An Open Letter To BT Sport – Get Rid of Michael Owen

Michael wonders why everyone has suddenly left the stadium.

Michael wonders why everyone has suddenly left the stadium.

Dear BT Sport;

I know that you’re new to this whole sport broadcasting thing, but if you continue to be a provider of Premier League football coverage there is one thing that you absolutely must do. You have to banish Michael Owen from your team. Do not let him represent you by speaking in any way manner or form in a public broadcast again. He is terrible.

They say some people have a face for radio, well Michael Owen has a voice for mime. Aside from his barely veiled bias toward Liverpool and his hard on for Man United, he sounds like what cardboard would sound like if it could speak. He has a voice  like the Richard Harrow character off Boardwalk Empire, except that character has a voice like that because half his face has been blown off, which is naturally going to effect the way he sounds. That and the fact that he murders people for a living are inclined to make him also sound a bit dull and depressive. Michael Owen does not have this excuse.

Listening to Michael Owen, it… it… it actually hurts. Not in a the way a sharp object hurts when you are stabbed with it, Michael Owen is way to dull for that effect. It’s more like chronic discomfort. It gives you a feeling of anxiety, nausea and mild depression all at once – like the side effects of bad sleeping pills.

Please get rid of him. Please. He was a decent footballer (if not a chronic ‘sick note’), I hear he’s good at golf and a really good horse breeder, but you can’t be good at everything and he truly, truly, sucks at sports punditry. Even when he’s on screen he looks like he’s a prototype of an android, he’s unbelievable awkward looking and dull.

Some things work well together, like strawberry’s and cream, Morecambe and Wise, Lionel Messi and a football. Michael Owen and broadcasting are like Chris Quentin and the American film industry – it’s never going to happen. That is all.

Regards
Beasley Green

PS: I am not alone:

‘Boring’ Michael Owen savaged for BT Sport commentary debut
Five Reasons Why Michael Owen Will Flop as a Football Pundit

There’s Something About José

“When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”

Eric Cantona’s response to the press after winning his appeal against a charge of assault for attacking an abusive Crystal Palace fan in 1995 is arguably one of the most famous football quotes in Premier League history. Ok, it’s not directly about football and it wasn’t exactly spontaneous, but for sheer originality alone, it has to be up there with the very best. However, I would suspect leading the argument against with a fanfare blown from his very own trumpet would be a certain Portuguese football manager.

José Mourinho is now probably known as much for what he says off the pitch as for what his teams do on it. The self proclaimed “special one” would surely have the statement that announced his entrance onto the Premier League stage at the top of any list of Greatest Premier League quotes if there was one. He would likely argue that he has won the league in four different countries and that his quotes are about football rather than being some cryptic analogy about seagulls, (the press) sardines (news stories) and trawlers (footballers) spouted by a player who didn’t even win a Champions League – of which he has three. He would argue his point because it is true and right, but mainly just because he loves the attention that a good verbal bust up gets. But then again, maybe he wouldn’t argue at all. Maybe he would make a point of not arguing his point, knowing that his refusal to engage in the argument would in itself gain attention. Or maybe he would just sniff the air, claim he can smell a headline and leave the building in a laundry basket. He is the Special One. He does what he wants.

“I am a special one”


There used to be something about José that was quite interesting, quite intriguing. He is undoubtedly a very talented football manager, which his success has clearly proven. However, unlike the genuinely enigmatic, Gallic forward known by United fans as ‘King Eric’, José has become a bit boring. If Eric Cantona was John Lennon then José Mourinho would definitely be Paul McCartney – talented, yes, accomplished, yes, but perhaps he’s been around doing the same thing for too long to remain interesting or even relevant anymore.

Eric Cantona will always be better known for doing his metaphorical talking on the pitch than he will be for his surreal, verbal stab at the media and the kung fu kicking he gave an abusive fan. Despite reconstructing himself into a serious actor after his premature retirement from football aged 30, Cantona still retains his enigma and mythical status amongst the red half of Manchester. In contrast, the self-proclaimed ‘special one’ has become a little… predictable – dull even. And to be honest, the football his teams produce isn’t that much more interesting.

Perhaps it’s just me, but it appears that despite his impressive CV, José’s footballing achievements seem to have been overshadowed by his headline grabbing, media performances. The paradox being that, as he has increasingly come to believe his own hype, his concerted efforts to make every press utterance a quote-worthy headline seems to have bored everyone into indifference. When I watch Mourinho in a press conference I see a man painstakingly shepherding his thoughts and filtering his words to make them into something… something… more. More than what they are, which is just a bit of sport punditry. I mean let’s face it, he’s not presiding over civil war every week is he?

There have been times when José has deferred praise and come over all humble, but it’s just not convincing. However, if there is one person who José holds any reverence for, it is Sir Alex Ferguson. When Real Madrid beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Champions League in 2013, José’s apologetic submission that “the best team lost” carried the melancholic weight of a Greek tragedy – it was almost pathetic. Like watching Princess Diana’s butler cry after admitting selling her secrets to the tabloids for money. Despite his managerial talents, José is no actor. When he is trying to feign humility, the fact that he’s trying – and trying really hard – shows like a heavy layer of sweat, weighing his words down with a soggy contrivance.


There’s no doubt that José is a winner, but there are two kinds of winners in sport. There are those who think only of the result and their ego, and those who revel in the competition and the performance. The former would argue that the result is all that matters when making history, but I think for those in the latter category the result diminishes in importance if not matched by the performance. As a spectator I would agree with the latter. When I think of the great teams and the great athletes, I remember their performances.

In tennis Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras were great, but win or lose, I always enjoyed watching John McEnroe and Boris Becker more. Whilst Alain Prost may have won more Formula 1 titles, Ayrton Senna’s name will be long remembered in the hearts of the fans after Prost’s has been forgotten. And when we think of boxing, the names that spring to the forefront are Ali, Tyson and the two Sugar Ray’s  – Robinson and Leonard. Can we say in 50 years time that Lewis, Klitschko or Calzaghi will stir as much reminiscent excitement? And whilst we all remember the great Brazil teams and their flamboyant displays on the pitch, we don’t always remember the solid performances of the Germans or the Italians, despite those nations having arguably parallel successes over the course of history. There is no doubt that José will be remembered in football’s history, but I wonder if any of his teams will be.

José’s brand of football seems to reflect his style of media delivery – dull, methodical, defensive, solidity, punctuated by occasional incisive, attacking moves and usually finished off by a big, hard, unflinching, direct striker. Relentless and monotonous are two words that spring to mind for both aspects of José’s career – coaching winning teams and soliciting media interest with a relentless conviction and monotonous regularity. But for José the off-field media play is as an important part of his game plan as his team formations and tactics. For José, it’s not how you play the game, it’s whatever you can get away with to win it.

Much of José’s game plan is about getting under the skin of his opposing managerial competition, but during his time at Real Madrid his inability to destabilise Pep Guardiola and upstage Barcelona got to him. Pep was younger than José, more dignified, composed, more respected and better liked than him. In his debut managerial job Guardiola had produced a Barcelona team that the footballing world were drooling over – the best football team to ever grace the field of play they were saying. No matter what José would ever do, he knew that nobody would say that about any of his teams. That type of accolade transcends winning trophies – which Guardiola also did – a domestic and European treble in 2009 no less. So how did José cope with his new competition?

Despite having the most expensive player in the world in his team (although not the best – parallels between Mourinho / Guardiola and Ronaldo / Messi can be easily drawn here too), José just couldn’t outplay Barcelona. So he resorted to kicking and violence. But the kicking and the violence didn’t work either and Mourinho suffered the most humiliating defeat of his career at the Bernabeu in 2010; Barcelona battered his team 6-2. This was followed by a run of 4 consecutive defeats against his Catalan rivals (including a 5-0 drubbing at the Nou Camp) only punctuated by a 1-1 draw in Madrid. But perhaps the most humiliating episode in José’s career to date is the petulant eye-poking assault on Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova that followed a flare up during the Super Cup in 2011. That act really unveiled the façade of composure that belies the inner tantrum of a sore loser. Perhaps more telling than ironic, Madrid actually won that game.

José left Madrid in 2013 after he finally managed to win a La Liga title, but many were glad to see the back of him. They felt that the dirty tactics he adopted to overcome his Catalan rivals tarnished Real Madrid’s image. By then Guardiola had already left Barcelona and rejected an offer to become Chelsea manager to take a sabbatical from the game. Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson, the one manager for whom José had nothing but reverential admiration for, was on his way out of Old Trafford. What next for José? A return to the place where he was loved – Chelsea (but only because Pep Guardiola turned down the job).

José’s return to the Premiership was relatively low key. He seemed to be more mature, less severe and a little softer around the edges. He played down his chances of winning the league and spoke of Chelsea as the “little horse”, and his “beautiful young eggs that need a mum”. This was a team he was building for an assault on the league title next year. The mediocre and typically uninspiring performances of his team reflected that. But it wasn’t long before the nasty barbs came out again and the targets were the obvious ones – anybody threatening his title challenge. So there were patronising backhanded complements given to Brendan Rodgers, the “young manager”  who was once José’s understudy. There was mud slung at sexagenarian’s Arsene Wenger – who he labeled a “specialist in failure” – and Manuel Pelligrini with whom he already had previous, having mocked his appointment at Malaga after he replaced him at Madrid.

Now we’re at the money end of the season and Chelsea are title contenders, the abstract distractions – references to money, fixtures, players even the scent of goals – all these things are part of José’s arsenal of obfuscation that he utilises to attain victory. Unbowed by grace or humility, José will try anything to win. He is no respecter of age, rules, rights or wrongs. His aim is to make history and make a few headlines along the way.

For some, a simple statistic in the history books is all that matters. For others, a chapter that is retold over and over, telling a story of strength, desire, skill and passion means much more. In an era where every second of every football moment is recorded in posterity, I think those looking back from the future on the great teams of yesteryear will be enjoying the games involving Manchester United, Barcelona and even Arsenal more than José’s Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Madrid. It is very possible that in 50 years time people will remember José more than his teams. We will remember his post and pre-match interviews, his touchline performances and his increasingly self-indulgent ramblings, but how many of his incredibly successful teams’ performances will last in the memory?

Despite all of this, there’s still something about José that I like. For all his flaws he offers more entertainment value than Moyes, Allardyce, Martinez, Hughes, Hughton, Pulis, Rodgers, Pelligrini and even Wenger. In the absence of characters like Alex Ferguson, Harry Redknapp and even Roberto Mancini, post-match press conferences have become a wasteland of blandness this season. For all the criticism that can justifiably be landed at his doorstep, José does give an otherwise anodyne arena of sport the promise of something a little bit different, even if it is more of the same.

Media Outrage is a Great Form Of Publicity

This week French footballer Nicolas Anelka of West Bromich Albion was handed a five-match ban by the FA for brandishing a ‘quenelle’ salute after scoring in a Premier League football match last December. According to The Bleacher Report, this whole episode has “rocked football”. This means Anelka’s actions have actually shuddered the whole footballing world to its very core. But what is a quenelle I hear your collective thoughts ask? Is it a new hairstyle? A euphemism for male genitalia or a radical form of ‘twerking’? Well I had no idea what a ‘quenelle’ was either until the sports media spotlighted it so publicly in the wake of Monsieur Anelka’s FA hearing.

For those who haven’t been informed via the recent media public service announcements on Sky Sports News, TalkSport radio and the BBC’s Match Of The Day and Football Focus programmes, a ‘quenelle’ is an inverted salute that is (to use disclaiming media parlance) ‘allegedly’ anti-Semitic.

Making insulting or indecent gestures during English Premier League (or perhaps I should use the more correct term – Barclay’s Premier League) football matches contravenes FA Rule E3(1). Worse still, as an FA spokesperson told CNN, what Anelka did was “… an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3(2), in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief” [allegedly].

How to do the quenelle - you put your right hand up, your left hand out, you do it after scoring and it gets about.

How to do the quenelle – you put your right hand up, your left hand out, the media is outraged and it gets about.

So now myself along with millions of other people know something that we didn’t know a week ago. We know that there is more than one salute that can be used to insult the Jewish community. The other offensive salute we all know is the Nazi salute, an established anti-Semitic gesture that was brutally hacked into history by the barbaric actions of a delusional and psychopathic dictator called Hitler, who along with his army and the backing of the ruling classes of an entire nation, murdered millions of Jews and almost took over Europe during the Second World War. The quenelle on the other hand is a little know (until now) gesture invented by a little known (until now) French comedian called Dieudonne M’Bala. However, thanks to the media it is now etched into the minds of antagonistic anti-Semites the world over for future reference.

Exclusive: Dieudonne Breaks Silence On Quenelle

Anelka denies the FA charge, claiming that he made the gesture in support of Dieudonne with whom he is friends. But for one writer reporting in ‘Japan Today’ (yes, it has spread that far) Anelka is guilty by association for having “atrocious” taste in friends. Well that isn’t a crime. If it was then entire Western governments would be rounded up and locked away for their politically congenial allegiances to dictators guilty of pillaging public funds, torture, mass murder and any number of crimes against humanity (more later). However, some people in the media are arguing that Anelka is guilty because he deliberately made the gesture during a game that he knew was being televised in France where the quenelle is well known, thus proving that he intended to cause racial insult.

Anelka has been a prodigious goal-scoring talent throughout his illustrious and lucrative career, but he has seen better days – notably at (no offence West Brom) much bigger clubs like Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Juventus. To suggest that he chose a specific game to make the gesture is also to suggest that he can score at will. This is pretty ridiculous when you consider that the quenelle salute came after he scored his first goal for West Brom since signing for the club last summer. However, the point here isn’t whether the gesture was intended to be deliberately insulting or inflammatory. Anelka – who is a practicing Muslim and a Black man – may very well have anti-Semitic sentiments. The point is, by highlighting his gesture so publicly, the sports and news media have quite literally given his [allegedly] racist insult a global platform and helped to promote his [allegedly] anti-Semitic message to a whole new audience. If his gesture was intended to insult and incite, he must be sat in his footballer’s mansion beaming with great satisfaction at the global spotlight the media have given to his [alleged] anti-Semitic cause.

I’m not supporting Anelka’s [alleged] racist agenda, nor would I support any racist propaganda. At the same time I’m not agreeing that Anelka had a racist agenda. He denies his gesture is racist but rather “anti establishment”, a claim that is supported by Dieudonne, the very man who invented the gesture. This contradiction in itself makes the whole story a little bemusing. The person who made the gesture says it wasn’t meant to be racist. The person who invented the gesture said it isn’t racist. That means that the media and the small group of people (a group that will undoubtedly be a lot larger since the media have promoted the issue) who have adopted the gesture as a symbolic racist epithet, are the people who have actually radicalised the gesture – this much is clear. So what did the press intend to achieve by giving this story so much publicity? Was it their obligation to ensure that the public’s right to know was satisfied?

Now I have isntructions I can be suitable outraged

Now I have instructions I can be suitably outraged.

First of all let’s get something clear – the media doesn’t really care about whether a footballer or any other sportsperson causes offence to any individual or group unless it impacts on their revenue. The media pays its salaries by the revenue it receives from advertising, so they only care about producing content that will draw attention to their newspapers, magazines, television programmes and websites. That much is a fact. Despite never being involved in any acts of violence or sex scandals in the past, Nicolas Anelka (dubbed by the media as ‘Le Sulk’) has often courted controversy throughout his career and people know who he is. Any story involving Anelka is going to draw attention, and make no mistake, that’s what the media outlets really care about. If their enthusiasm for this story was grounded in ethics then they would have thought about what was going to be achieved by bringing this hitherto unknown gesture to the forefront of the British public’s attention. They would have then come to the conclusion that it would be best to bury the story in the corner of the sports section somewhere and let the FA deal with Anelka quietly. However, the gesture would have no doubt caught the attention of someone somewhere via social media.

Despite what you may be led to believe about social media dictating what the media reports on, this is not true. The popular press and wider media control what the general public see, hear and to a large degree, think. They are more than capable of ‘burying’ a story if they believe it will harm them by offending their political allies or corporate paymasters. For example, prior to Ukraine and Poland hosting Euro 2012, there had been an outbreak of a “plague” in the Ukraine in 2009. I would have thought this detail was newsworthy, but the story got virtually no coverage by the popular Western media. Recently the scandal surrounding allegations that Franck Ribery – a married man and Muslim convert – had sex with an underage prostitute in 2009 only made a little ripple in the British press. Ribery was in the running for the Ballon d’Or and the trial was, somewhat conveniently, adjourned until 20th January 2014 – a week after the awards ceremony (Cristiano Ronaldo won by the way).

I’m a Manchester City fan, but I am under no illusions as to the motivation behind Sheik Mansour’s acquisition of my club. Why would Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi Nahyan Royal Family, want to spend billions on turning a mid-table Mancunian football club with a long history of calamitous failure but a huge fan base, into the biggest club in the world? I don’t think it’s because he loved Subbuteo as a kid. As David Conn of The Guardian points out, it is probably more to do with utilising the club to promote other UAE commercial interests when the oil cash cow of the Middle East finally runs dry, whilst at the same time deflecting from their countries poor human rights record.

Football is a global industry that inspires blind, irrational, passionate support from its supporters. Owners of successful football clubs have a global platform from which they can promote anything. Yet despite the FA’s commitment to ensuring club owners are “fit and proper”, the media has barely rippled the caftan of Sheik Mansour’s political affairs back home. Why would they? Well the Emirates Centre for Human Rights Trial Observation Report concluded that the 69 people convicted and detained without fair trial for petitioning for democratic reforms due to human rights abuses in the UAE ‘had been subjected to torture and denied basic safeguards of a fair trial’? And in the wake of the media support for Thomas Hitzlsperger when he revealed his homosexuality following his retirement from football, aren’t the media concerned that the owners of an English football club have laws in their own country that can lead to a sentence of death for homosexual activity?

The answer of course is, no. The scandal involving Ruport Murdoch’s News Of The World which resulted in The Levenson Enquiry clearly established that there is, and has been for some time, a mutually convenient relationship between press and parliament. Most of us acknowledge that parliament and corporate business also sleep in the same bed. So with the Mansour family plying billions into the British economy in the shape of large developments in Manchester and a £1.5 billion investment being plied into a deep water port development in London, despite David Cameron stating “On human rights, there are no no-go areas in this relationship” during his  delegation to the UAE to sell military hardware to Sheik Khalifa, it is no surprise that the British media aren’t really too keen to press the comparatively minor issue of human rights of people in another country.

When it comes to popular media, the public interest is only important in so much as how much of the public will be interested in the associated advertising. Issues that may impact on profit and the privileges afforded their organisations remain sacrosanct amongst the larger and more popular media outlets. Whilst some prickly issues will be reported on to maintain press credibility, how much they will be reported on will largely depend on how much the powers that be (corporate and political) actually want them to be reported. Therefore the press concentrates on palatable, relativey harmless and vacuously distracting celebrity news that the man in the street can digest without thinking too hard about it. If the readers think too hard about a story they fail to notice the message from the sponsors.

I think therefore I buy

I think therefore I buy

So Anelka and his [allegedly] racist quenelle gesture isn’t really the biggest story in sport and it certainly hasn’t “rocked football”. If anything has rocked football in recent weeks it is the rapid demise this season of the current Premier League Champions, the once mighty Manchester United. The only thing the media have achieved by blowing up the Anelka gesture story is to add something more to the vocabulary of racist offence. Essentially they have helped the very cause they purport to condemn. Now anti-Semites worldwide have another weapon of insult to hurl at people. Whilst Monsieur Anelka may have tossed a little racist dirt into the public arena (allegedly), thanks to the efforts of the media, his insult is now firmly cemented onto the global landscape. Meanwhile, Sheik Mansour and his family continue to preside over an Arab empire that denies many basic human rights. But hey, that doesn’t really matter because Manchester City are one of the biggest and most entertaining football teams in the world – and the media loves entertainment. Entertainment helps to sell advertising.

Further reading:

The Hidden Story of Sheik Mansour

*If you tire of the inane and politically biased ‘news’ you see in the usual newspapers and media channels such as Sky, Fox, CNN, BBC, ITV etc. There are several independent sources of news that regularly give a more balanced account of what is going on in your world, because it is your world. It doesn’t belong to a small group of wealthy men, despite what you are led to believe.
Try the links below for an alternative view on things:
www.upworthy.com
www.avaaz.org
www.thinkprogress.org
and for a little bit of satirical light relief…
www.thedailymash.co.uk
www.thepoke.co.uk

Football Family

Football, a funny old game – of two halves – but it only takes a minute to score a goal, and at the end of the day – that’s what wins matches. Putting the ball in the back of the net, because that’s what it’s all about, winning. But it isn’t. There’s more than that. The coverage, the commentary, the clichés and the cut of the new kit. It’s about performing in the theatres of dreams to the elation of the crowds and for the profit of the sponsors. Big games, big names, big stadia, big money and big adjectives. The Beautiful Game, the beautiful players… hang on a minute! That’s going too far. Prancing primadonna’s with sublime skills is one thing but in fact, footballers are more likely to share the aesthetic appeal of ‘Ginger Ninja’ Paul Scholes than ‘Goldenballs’ Beckham, and not all managers have the suave sophistication of a Mancini or Mouriho either, so let’s have a look at the extended football family… just for fun of course 😉

***

Manuel Pellegrini

Being a City fan looking forward to a new season with a new manager in 2013, I’ve been looking at Señor Pellegrini. At 59 the man they call ‘The Engineer’ is no spring chicken, and having spent a career working in the sunshine of Spain and South America, the sun has taken its toll and he now bears more than a passing resemblance to Zelda from Terrahawks. I imagine one sharp look from this guy will keep most in the dressing room in check.

Manuel Pelligrini

Terra on the touchline, Pellegrini is set to conquer world football

Rafa Benitez

Mr. Interim at Chelsea seemed to have picked up a poisoned chalice when he took over from fan’s favourite Roberto Di Matteo for the second half of the season. But Rafa Benitez is just like his distant cousin Penfold from Dangermouse, no matter how much of a disaster he finds himself in he always manages to come out on top… except at Inter Milan of course.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa the unflappable – fact!

Joey Barton

Wes Craven is best known for the Nightmare on Elm Street films, but in 1977 Craven made a horror film about a clan of deformed, inbred, cannibal mutants who terrorise a family that get stranded whilst on a road trip. The quote on the DVD release simply says “HARROWING AND NASTY”, what more is there to say about ex-con Joey Barton – the trademark cold sore and dead-eyed glare are enough to put you off your pint. Thankfully Monsieur Barton now plies his trade at Marseille in between bouts of assault and verbal diarrhoea on Twitter.

Joey Barton mutant creature

“Harrowing and nasty”

Gaby Agbonlahor

Staying on the mutant theme but on a much less nasty note, we turn our attentions to Aston Villa and England winger, Gaby Agbonlahor. I just couldn’t decide which side was Gaby’s best side, so I decided not to side with either side and present you both sides. Turning to show his left, Gaby is a dead ringer for Sloth from the Goonies, whilst down on the right he strikes a much more regal pose as he looks out toward his carer waiting in the stands, giving him a striking resemblance to Family Guy’s favourite office worker, Opie.

Gaby Abmonglahor and friends

Gaby dreams of finding the treasure of his One Eyed Willy

Luis Suarez

Mid-season, when Luis Suarez was twisting and turning defences inside out for Liverpool, you could forgive his cheating, diving, antics and laugh them off. Then he was just a cheeky little buck-toothed Uruguayan striker that everyone wanted in their team and he reminded me of Rocky the flying squirrel. Then he sunk his teeth into a Chelsea defender and returned to being a nasty little critter just like the rabid, poisoned, rat-monkey, from Peter Jackson’s ‘Braindead’ movie. Noxious vermin is a little too strong, but only a little.

Luis Suarez

The Sumatran rat-monkey is deadly in the box.

Yossi Benayoun

Staying with creatures of the night we look at a player who now only occasionally appears in between long periods of absence, resurfacing in a different coloured shirt at a different ground after being silently transferred without ever being noticed. Just like Nosferatu the Vampyre Yossi Benayoun rises from the grave of mediocrity before disappearing again into mystery and obscurity, making some believe whether he ever really existed at all.

Yossi Nosferatu

Yossi Nosferatu has been around for longer than you think

Marouane Fellaini

Just like his sword wielding, animated, counterpart, Marouane Fellaini takes no prisoners on the field of play at Everton. His trademark afro is often seen towering above opponents in the box as he heads the ball into the back of the net and his deadly elbow is often seen by the ref as he smashes it into opponents faces. His uncompromising, aggressive style makes him the original Afro Samurai.

Afro Marouane Samurai

David Luiz

There is only one serious contender for the Carlos Valderrama Big Hair Crown in the Premiership and that is Chelsea’s David Luiz. It is big, but it’s not clever and it’s pretty obvious who his distant cousin is – it has to be Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons – nuff said.

Sideshow Dave

Perhaps a cameo on the Simpsons with brother Bob is on the cards!

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger has fallen out of favour with some Arsenal fans because of his frugal approach to spending on big players. Whilst refusing to part with the clubs cash to improve his squad, he continues to sell off players who go on to win trophies at other clubs – or in the case of Adebyor, win a contract and then do bugger all on the pitch. With his miserly approach to the modern game the obvious distant cousin would be Mr. Burns of The Simpsons. However, the spell Arsene seems to have over the club he manages is more akin to the influence of a Sith Lord. His Jedi mind tricks seem to work every season as Arsenal slip closer and closer toward the Darkside – fifth place and into the Europa league. So let me introduce you to Darth Vengar.

Darth Vengar

The force is strong but the team is weak Arsene

David Moyes

An Alex Ferguson look-a-like would have been ideal, but as much as I hate to say it being a Blue, Old Bacon Face is a one and only. However, his replacement David Moyes is a class act also, a work of art no less. Surely 20th century Norwegian artist Edvard Munch beat the bookies and everyone else in predicting who would be Sir Alex’s successor. He even captured the very look on Moyes’ face when it dawned on him just the size of the task he was about to undertake.

David Moyes The Scream

Aaaarrrggghhh!!!!

 A Letter to Arsene Wenger

Looking to the past – Arsene Wenger is yesterdays man.

Dear Mr. Wenger

Being a City fan I would like to thank you. For many years whilst watching our boys in blue plummet towards the depths of the old Second Division, the only footballing beauty I derived from the domestic league was watching teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle and of course your Arsenal. As a Mancunian I could never openly support a team from London, and I shamefully admit to claiming a geographical pride in the achievements of the Salford Reds. But during those epic Arsenal vs United games in the early Noughties I was rooting for you and your French wonderkid’s Arsene, I really was. You built a squad around one of the best defences in the Premiership in Winterburn, Dixon, Adams and Keown, adding half of the World and European cup winning French team to that steely foundation to create a squad of sheer class that mastered the art of The Beautiful Game to perfection. But now the memory of Henry, Viera, Pires, Bergkamp and the Invincibles of the 2003/4 season seem a long way off don’t they?

Many of my Gooner friends are now starting to ‘feel the blues’ – an expression that resonates painfully with me as a Blue when you consider what City fans endured during the 80’s and 90’s. Nobody should suffer that kind of footballing indignity – and to be fair Arsenal are a long way off from that degree of abject failure. But Arsene – the honeymoon’s over, the 7 year itch has turned into a rash and now it’s time to pull out before your reputation is tainted for ever.

You came to England as an unknown. A quirk in the game. Despite the Gallic style and flare we were all familiar with, you opted for an image styled on the look of a paedophile schoolteacher. However your image marginally improved in later years as you conceded to the vanity of contact lenses, adopting a Mr. Burns appearance – that of a stubborn, miserly man with sallow skin who is forever making excuses for his shortcomings. They say never judge a book by its cover, but perhaps your insistence on wearing those creepy glasses for so long was an indicator of the stubbornness that was to come in the future.

Arsene, you have done well. You’ve established yourself as one of England’s best foreign football managers, making some inspired signings (buying Anelka for £500k, selling him for £22.5million and getting Henry for £11million has to be the deal of the century) and becoming an Arsenal legend along the way. But now I think your ego has taken over. I think you are obsessed with building a team from scratch the way Fergie has, rather than improving on what was already a solid cast like you did when you arrived at Arsenal in 96. But what you have to understand about old Bacon Face is this, whilst the French are genetically predisposed to capitulation, the British are imbued with the ‘Dunkirk Spirit’, the culture of thuggery and that most Anglo Saxon of traditions – aggression. You are no match for Sir Alex. Not only is Sir Alex British, he’s also Scottish, which is like being English with studs. The Scottish are so tough and unruly the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a wall across the whole of Scotland to keep them out. You have as much chance of surpassing Fergie’s legacy as you have at beating him in a fight, so you may as well give up now and go and manage your national team – if nothing else to maintain your own dignity. You had a great run but you are now bordering on becoming The Forgotten Man. And with our own Bobby Manc now rising to ascendancy – a man who derives from Roman stock – you are only facing many more years of nearlydom.

There’s one last think I’d like to say before I sign off; first of all I’d like to thank you for Seaman, Viera, Toure, Nasri, Clichy – even Adebayor if only for that awesome goal celebration during the 4-2 drubbing we gave you at Eastlands in 2009. It must be painful to see all this talent move up the M1 to Manchester, but that’s modern football Arsene. Money and trophies is what it’s all about for these young scamps, with their millionaire lifestyles of Range Rovers, Rolex’s and roasting. Loyalty counts for nothing unless you’re winning and/or paying – and you’re not doing either. So please, before you decide to swan off into the French sunset to manage the squabbling in the French dressing room at Brazil 2014 – will you let us have Robin Van Persie?

Kind Regards

Beasley Green

True Colours

The 2012 European Championships are currently underway and aside from the outstanding quality of competition in the tournament so far, the other major topic that has dominated the games has been racism. Now the racism issue must be pretty important when you consider that Mario Balotelli is also playing in the tournament, a character who’s every move dominates the headlines of any football tournament or fireworks display he is associated with. As a Manchester City supporter I was very interested to see how Mario Balotelli would perform in the tournament… when I say perform I mean as a footballer rather than a source of bizarre entertainment. His initial statements about how he would deal with the racists in the crowd didn’t so much make me bristle with voyeuristic anticipation, but I did smile with paternal endearment toward the moody little ninnyhammer (I found this word on a website about weird words that have gone out of use and it just seems to suit our Mario perfectly); there’s something about Mario that’s just so loveable. Maybe it’s because he is a little bit dumb – although the lad thinks himself a genius; bless. He reminds me of a boxer – not the sports type but the dog – muscular, taught, narrow limbs, hostile and aggressive in appearance, but really just a sweet little beast. So to read reports of him saying he will kill anyone who throws bananas at him just made me go “Aw”.

Loveable rogue

A loveable rogue with great ball skills

Great footballing talent that he is, ‘Super’ Mario is as brittle as a Twiglet on the pitch when challenged with any intent, so it’s hard to see him really getting stuck into some retarded racist thug armed with a banana cosh. Luckily for the banana-wielding primate who launched the fruit missile during the Italy-Croatia game, the offending fruit was removed before Super Mario saw it. Nevertheless, with foot in mouth rather than on the ball, you do have to love the boy ‘genius’ for his own judgement of self-worth. Just check out some of these quotes:

“I think I am a genius, but not a rebel… I have my life, my world, I do what I want, without annoying anyone.” Mario, you annoy everyone – apart from me, I love ya kid.

“I believe I am more intelligent than the average person.” There are millions of school children all over the world who can quite easily manage to put on a bib during sporting sessions that might argue with Mario there, but hey, that doesn’t deter the lad does it as he goes on…

“The talent God gave me is beautiful and wonderful… There are few people with such talent” Ah Mario, he who blows his own trumpet is usually a soloist, but not in Mario’s case because he has a perfect partner in Cristiano Ronaldo, who makes Mario sound like a man on a diet of humble pie. The pair of them should really have their own TV chat show, it would be unique. Each week Ron and Mario would invite famous guests on to talk about… well to talk about them really.

Whilst the oily Christiano Ronaldo makes my skin crawl because of his sincere self-aggrandisement, I don’t mind Mario so much. Not because he plays for Man City but because he reminds me of a spoilt little boy who really doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong and just wants his own way, but can’t understand why he can’t have it. Ronaldo is just a hyper-arrogant cock. In an alternative universe where the status of footballers and circus performers were reversed, Ronaldo would be the equivalent of the Bearded Lady with amazing juggling skills. But this isn’t about the two footballing genius’ that the Lord has been benevolent enough to bestow upon us for our entertainment – Lionel Messi isn’t in this tournament and Diego Maradona has been retired for a long time – this is an examination of racism at Euro 2012.

Ronaldo keeps his eye on his balls but dreams of a future as a lady.

Racism exists and probably always will. Whilst writers of his-story continue to skew and manipulate facts to favour the victors and proceed to miseducate their youth, and whilst the media continues to proliferate negative stereotypes of their minority audiences, the disease of racism will continue to spread. And it is a disease. True racists are truly mentally disturbed individuals. I could write thousands of words discounting the claims of racists, but if you’ve got any sense, historical knowledge or social education, it really isn’t necessary to elaborate on just how ridiculous racist attitudes are. Great people and great empires have derived from many different countries and cultures. Absolute complete and utter pieces of shit have also been spawned from those same countries and cultures. Probably every nation and creed has bloodied their hands throughout history, but that is just the nature of Man as a species, not any particular colour or creed. Yes, it’s a dippy hippy mantra, but as a people we are but one and the same, albeit with certain physiological and cultural differences. And whilst we all have our own likes, dislikes and prejudices toward certain people and certain parts of cultures, only a truly, ignorant or truly sick, fuck would condemn an entire genus of their own species under some disturbed delusion that they are somehow superior.

Although many have condemned UEFA’s decision to hold the Euro’s in a country that has problems with racism, I personally believe that unless you confront those issues by hosting international events of this magnitude in countries like Poland and Ukraine and therefore shining the international spotlight on them, you are never going to change the ignorant attitudes of the (I hope) minority of people in those countries. Then again I don’t really believe that was UEFA’s intention. UEFA and Platini have clearly illustrated their own ignorance toward racism by the paltry fines they have issued to offending Football Associations’ fans. The media displayed their typical hypocrisy as they rounded on Russian and Croatian fans, but not on the fans of the sublime Spanish team who are the current darlings of world football. But that shouldn’t really surprise anybody as the media could do well to look in its own back yard for banana’s thrown from its own institutions. Like the Mafia, the media doesn’t really take sides, they just support whatever or whoever works for them.

Racism in football really isn’t a big problem according to Platini

Britain has transformed as a nation over the course of history by opening its arms (albeit tentatively) to people from all over the world. As a result the culture is richer, the people wiser and the cuisine is a hell of lot better. During the civil rights movement in America Rosa Parks got on that bus even though she knew nobody wanted her there, but in doing so she helped to change the future. The dark skinned football fans who went to Euro 2012 whether the racists amongst the Poles, Ukrainians, Spanish, Russians and Croatians wanted them or not, will hopefully help to change the attitudes and the future of those nations too.

So whilst the bigots hoot and howl and wave their arms around and drag their knuckles along the floor and grunt their chants to a worldwide audience, for all intent and purposes they are the ones who are acting like extras from Planet of the Apes – apes that aren’t even intelligent enough to hold onto their own bananas. They’re the ones who, for all their apparent nationalism, are an embarrassment to their own nations. They’re the ones who are condemned by their own football associations. And it’s that public condemnation that is the key to killing racism. Expose it for the dirty little scum stain that it is. Racism is pure ignorance, but if you can’t escape the truth then you can’t remain ignorant. So perhaps it’s fitting that all those nations with the racist fans were knocked out of the tournament, with the exception of Spain. Although truly unfair to the players and the civilised supporters, perhaps karma played its part for the greater good.