney was skipper which is good as, well, you know, he’s of unimpeachable character and the one before last was that dodgy geezer… you know the [whisper] racist… I mean, that bloke who isn’t a racist – some of his best friends are black – it’s just he says racist things… occasionally… on telly…

Anyway, Wazza took the armband as happily presumably as he takes analysis of his barnet, which is quite frankly ludicrous. It looks like the work of some high functioning chimps on a macramé course. It also makes him look curiously middle-aged, as if Tom Cleverley drafted him cos his Dad went to school with the bloke. I notice he hasn’t appeared in any of them before and after ads for trichology. The lad looked better with his bonce shaved.

Apart from Walcott getting Schumachered by the San Marino keeper there was nowt to report for the first thirty minutes. It’s hard to understand why Hodgson thought it sensible to play a back four, when a back two might have been overly-cautious. But then Woy isn’t about to get all flamboyant on us, is he?  The one thing he knows is that our lads like it nice n simple. We don’t want too much of that total football malarkey. 4-4-2. That’ll do.

It’s difficult, too, to draw any conclusions from the game, apart from the fact that based on that performance there must be only 14 men of playing age in San Marino. Oxbow-Chambermaid did his bit but he’s not quite ready for the midfield maestro role just yet. Wellbeck nabbed a couple but I always feel he approaches the six-yard box with all the lethal intent of a kitten in pyjamas.

I spent most of the game shouting ‘Shoot! Shoot!’ while our lads kidded themselves they were in some sort of Wengerised training session while a coach on the side shouted ‘Walk it in! Walk it in!’

Poland awaits. They’re no great shakes, are they, and the lad Blatchukowsky or however you spell it is out. It’s one of them games where England will have to find a way to lose it. I expect the England team to be: Hart, Johnson, Jagielka, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Gerrard, Carrick, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rooney, Defoe. Carroll will be in the ‘throw the big bloke on’ role so beloved of Crouchy.

And thankfully we’ll all be back to wall-to-wall footy in five days’ time thank God. It might also drown out the horrible muttering, gurning, yodelling continuing spectral nightmare of one Jimmy Saville OBE. I, like many children, wrote to the old fiddler to have him fix it for me (a training session with Jack Charlton’s Middlesbrough, as it happens). My wish did not come true. But let me write another letter just for old time’s sake.

‘Dear Jim, (now then, now then) could you fix it for me (goodness gracious) and millions of others to dig up your corpse and trample it to dust, you monstrous and indulged piece of shit. Yours sincerely, Everyone.’

Only the God-fearing amongst you will imagine that he hasn’t got away with it. The rest of us will be cursing him. And Lance Armstrong too. Not that the latter’s crimes compare, but there are similarities. In both cases, charity became a sort of sainted cloak to hide behind, and in both cases everyone knew they were guilty. Sadly.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Cole In A Hole

It comes as little surprise that Ashley Cole has described the FA as a #bunchoftwats on his Twatter account. Cole knows a twat when he sees one but he thinks the FA's twattiness derives from insinuations that he lied for his mate John Terry. (I'm not saying he lied. He just backed up a very curious version of the truth.)

The FA report suggested that Terry's briefs - his legal team, not what he leaves on the  floor of teammate's bedrooms - managed to put together a case for the defence that was highly dubious, namely that the England centre-half (the former England centre half, I mean - and doesn't that sound good!) was repeating something that Anton Ferdinand said to him.

In other words the conversation went something like this:

AF: John!
JT: Yes Anton?
AF: Are you calling me a fucking black cunt?
JT: (confused as if unsure what was just said) Fucking black cunt...?

Somehow Ashley witnessed this conversation himself, from somewhere in the freezer of your local Londis if Rio Ferdinand's tweeting affirmation is to be believed, and potentially added something to the effect of: "Careful there, John. If anyone heard that out of context they must just misunderstand."

Well the FA have screwed up that version of events in their fists as if like they were Vinnie Jones doing an especially tight bit of man-marking. And quite right too.

We can leave aside the slightly arcane discussion about whether Terry - and indeed Suarez - are racists or simply nice lads who used racist language in the heat of the moment (though in Luis's case that moment lasted pretty much 90 minutes). The fact is the FA took the chance to lay down the law with Suarez and most of us thought that very admirable. Terry, for a less frequent but even more blatant piece of name-calling gets four games to sit somewhere quietly and wash out his toilet mouth.

Now half as long seems quite simply to be bloody feeble. The FA makes a bold stance one week and the next time the issue is raised it halves the sentence. You can only conclude one of two things:that the FA has a graduated scale for acts of racism (although you'd think 'fucking black cunt' might be at one end of the scale); or that Teflon Terry is a special case, given that he's English and not one of those sweary, divey Uruguayan types. But it couldn't be that. Cos that'd be racist.

(By the way, there's no point in Liverpool players bleating that Suarez can't win penalties anymore - there is a natural justice to the fact that refs just assume he's diving, and that leaves a lot of us with a great sense of satisfaction.)

So yes, Ashley, the FA are a bunch of twats, but not cos they are sceptical about what comes out of your mouth. If that were a qualification then Cheryl and Cheryl's Mum would be high up the twat list. No they are twats because they have been wilfully inconsistent. Racism is, well, racism.

Cole won't play against San Marino. (That'll teach him.) I could have confirmed that with Roy Hodgson yesterday but I got on the wrong train. But at least Cole has apologised for his knee-jerk tweet. His mate doesn't appear to have said sorry for anything in his life. It's that kind of self-belief that makes him such a consistent performer on the pitch and such a consistent tosser off it.

Were Terry to come out and apologise, condemn such behaviour and express serious remorse we might be on to some sort of turning point in the issue, but that's not his way. He's many things, John Terry, but ever so 'umble isn't one of them.

It's a shame that, in the meantime, Chelsea have developed a playing style that's very easy on the eye. Indeed, the opening seven or so weekends of the Premier League season have been hugely entertaining generally.

Cazorla has been the outstanding new signing, with the likes of Hazard and Mirallas not far behind. Everton and the Baggies might just cause a flurry or two of interest in the top half, while the bottom end looks confirming that Mark Hughes is one of the most obscenely overrated managers in football history.

And as for the European fixtures I find myself fully shorn of any sense of national loyalty these days. United's win in Cluj, the build-up punctuated by ludicrous vampire references as ever, was a bit disappointing. Citeh's fluked draw at home to Dortmund, thanks almost entirely to Joe Hart covering his goal like a human bedsheet, was a tad irritating too.

Citeh have now fully attained the status enjoyed by Chelsea after one season of Mourinho, where their limitless power to buy completely outweighs any respect for their quality and position. If Citeh win, it's a case of 'Of course they fucking did.'

Dortmund, in the likes of Reus, Bender, Gotze and Hummels, look like a German side because they are. Take away Hart and Citeh are just playing a bunch of arrant mercenaries on six-figure weekly salaries. Maybe we envy success in this country but I just want them to lose every match they play. Apart from United where a draw would be fine. May their struggles in Europe continue for as long - no longer - than Chelsea's did.