United Forum
Go Back   United Forum > Manchester United > Football Auto-Threads
Unread 16-03-2012, 03:20 PM
fred tissue
Default Sir Dave Richards' comments on Fifa show he's one of football's family | Barney Ronay

The Premier League chairman's 'stolen' claims mirror Sepp Blatter's view that football is something that can be owned

One of the things Sepp Blatter likes to go on about quivering on his plinth, piously perma-groomed, eyes glazed with a swooning global potato love is football being a family. Welcome to football. Welcome to our family. The implication being that he, Blatter, is the daddy around here: adored, wrathful, magnetically virile. England have a place too in this family, albeit it is increasingly that of the disappointed alcoholic uncle, fresh from another cider-fumed night on the back seat of the Mondeo, gate-crashing the barbecue, goosing the hostess, frightening the neighbours, stepping on the dog, making an incoherent speech about some disputed family legacy, before stumbling back out with head held high and one trouser leg on fire

As of this week, of course, English football has a shared embarrassing uncle all of its own with the spectacular coming-out on the global stage of the Premier League chairman, Sir Dave Richards, whose comments about football having been "stolen" were aired while delivering an educational lecture to foreigners in Doha. Sir Dave appears to be that kind of uncle, the bullish, prosperous, unembarrassable type, enthroned within his magisterial UPVC conservatory garden room, belching cigar smoke into your smarting nostrils and muttering darkly about "this country".

Richards has been rightly mocked, both for his ruminations on the cultural necessity of "having a pint" and, mainly, for his suggestion that football can either be owned or stolen in the first place. What next? Cavemen march on Detroit demanding the return of the wheel. Assyria wants the umbrella back. A million-man human chain of retired mutton-chopped colonels from Surrey descend on the offices of the Daily Telegraph seeking, at long last, the formal reannexing of that wonderful old English word gay. Enough, though: because there is another side to this. Perhaps it is even worth taking a little more note of embarrassing Sir Dave. Not because he's got much to tell you about football history, but because he undoubtedly has something to say about being English.

There is some basic truth in Sir Dave's words. The FA did codify the modern game, regularising the pitch and ball and generally making everyone sit down and behave themselves. England got there first, frontiersmen in the new notion of mass organised leisure, hot housed by late Victorian prosperity. This is the English sporting-colonial burden, and its shadows still linger. It is there in the comportment of our administrators on the international stage, in the fevered macro-anxiety that surrounds the England team and the figure of the England captain himself, a role ideally to be undertaken by some ramrod infantry sergeant manning the barricades in his pristine pith helmet, a bulwark against the forces of the garlic-stinking and the unsound. England is, after all, a nation dogged by the anxiety of diminishing influence; and true to form a major part of the story of English football has been the ongoing struggle to comprehend the existence of the Foreigner.

First irrelevant, then troublesome, then finally frightening, the foreigner has always disturbed English football which, deep down, retains the faintly heroic conviction that all this will some day pass and that these people are all basically kidding with their soft-shoed techno-ball, their passing, their tactics. We have nothing to learn from the Brazilians: that was our motto. And it turned out to be right. We haven't learnt a thing!

The scar tissue is there even in the type of players we continue to produce, fruits of a dogged anti-modernity: the flailing midfield storm trooper with dynamite in his shorts and an outboard motor between his ears, the looming central defensive wardrobe, the mediaeval siege-tower centre-forward, wheeled into place as a rallying point for some imminent bombardment of flaming arrows, oxen corpses, long throws, near-post flick-wrestles.

There are no excuses of course. For a start England chose isolation. It took 20 years for the FA to consent, grudgingly, to take part in the World cup. Those who really did take the game abroad were shunned: Jimmy Hogan, who helped embed football across central Europe; Fred Pentland, who concocted a gloriously successful short-passing style in Spain with Athletic Bilbao that frankly just won't ever catch on. And so football bloomed and stratified and gathered its forces elsewhere. This wasn't theft. It was instead a self-marginalising sulk.

This is the first thing to take from the frazzled wisdom of Uncle Dave: a pungent reminder of certain indissoluble cultural blockages. Really, though, his wrongness goes much deeper even than this. Fifa also thinks it is necessary and even possible to "own" football. At the World Cup host nation announcement in 2010 Blatter appeared on his spotlit despot-stage practically French-kissing the World Cup itself, pawing and fondling and generally feeling up the sacred trophy which, oddly enough, increasingly resembles a small shiny gold nude Sepp Blatter amid the thronging room-workers and power-talkers, flushed by proximity to the throne, the yawning buffet tables of presidential display.

It was hard not feel the basic futility of it all. For all its corporate gloss football still doesn't really belong to anyone, but is instead a diffuse entity, an ambient entertainment product divvied out among clubs, cosa nostra administrations and the massed disempowered hand of the fan-style consumer.

Meanwhile, off to one side, feet drenched, arms windmilling, slithering in the mulch of some ceremonial fountain, English football is free to drool and rage with cathartic nostalgia. These are, after all, the gripes not of a patriot but of a thwarted administrator with dreams of a wider power, a flyweight mini-Fifa yapping at the gates. In the end Uncle Dave has only one thing to tell us: we must, whatever we do, try not to end up too much like Uncle Dave.
Barney Ronay

guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Thread Tools
Similar Threads for: Sir Dave Richards' comments on Fifa show he's one of football's family | Barney Ronay
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Football transfer rumours: Dimitar Berbatov to Galatasaray? | Barney Ronay fred tissue Football Auto-Threads 0 08-11-2011 09:40 AM
Pitch invaders are back but don't tell the rulers at Fifa | Barney Ronay fred tissue Football Auto-Threads 0 04-12-2010 12:20 AM
Wayne Rooney and the dark heart of football | Barney Ronay fred tissue Football Auto-Threads 0 22-10-2010 01:00 PM
Football transfer rumours: Arsenal close in on new defender | Barney Ronay fred tissue Football Auto-Threads 0 05-08-2010 09:10 AM
Barney Ronay: Is Rio Ferdinand the wisest man in football? fred tissue Football Auto-Threads 0 18-10-2008 12:10 AM
All times are GMT +1. The time now is 06:09 PM.

Copyright 2006 - 2020 utdforum.com. This site is in no way affiliated to Manchester United Football Club.