More often than not, the sleepless nights are about the heartbreak, the disappointment, the anguish and the despair. They’re about the anger and disgust for the punditocracy and the hacks who consider it open season on Arsenal.
You can almost taste the bile from the disdain and contempt in which Arsenal is held in the footballing media circles from Sly Sports to the BBC, from Talk Spite radio to the tabloids. There’s a macabre-esque enjoyment of Arsenal’s agony in every sense – and when we say it’s a conspiracy, we’re called paranoid.
Today though, there’s so much to say and write about such an amazing day for the spirit of Arsenal football club. For that however, I’d like to encourage you to visit ACLF where my friend Yogi has written a wonderful piece that captures the emotion and captures the moment. As George our resident pedant puts it, for all the days of anguish that Yogi has kept our sanity, it’s days like these that he deserves the stage to express the magic of the moment.
I have chosen today instead to focus on Arsenal’s most influential unsung hero, Mr Laurent Koscielny. There’s more than enough analysis all over the internet and the media of the now legendary shafting of the heathen horde at Stamford Bridge.
You see, the problem with the English football establishment is that there’s a collective determination to exercise cultural incompetence of breath-taking magnitude. Take the lack of understanding of the fundamentals of football business and finance. English football is the only place on this planet where people still think it’s OK to spend the GDP of most developing countries just to chase trophies.
It’s either a brazen and reckless disregard of the laws of economics as they pertain to football, or spectacular incompetence from a collective that has the IQ of a fence post. It’s the sort of culture that equates high spending to quality, notwithstanding the fact that the rationale for the market pricing is fundamentally flawed. How can it be justifiable for example for Andy Carroll to cost more in transfer fees than Thomas Vermaelen and David Silva combined.
So when the Arsenal scouting system pluck Laurent Koscielny from the wilderness of the French league, he is considered a pariah since he doesn’t conform to the text book definition of a Premiership defender. It’s almost like it’s a crime that they don’t know him so he can’t be that good. Koscielny’s not only fighting the PR battle against the football media and pundits, he’s had to contend with undeserved criticism from Anti-Arsenal Arsenal supporters.
Yet this brilliant young man has something that a lot of defenders don’t have. He is tenacious, dependable, perceptive and applies himself with finesse. He is a dogged defender with absolute class when it comes to the art of intercepting, one on one defending and recovery defending. He is exceptional in the air and excellent in working with the ball on the ground.
Koscielny is also silky in offence and has an uncanny ability to convert defence into attack with one touch football. A very confident player with the ball, he links up very well with the midfield and is perhaps one of the best ball playing defenders around.
The fact that people still talk about Arsenal needing quality defenders without paying Koscielny any respect for what he is currently doing is an insult of the highest order in my humble opinion. If Koscielny isn’t one of the best defenders in the league, I don’t know who is.
In yesterday’s post match punditry by Sly Sports, the punk Jamie Redknapp had the audacity to suggest that Laurent Koscielny had now arrived after that performance against Chelsea. As I was reminded, Jamie was probably the only person in the country who didn’t notice Lionel Messi in Koscielny’s pocket when Arsenal beat Barcelona with panache in perhaps the greatest match of football ever played in an Arsenal stadium.
From the first game that Koscielny played at Anfield, it was so obvious that the boy oozed class. And I gather it’s not just the class. I know a few female Gooners who are willing and ready to copulate with the guy and bear his children.
Granted, he has made some mistakes – but point out to me a defender in the league who walks on water. The media even hail Sideshow Bob at Chelsea as the second coming of defensive messiahs. That’s David Luiz in case you’re wondering who Sideshow Bob is.
If Luiz was that good – why the hell didn’t he play to stop the horror show at Stamford Bridge yesterday. Even after they wax lyrical and go sycophantic about Luiz because he cost £24m while Koscielny cost a few bob according to them, you can’t hide from the fact that Laurent Koscielny stands head and shoulders above the Brazilian defender. Everything they say about Luiz, you can say that about Koscielny with compound interest.
Let’s not forget, Fernando Torres might as well have been sitting on the bench yesterday, that’s how effective Koscielny was. He’s done it to Messi, he’s done it to Rooney and he’s done it to Drogba – and folks still think of this guy like a step child from the wrong side of the rail tracks.
And yet, Gooners around the world are debating who will lose their place in central defence to accommodate the equally magnificent Thomas Vermaelen.
I think people are missing the point. The question is not who will partner Thomas Vermaelen in central defence. The more substantive question is out of Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Djourou, who will be Laurent Koscielny’s preferred partner.
My sense is that Vermaelen and Koscielny will be Arsenal’s first choice central defensive pairing, but if you take it that there will be suspensions and injury as well as the need for tactical changes to counter different opposition – there’s enough games to go around for everyone.
The most exciting thing for me is that Koscielny, Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Djourou are either 25 or 26 years of age. The central defensive solutions at Arsenal for the next 8 to 10 years are on solid ground, notwithstanding the fact that young shining lights like Ignasi Miquel and Kyle Bartley are on hand to complement the squad depth.
Dont forget, if you haven’t yet, follow Stone Cold Arsenal on Twitter and join the growing community. We’re trying to find out where Bruce “We’ll beat the crap out of Arsenal” is hiding.
I got reminded this weekend why I started blogging in the first place. It really was either this or marriage counselling. The funny thing is that even my Chelsea supporting missus resorts to cursing like a drunk sailor when it comes to responding to the tripe and faecal matter served to us as opinion from the hacks and punditocracy.
“Have you read this shit yet”, my friend Jay screamed down the phone as he hyper ventilated in between spitting his spleen out. “These bastards are after Arsenal, the whole phuckign lot of them”.
“what the hell are you on about dude”, was my baffled response.
“The Daily Mail. They’re after Van Persie now”
Clearly, I wouldn’t have seen the faecal matter Jay was referring to as I wouldn’t read the Sports section of the Daily Heil if held at gun point. Not that the rest of the paper is a pantheon of journalistic integrity, the paper is symptomatic of a football media collective that is so far removed from anything with integrity.
This is the thing though – combine this lack of quality that redefines incompetence and you throw it into the mix of an agenda against Arsenal, the results are explosive.
Fuck everyone who suggests that there is no conspiracy. A conspiracy happens when more than one person plots to do something sinister. We don’t even have to look past the presenters at Talk Spite radio to satisfy this threshold. Throw in the print media, the punditocracy, Sly Sports and ESPN and the punks on BBC 5 live, the conspiracy makes Tony Soprano look like a pussycat.
Take the Robin Van Persie nonsense of a story. Someone at the Daily Heil decides that a new “Cesc must leave Arsenal story” needs to start sooner rather than later. He sits down in the pub across the road from Head Office, and after 4 pints and a dodgy meat pie, the light bulb moment hits. “I know, let’s do the Van Persie is unhappy shit storm”.
Next, Talk Spite radio picks it up as fact, followed by Sly Sports News who quote the Daily Heil as the source, before someone updates the Daily Heil article to quote Sly Sports as having broadcast the story.
Cue the internet circus who quote Sly Sports, Daily Heil and Talk Spite radio. The story then becomes a fait acommpli, with the hack who concocted the original story claiming he had the 4 pints and shared the meat pie with Darren Dein, Van Persie’s agent. Bedlam on the Arsenal faithful follows with Gazidis and Hill-Woods head being demanded alongside Wenger’s.
I’ve said it here loads of times, you don’t have to be paranoid for them to get at you. “Why do you think they’re after Arsenal” is the question I get asked all the time.
Simples. Arsenal represents a challenge to a Neolithic establishment that is in self-preservation mode. They feed off each other and they will attack anything that dares suggest an alternative to the status quo.
The fact that Arsenal hasn’t flown off the starting blocks this season is neither here nor there. It’s immaterial. The suggestion that 6 games into the season can tell you anything is as ludicrous as suggesting that if you sit at the front of a bus you’ll get to town before the guys sitting at the back of the bus.
This narrative of “Arsenal is in Crisis” didn’t start this season. It’s been in the making for a long time now and the end game is most definitely to hound Arséne Wenger out of English football and hopefully return Arsenal to mid-table mediocrity.
Never under-estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers. The bastards are determined and they don’t know when to stop.
“Arsenal in crisis” – my entire hairy ass.
A crisis is when you can’t feed your children because you have to live hand and mouth and can’t afford the next meal. A crisis is when the imminent default by the Greek government puts the Eurozone into free fall and risks the collapse of the Portuguese, Spanish and Italian economies – risking the very fabric of the European Union.
A crisis is when you wake up in a strange house after a one night stand, and your still drunk from the fumes of the previous night’s binging, you mistake a tube of Canesten for a non-branded toothpaste from Lidl or Aldi.
This narrative that ArsenalHasn’tWonATrophyIn7YearsAndAreInARelegationDogFight FC are in crisis needs to be filed right between shit and syphilis where it belongs.
Liverpool haven’t won shit in 6 years, let alone gone anywhere near the Premier League title. Why doesn’t anyone suggest they’re in crisis? What, because they spent over £100 million in transfers since Kenny Dalglish took over?
The only other two clubs that have won the Premier League since Arsenal have spent north of £1.7 billion to do It. Couple that with the over £1 billion investment in Man City by the Abu Dhabi Investment Corporation and we get told that it’s normal to spend the GDP of most developing countries to sustain a Premier league title.
The media shit storm about Arsenal is calculated, strategic and feeds off itself like an incestuous beast. And like lambs to a slaughter, people fall for it hook line and sinker.
Arsenal has work to do on the field to improve their form this season. There is no doubt about that. But to suggest meltdown or a crisis is just plain stupid. Of course the Van Persie contract stories help extend the narrative, but ask yourself this. Short of Van Persie’s agent sharing that dodgy meat pie with the hack who came up with this so called “exclusive” – are we suggesting that ArsenalHasn’tWonATrophyIn7Years FC actually briefed the press that Van Persie has refused to sign a contract even before contract talks start?
The worst thing about this is that lies and supposition is taken as fact even before the incestuous feedfest that engulfs the story while it goes viral. Editors aren’t bothered about checking facts or checking the quality and integrity of the articles their journalists write.
To be honest, you do wonder what it is most of them are paid for. It’s insulting to suggest that fans watching the game can’t form an opinion about what the game was like. Match reports are mind numbing at the least as hacks try to portray some sort of footballistic artistry when they write. Scraping the barrel is more like what they do.
Don’t even start me on the punditocracy, especially from former football players who couldn’t organize an empty drawer. Forget the tired ass clichés, most of these guys are actually incapable of any intellectual analysis. Suggesting they are illiterate would be kind.
I did actually question why I even bother to pay a licence fee to BBC after watching the Match of the Day re-run on Sunday morning. Hansen and Lowro’s punditry was as stale and uninspiring as watching Marcus Tandy in Eldorado.
But I agree with jay, they’re bastards, the whole lot of them.
Here I was thinking it couldn’t get any worse, but believe it or not, the Philistines are in town. They say bedlam is taking over. They’re taking no prisoners as the battle to control the asylum thickens.
“Bring me the head of Arséne Wenger” is the deafening refrain that can be equally heard from the shadowy alleyways around the Holloway road and the ether that is the Arsenal blogosphere.
Sir Harry Pearce and his Spooks have gawked in amazement at the sheer noise and traffic that is overwhelming their listening stations only to find that bitching about Arsenal is spiking internet traffic like a nonsense. Off he sends Dimitri and Malcolm (no wait, Malcolm left the service, right?) – it’s minimum wage Tariq – Yeah, off he sends Tariq to redirect the Arsenal chatter on the web to the Samaritans website and TheSuicideBunker.com.
“If those Arsenal bastards want to commit suicide, then get them off my frigging grid before I blow a gasket”, Sir Harry demands. We’ve got the Russians to deal with.
Meanwhile, at the Islington Cathedral, the masses file into the church awaiting the arrival of the doomed casket carrying the remains of ArsenalHasNotWonATrophyFor7YearsAndHaveOnlyGot16PointsFromTheLast16Games FC. The casket slowly navigates the streets of Islington towards the cathedral in a cortege flanked on either side by twin cannons mounted on top of carriages drawn by the 4 horses of the apocalypse.
Sly Sports News lead the procession with Mr Transfer Deadline Day himself – Jim White marching as he blows the trumpet to the tune of “Judgment Day”, as Jeff Stelling, Paul Merson and Phil Thompson sing along with gusto that would put the town crier to shame.
The front pews of the cathedral are filled by a smug Red nosed Ferguson and his lackeys Alex McLeash, Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce and Phil Brown. Happy Harry sits in the row behind though he’s constantly occupied on his Blackberry trying to confirm whether his case file with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs was hidden in the imminently arriving ArsenalHasNotWonATrophyFor7YearsAndHaveOnlyGot16PointsFromTheLast16Games FC casket.
As the Right Reverend Alan Brazil of the Talk Spite parish rises to meet the casket, the multitude stand and join in a solemn chorus of “Kumbayah my Lord Kumbayah – Arsenal’s dying Lord Kumbayah”.
“But where’s Arséne?” a voice murmurs from the shadows of the media box at the balcony.
“You didn’t hear?”, John Cross responds. “They beheaded him like William Wallace, quartered him and had his head mounted on a stick outside the Waitrose on Holloway Road. Looks like he’s a bit short for this funeral”.
“What about the Arsenal fans? Don’t’ they attend their own funeral?”
“Well, I hear those whose bodies were recovered from the mass suicide on Saturday evening are still awaiting identification and can only be processed after that”.
As Reverend Brazil takes the pulpit, the congregation sits and awaits the final sermon as the Arsenal Armageddon is complete.
“Dear friends. We gather here today to witness the demise of an institution that dared challenge the establishment, an institution that despite our warnings and cautionary advice, thought that they could get away with doing things differently from anyone in the game”.
“Let this be a lesson to any other club that tries living within its means and refusing to sign the English backbone that we told them to sign. How dare they”
“We will hunt you down and kill you. At Old Trafford, At Ewood Park, even abroad at the Nou Camp. We will hunt you down and crush you with the wrath of a mighty iron fist that will ensure we make an example of you”.
“When we tell you to spend money, you must. When we tell you to buy Gary Cahill and Scott Parker, you must listen to us. When we tell you that Man City are taking over the world by spending the equivalent of the GDP of most developing countries around the world, then you must respect that. This is the way football will run, otherwise you will end up in this casket in front of me”.
As the camera pans around the enclosure usually reserved for family, the spokesman for the Arsenal Supporters Trust can be seen weeping silently next to an equally silent gentleman and former owner who watches sombrely. Happy Harry receives a text that his fixer at Southwark Crown Court was arrested by his namesake Sir Harry Pearce, defender of the realm. He too starts weeping but it’s not in solidarity with the Arsenal folks, its more to do with his case file still being active.
As the pallbearers led by Wright and Merson picked for selling their souls to the highest bidder are joined by Stelling and his crew to lead the procession out – the Camera spans to a quiet corner of the cathedral where Cesc sits with his minders Xavi Hernandes and Carles Puyol, who constantly whisper in Spanish “you could have been in that coffin my friend”.
The casket for ArsenalHasNotWonATrophyFor7YearsAndHaveOnlyGot16PointsFromTheLast16Games FC is led out to its final resting place at the Royal Arsenal Museum in Woolwich. The deafening silence for this final procession is only disturbed by the sound of Rednose Ferguson loudly masticating his chewing gum.
Damn wait! Was this a dream?
5 games in and judgement day has been written. If you didn’t know better, you’d think United has already won the title. What do we know anyway, Arsenal is in a relegation dog fight, we better start acclimatizing to football grounds we’ve never been used to – some of which hold 67 people with room for a few dogs.
Mind you, a game against Shrewsbury Town is just the game we need to get us used to playing in the lower leagues.
If you want to find out what happened in the rest of my dream, follow me on Twitter and I might just reveal all.
Imagine my shock last night (seriously, don’t laugh) on the way back home after watching the Champions League games with a few friends in town. “Be careful what you wish for” is the age old maxim that should have bitch slapped me in the face when I asked the taxi driver to put some football on the radio.
With the BBC’s exemplary equal opportunity employment policy that allows mentally retarded presenters like Robbie Savage to become an “expert”, it usually is a coin toss between 5 live or Talk Spite radio as to which is capable of coming up with the most faecal matter that can be legally allowed in one production.
Unfortunately for me, it was BBC’s Mark Pougatch who gave me the urge to ask for the sick bag, and it wasn’t because of the alcohol I had consumed while watching the Manchester teams’ adventures in Europe.
As conspiracy theories go, Pougatch was banging on about how cynical it is for United to have 6 home Premier league games immediately following Champions League ties, while Manchester City had 6 away games. Not that I wouldn’t put that past fixture mandarins with the propensity to kiss Alex Ferguson’s rectal anatomy, but it was Pougatch’s next remark that made me wonder why it is again that British people are held at gun point to pay licence fees for public service broadcasting.
This apparently reputable BBC presenter then went on to say that he did some research on Monday before the Champions League games and found out about the conspiracy in favour of United. He also did Chelsea who had 4 away games, but didn’t bother with Arsenal.
“Why bother, they’re useless anyway”.
This is the thing. If Arsenal were useless, I have no problem accepting such an observation. But Arsenal are not useless. Notwithstanding the fact that we had a positive result in a very difficult game at Dortmund, the expectation was that United and City were going to sail through their match day 1 fixtures like the other teams didn’t exist.
But no, they didn’t, and it was fairly obvious that City in particular have a fight to make it through to the next stage. Napoli away won’t be a walk in the park, and they can wishfully think about how to beat Bayern Munich.
The thing that stood out most with this “Arsenal are useless anyway comment” from Pougatch was not what he said, but how he said it. You could feel the absolute contempt and disdain in his voice, and I was half expecting him to spit in the microphone next to complete the triangle with some illustration of disgust for Arsenal.
The worst kind of venomous people are the ones who hide their spite under a cloak of niceties and professionalism. But it eventually comes out and last night left me seriously questioning why I even bother to pay a licence fee to contribute to the salary of presenters who have this sort of contempt for their listeners. It’s no point writing to the BBC to complain, they’ve already got a statement prepared about professionalism and reputation and that they will review – yada yada yada.
My friend Consols Bob still has the e-mail they sent him about his complaint on Robbie Savage – suggesting that they have rigorous recruitment policies designed to root out the assholes an Savage passed with flying colours.
Mr Mark Pougatch – if you’re going to pretend to be professional and thorough in your presentation, then please do your job and research all English teams with the same vigour and intensity. The fact that you can spout out such venomous nonsense about a team that you clearly hate while on a public service broadcast to millions of people who pay your salary is an indictment of your professionalism and character. You’re are disgrace to the profession of journalism, but then again, you really don’t have a high threshold to beat in this respect.
It reminded me of a story that Mark Saggers, a former BBC presenter who’s now at Talk Spite radio once confessed to on air about the treatment he received from a colleague at BBC they regularly presented with. My money is on Mark Pougatch being the colleague Saggers was referring to and the contempt, disdain and disgust I witnessed last night is indicative of what was being suggested about this “mysterious” colleague who forced another to change ranches.
But then again you ask, what’s different from what Pougatch is doing to what the punks at Sly Sports do or what the cretins at Talk Spite do.
Indeed, why bother with Arsenal – we’re useless after all.
I think the most amusing thing about all this is that even though we’re useless (has anyone noticed my cynicism yet?), Tottenham are still beneath us. ‘Tis true what they say – A cannon will always destroy a cockerel.
And by the way, if you haven’t yet, follow me on twitter. I’m now getting the hang of it. We might even get @markpougatch to defend his disappointing comments last night. Although he’s already told an Arsenal fan that the fan was being flippant about his comments.
It’s been an interesting few days going walk-about, and meeting new folks while working in what I’d describe as a “pulling-your-teeth-out-without-a-local-anaesthetic” type of economy. You know the kind of economy that demands that you bend over, grab your ankles and doesn’t offer you the courtesy of using lubrication while shafting you in the most uncomfortable fashion.
“We’re heading to the dog house”, Joshua reminds all of us round the table discussing how best to stop our client from having to fold its tents and go to the wall.
To which I remind folks that whatever needs to be done should be done by Monday night so I can make my way back home. I have a very important European engagement on Tuesday night with an organization in Germany that specializes in the kind of artistic expression I normally indulge in at the home of football.
“Since when was football an art”, comes the retort from Steve across the table.
See, you have to forgive Steve. Not only does he have the personality of a puff adder, he resents that I call Wengerball and what Arsenal does as art. Personally, I think he’s a closet United fan, but he pretends he doesn’t give a hooting funt about football.
“Europe is fucked anyway. How long will they pretend the frigging elephant in the room is a hippo”, Joshua eloquently brings some order to the table.
And it makes you think. Greece is way past staring at the abyss, and they’re at the point where the abyss is smiling right back at them before it swallows the whole country into a very dark place. Ireland and Portugal like most other fairly mediocre economies were propelled by the smoke and mirrors of a European political plot hatched in Maastricht to create the United States of Europe. A plot which has back fired spectacularly with the impending collapse of whichever is the lesser of two evils, the Eurozone and its single currency, or the European Union in its current form.
The amazing thing is this though. The football establishment still thinks that everything is normal and that what is happening around them will not affect their existence. You only have to listen to the illiterate punditocracy jizzing and sycophanting about the amount of money being spent by a cabal of filthy rich individuals, or in the case of Manchester City, another country’s sovereign wealth fund.
When talking about Everton, a club that pretty much has to ask Barclays Bank for permission to pay the bills – the solution offered is that they should go to the middle east and look for a sugar daddy because that’s the only way to survive.
This kind of “chocolate tea pot” reasoning is what has contributed to a culture of recklessness when it comes to football finance. The expectation is that the only way of working through the challenges of the game is by spending money you don’t even have to buy your way out of it. We’re constantly told that “it’s the way the world is now”. Accept it or take the highway. If you don’t have money, you can’t compete.
The hacks get bemused when Arséne Wenger suggests that football is pretty much going to hit a cash crisis in the very near future. You can almost see their rolling eyes scream out “Wenger should just stick to managing Arsenal and buying the big name, big money players he needs to compete with City and United”.
Mind you, Wenger is a guy who has a masters degree in economics, and it wouldn’t be farfetched to suggest that he actually has a clue about what he says regarding the economy. As they famously say, the tide is coming, and only after it has left will we see those who’ve been swimming naked.
It’s not even about the Financial Fair Play rules. Clubs will find loopholes around that. They won’t be able to cheat the economy though. I hear people say that clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid or even the debt riddled Man United will never be allowed to fail. There’s an Asian tycoon or Arab billionaire waiting in the wings to save them.
The thing is this though, it really doesn’t matter how luxurious and state of the art your yacht is. It could be the world’s most expensive and the world’s most fanciful boat. If you don’t have a lake or an ocean to prounce around in, then it’s pretty useless.
If the economies of Spain and Italy collapse – and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility – the super clubs in these countries will come tumbling down like a house of cards built on a foundation of smoke and mirrors. Ireland, Portugal and Greece are the proverbial warning signs and even though they represent a small percentage of the European economy, they’re the biggest red flags in town.
Italy alone represents 23% of the European economy and it’s pretty much unsavable by the patch up “rescue” packages being pushed around by Germany and France.
And people ask me why I love Arsenal so much. The answer – Arsenal is an oasis of sanity in an orgy of excess.
We get another opportunity to enjoy a new European adventure for the 14th consecutive season. We get to play a great team like Borussia Dortmund in an electric atmosphere.
And this is the thing to remember. Because of the foundations that Arsenal has built, we will continue to enjoy being at the high table of football for a very long time to come. While others figure out how to get out of their financial quagmire – well, they’ll probably try find a sugar daddy – we’ll be straddling the European landscape with our brand of scintillating and exciting football.
What more can you ask for?
Last evening, there was a captivating debate on ACLF about the extent of racism in football. Yogi’s joint has this eclectic mix of fascinating characters who occasionally take a spin outside football and indulge in profound discussions about politics, police states, the economy and many other colourful topics.
What struck me about the discussion yesterday was the level of understanding and ignorance in equal measure when it came to the reality of racism in football. It was a discussion triggered by the suggestion by former West Bromwich defender Brendan Batson that affirmative action was needed in English football to open up opportunities in management for blacks and other ethnic minorities.
So, in the sporting world’s rendition of General William Sherman’s 1865 special field order No. 15, is it time for English football to start handing out the “40 acres and the regulation mule” to managers of colour?
The redistribution of arable land to freed slaves was an effort to give them a chance to make a living in recognition of the clear disadvantage they already faced. Even as far back , that representation of affirmative action was deemed necessary to try and redress inequalities stemming from generations of slavery, despite its revocation after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
And here we are nearly 145 years later, and the “Rooney Rule” (nothing to do with that other one from Manchester) is seen as the only viable mechanism to break the establishment’s stronghold on the status quo when it comes to the lack of black managers in football.
Racism, like with most other “isms” is an emotive subject on any given day, and one commonly misunderstood characteristic is how racism manifests itself. It doesn’t have to be overt or explicit for it to exist. And in most cases, it is subconscious, subtle and hidden under the surface.
We’ve seen the numerous high profile initiatives and campaigns in football like “kick It Out” that in my opinion, are feeble and toothless PR exercises for the establishment to show that it is doing something. Only this week, the England football team were training with the “Kick it Out” bracelets to show the media and the world that they were sensitive to the racism experienced in Bulgaria during the fixture last week.
I know it’s feeble and spineless because it’s not nearly enough and not gutsy and deep enough to effect any changes. Footballing authorities are more interested in spending time witch-hunting banned managers for misdemeanours like sending signals to the bench from the stands via mobile phone, instead of tackling clear cases of racism.
It was only recently that Sergio Busquets of Barcelona blatantly abused an opponent with explicit racist slurs and FIFA and UEFA concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence. Gil Grisham from CSI would have built a case against Busquets from the TV footage even without leaving his sofa.
But it isn’t just the racism in the stands and terraces, and the racism on the field of play. When it comes to management, officiating, and the board room, the trend continues. It’s shocking that out of the 92 registered association football members, only Chris Hughton at Birmingham and Chris Powell at Charlton are black.
At the highest level of football, we’ve seen the likes of Paul Ince, Ruud Gullit and Jean Tigana take charge of top football clubs, but is that nearly enough?
I don’t buy the argument that there aren’t enough black or minority professionals capable of doing the job at the highest levels. The fact that not many are even pursuing the opportunities in management is symptomatic of the fact that they are not likely to get the chance to manage at a high level, even if they were extremely competent and capable.
Nobody’s advocating for not giving the best man or woman the job. In an ideal world, the best candidate triumphs. But idealism and reality are two parallel universes. The reality is that the footballing establishment still live in the stone age and represent values and principles that are out of step with the modern world.
There’s a lot of noises about change, and a lot of noises about inclusion and diversity. They say “but, can’t you see how colourful the Premier league and the football leagues are? We have black, Asian and Hispanic players happily plying their trade alongside white folks”.
The blunt truth is that despite the player diversity numbers, racism is still alive. It’s taken a long time to get to where we are, but there are still tangible cases of racism towards players. My sense is that it got to a tipping point where it was impossible to ignore the talents of exceptional black players and that’s the reason barriers started breaking.
Sweden in the summer of 1958 was probably not prepared for a black 17 year old Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele), but history will suggest that the world will never forget him. Pele spectacularly announced himself on the world stage despite the “hostile” conditions towards black players.
Much more work has to be done in other areas of football, whether in management and coaching, or in the board room. As much as the establishment might want to rationalize or justify what is happening or what initiatives have been put in place, not nearly enough is being done.
If we need to hand over footballing’s equivalent of 40 acres and a mule, then it needs to happen. It’s criminal that opportunities for minority professionals in a game of such a high percentage of minority players is almost non-existent.
This isn’t about handing over jobs to disadvantaged folks for the sake of political correctness. It’s about recognizing that we’re not even starting from a level playing field and we have to do something drastic about it. It’s about getting them to the table. Those who are good enough can take care of themselves from there.
As the troops roll in from the wilderness of international football, Arsenal fans look forward to a mouth-watering prospect of seeing the long awaited new faces grace the hallowed turf at the Emirates. Ordinarily, playing Swansea wouldn’t be such a big deal, but it’s safe to say that Arsenal probably didn’t get the memo about the Premier league starting on 13th of August.
Well, considering our freakish start to the season, a game against Swansea at home, with shiny brand new signings and a rejuvenated spirit is the only way to go. Everyone from the tea lady at Stoke City FC to my 82 year old neighbour has had something to say about Arsenal’s alleged crisis.
Perhaps the most rewarding thing in all this dooms day nonsense is that despite the worst start to a season Arsenal has ever made in my memory, Tottenham are still below us on the table. There are indeed still small mercies in life. Even when you consider the witch hunt against the Arsenal medical staff for allegedly engineering constant injuries to our players, the only other team with a worse injury record than us are Tottenham.
My sense is that it’s a good thing that we’ve got the demons out of our system early this season. It’s hard to see how things can get any worse than they have been, and thankfully, the ghastly transfer window is closed for another 114 days. It’s been a summer of torturous nonsense, speculation, conjecture and outright bullshit peddled by all and sundry in the name of “exclusives”, “transfer talk”, and everyone thinking they know what is happening yet they know bugger all.
The negativity around Arsenal has been nothing short of suffocating and some sanity should be restored when the football comes back. There’s no hiding from the fact that since we lost the Carling cup final, we’ve only won 2 Premier league games against Blackpool and Man United. Clearly, that isn’t good enough, and steps have been taken to improve this. We need to let the changes take shape and back the team to the hilt when they step across that white line.
It’s a long season and Li’l Jack and Vermaelen in particular should not be rushed back under any circumstances. Abou Diaby is also due back in training by the end of this month, with Song and Gervinho being let out of jail after this weekend. With the 9 new additions, the squad looks healthy and we can focus on the football.
There are many who still have a hangover about the prodigal son’s return to Broke Back Barca, and the assertion that he should have been replaced therefore we are a weaker squad. Assuming you can find a replacement for “he who sold out to Broke Back Barca” – you have to ask whether elevating an individual to superstar status is the answer.
Surely, Thierry Henry and the prodigal son should have taught us the downside of building a team around an individual. My sense is that we need more players in the team to take responsibility and not to have the expectation that the team will be carried by an individual with superhuman ability when times get tough.
We now have experience with the introduction of players like Santos, Mertesacker, Arteta, Benayoun, Gervinho and Park to complement our resident generals like Van Persie, Vermaelen, Sagna, Arshavin and Rosicky.
My sense is that Wenger is tweaking our style of play to a more direct “in your face” counter attacking style to deal with the teams that come to the Emirates to park an aircraft carrier in front of goal. Possession football has its flaws and hopefully the pace of Theo, Gervinho, The Ox and Ryo will help with getting behind the defence lines.
The season starts Saturday and we’ve got everything to play for.