By Tony Attwood
There is a story doing the rounds that the wing of British military intelligence that works in secret in countries outside the UK (MI6) not only helped the British agent who put together the Trump sex dossier, he always worked with MI6 investigating Russia’s bid for the World Cup of 2018.
A lot of Russia’s bid looks immensely dubious – not least because when it was retrospectively investigated the Russian authorities said that the bid had been written on computers that they “hired” for the occasion, and that after the bid had been submitted, these had been returned to their owners. Thus there was no trace of past emails, deals, offers, discussions, bribes…
It was a bizarre story, and surely only in football could it have come out, and then been allowed to slip away, with the focus in England instead being on who was going to be the manager to ensure that England gets into the finals.
It is a perfect example of how a story can be treated as not important, when if it is looked at outside the fishbowl of football it clearly is very important.
But this is what the media does. It develops a story (today often called a “narrative” to make it sound more intellectual, but in essence it is just a story) about events, which emphasises some issues, and ignores others, and then comes up with what is at best just one interpretation of the events going on around us.
Fifa is quite clearly crooked, but the notion that countries should pull out of Fifa and either abandon international competition totally or set up a new organisation to run it, is simply not debated, although I suspect that if it were, among many fans it would gain a lot of support. That notion is not part of the narrative – it doesn’t fit with the story they want to tell.
Narratives are important of course. In Little Red Riding Hood [sorry Walter I don’t know the title in Flemish, but it is the tale about the Big Bad Wolf, which I think exists in most of Europe] we don’t ask why the elderly grandmother has continued to live on her own in a wolf-infested forest while demanding that her granddaughter makes a life-threatening journey just to take her some cakes. We don’t ask why Little Red Riding Hood’s parents allow the girl into the forest, and indeed why they and the grandmother are not locked up by the authorities for failing to take proper care of a seemingly not very bright little girl.
And that set of facts shows us just how the media treats football. For them it is a fairy story, and we the recipients of their outpourings are treated as beings who are so utterly stupid that we can be manipulated into believing all this stuff.
I gave the example of the tale that Arsenal need a new striker, and around it come other ludicrous views – like the infamous “only two players who got over 10 goals last season” nonsense (75% of the clubs had only one player in double figures so Arsenal were a position exception not a club to be castigated) and all the false assumptions that flowed from it.
In reality there is a huge amount that is wrong with football, and yes there is blame to be accorded for this – and one good place to start is with Fifa, Uefa, and the FA. Total and complete removal of these bodies allowing football to start again in its rebuilding process would be a good way forward, but not only does this not happen, as far as the mass media is concerned such a move is not on the agenda. No more than the question of the parental control over Red Riding Hood comes into the fairy story.
Thus we have the issue of Liverpool’s Joël Matip who has said that he doesn’t want to play for his country, but is called up by his country nonetheless. Liverpool say they want to play him, and, at least as far as we can judge from their statement, seem utterly in ignorance of what the rules are.
That really is quite amazing – that people running a business the size of Liverpool FC might not actually know the rules. It is there is black and white. Well, actually in black on white, but these old sayings are never that accurate.
Article 5 states: “A player who has been called up by his association for one of its representative teams is, unless otherwise agreed by the relevant association, not entitled to play for the club with which he is registered during the period for which he has been released or should have been released pursuant to the provisions of this annexe, plus an additional period of five days.”
Now Liverpool! is getting all uppity about this, but the fault is entirely theirs. That rule has been in place for aeons and its abuse by countries calling up players who don’t want to go has always been on the cards. What Liverpool! and to be fair all other clubs should have done years ago is said, “this is unreasonable – change it.” And if Fifa in its almighty omnipotence refused then the clubs start lobbying for complete withdrawal from Fifa until it gets its rules sorted.
Or indeed the Premier League could come together and say, “That is one fairy story too many. We step aside from Fifa,” and then change the system.
Instead the clubs behave a bit like parents who choose a school for their child, and then complain about the way their child is treated rather than moving the child to another school or lobbying for a change in the way the school is run. Whinging, wining and moaning instead of action.
Liverpool could test the regulations by playing Matip tonight in the FA Cup, but because football has never stood together against the idiocies of the FA, Uefa and Fifa they have no idea what the outcome would be, and whether, if it went against them, the rest of football would unite in support – which it ought to.
As things stand Matip can’t play for Liverpool! until five days after his country is knocked out of the competition. If he does a Fifa disciplinary committee investigation would investigate and then quite possibly require that Liverpool! are thrown out of the FA Cup. The FA, poodles and lapdogs that they are, would undoubtedly accede to Fifa’s whim as they always do.
Football, as reported in the mass media in the UK, is a fairy story, and although fairy stories are fun and help children come to terms with all sorts of emotional issues, they are not a substitute for reality.
Of course I know we are fourth in the league not top. But the reason is not because we did not sign a new 20 goals a season man. It would be nice if just someone, somewhere, admitted that they got it totally wrong.
Untold Arsenal and the Arsenal History Society… recent stories