By Tony Attwood
The other day, having torn what remains of my hair out and eaten half the furniture in my humble abode I finally got to express my frustration and anger over the way the press continue to talk up international football while talking down Arsenal.
In particular my annoyance was raised to unbearable levels by the suggestion that if only certain Premier League clubs would do their patriotic duty and fill up the teams with jolly good, stout young Englishmen, England would be sure to win the World Cup, the European Championships, and quite probably the Wimbledon Tennis thing, the Rugby World Cup and the Intertoto Tiddly Winks Trophy.
As I said, the fact is that when the 1st division was packed with Englishmen, we didn’t really do much better. In fact we tend not to do much better at other sports either, largely because the coaching and support system for grassroots sports and the training facilities for up and coming youngsters is rubbish.
And so, having ranted away I needed, as one does, a title. I played around with various word games and double entendres but in the end, unable to come up with anything inspiring I took a line out of the article and wrote the headline
(The actual number of “no” words is not significant. I just got bored writing them after a while.)
Anyway, today I was doing my usual weekend roundup of the statistics garnered via this site, seeing which articles did well, how many readers we got, and what figures other sites got when I got a surprise. Now I should explain I don’t do this because I am forever chasing big numbers – indeed some of our articles are very specific and of limited readership interest, but I publish them because I believe them to be important. A bit like our piece on the changing of the Swiss law last year that allowed all the Fifa stuff to happen. Very small readership but very important.
But I am interested in what blog readers read, and where Untold stands in the broader picture.
So imagine my surprise when on meandering around I discovered that No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no was in fact the most read article on Goonernews across two days, while our figures showed it had had around 20,000 people look at it – considerably above average for this time of year in the interlull.
Why was this I wondered? In an in-house debate over lunch today the idea came up that it was due to the fact that a significant proportion of the Arsenal-article-reading population like negativity. In fact they like it so much that an article entitled No no no (etc) was right up their street.
Now I am not saying all negativity is wrong. And to prove the point, consider this magnificently wonderful piece of writing by the always readable Marina Hyde in the Guardian
“After months – or, rather, years – of studied inaction, the various purveyors of trans fats and piss-beer and sundry obesity-epidemic drivers who serve as Fifa’s self-parodic partners have suggested that the Fifa president may care to step down and spend more time helping police with their inquiries.
“To paraphrase Coca-Cola, Blatter’s Fifa is as “tarnish[ed]” as a tooth that’s spent the night in a glass of their product. “An obstacle to the reform process,” intoned Budweiser’s maker, Anheuser Busch InBev. McDonald’s was as worried about “the best interests of the game” as it might be if it heard the players were living on its wares. This holy trinity were latterly joined by Visa, though Blatter still looks unlikely to pull off the clean sweep and get the remaining sponsors, Kia, Adidas and Gazprom, to suggest it might be time for him to go.
“As for the sponsors who have called for his immediate departure, Blatter “respectfully disagrees” with them – with all the respect that can be mustered someone who probably has Après moi le déluge tattooed on his arse. For once, though, I find myself right with the old rogue on this. There is a certain perverse charm to what appears to be Sepp’s final mission: exposing the weaknesses and wickedness of everyone who has profited from his regime down the decades. The list is almost as endless as the trough was bottomless. The sponsors, who regarded a collective $1.6bn over the last World Cup cycle as a price worth paying, do not deserve anything other than contempt for their sudden pretence to principles. Blatter must resign? Or they’ll do what?”
I can’t tell you how good I think that is, and certainly if I had Ms Hyde’s talent as a writer I’d be shoving the old pen and ink around the page knocking out copy like that day and night, night and day. Indeed if only The Doctor would answer my calls I’d be back in time writing it before she could.
Hence my new headline: Yes yes yes yes yes etc.
But I don’t expect readership since the thesis today is that while the No no headline shot to the top of the charts, the Yes yes headline won’t because the anti-Arsenal-Arsenal mob don’t like anything that is positive.
Later in her piece Ms Hyde then goes on to paraphrase the late Denis Healey speaking of the more recently late (if you see what I mean) Geoffrey Howe that “being lectured to by the likes of McDonald’s is like being savaged by a dead cow. And not even the good cuts.” Exquisite!
The conclusion of the article however is that nothing will change. The sponsors will sponsor and the dragging of football through the gutters that exist beneath the sewers will continue.
Which is a great shame because the Guardian really could stand up and be counted by putting forward the revolutionary point that not only do we not need Fifa in its present guise we don’t actually need a world body or come to that a European body to run football. Or even an FA. The clubs are perfectly capable of running things on their own – after all they could hardly do worse could they? As Ms Hyde’s piece comments, “we don’t actually need Michel Platini, whose reputation appears to have a half-life shorter than most highly radioactive isotopes.”
(How does she manage to write all this – a knowledge of chemistry, political speeches and football all in the same article… I mean, come on. It’s hardly fair on the rest of us who try and earn a living from scribbling away).
“Fifa will still override the constitutions of host nations, still operate without transparency and away from the reaches of the tax authorities, still draw its power from a vast, complex and shadowy web of local associations with no earthly interest in reform.”
And yes yes yes yes (etc), that is the point. I am a democrat. I actually do believe in democratic government. And there is no such thing when transnational organisations like Fifa lay down their rules about being able to take young ladies who are wearing t-shirts promoting the wrong beer and lock them up in the darkest and deepest of dungeons without their national government having any remit even to politely request their release.
Somewhere, one day, somehow, one major country will turn round and say, rather like Harry Enfield sitting in the pub with his mate Paul Whitehouse, point his finger and shout out, “Oi! Fifa! No!!!!!!!”
And maybe while they are at it they could do a sketch in which they face Greg Dyke, and say much the same thing. Certainly if we are looking at people who simply don’t get it, Dyke must be at the top of the list. Consider this comment in relation to the sponsors, also from the Guardian.
“I think this is the big moment. It doesn’t matter what Blatter says, if the people who pay for Fifa want change, they will get change.”
The problem is that at this point we get groups like New Fifa Now popping up and getting the publicity, when in fact all they are doing is trying to push the credentials of people who have been within Fifa in the past and have never had the guts to state what was always there to be seen.
In fact what we could do is simply list every single person who has been involved with Fifa, or who has been involved with a bid to host a Fifa related tournament, and say “Each one of these denies wrongdoing.” Then we wouldn’t have to keep reading it day after day after day.
But still, one can go back and read Marina Hyde’s Guardian article again. It stands out, alone among the tripe.
From the Anniversary Files
11 October 1975: Arsenal beat Coventry 5-0 in the league. The scorers were Cropley 2, Kidd 2 and Ball. Although it was a very poor season Arsenal did once exceed this score beating WHU 6-1 at home on March 20.
11 October 1976: John Devine signed as a professional. By the time of the 1980 cup final he was chosen ahead of Sammy Nelson and was part of the Cup Winners Cup squad for the final, but his career was cut short by injury.