Archive for October 9th, 2008


Nationalism to the front during international break

First the press do an interview with David Taylor, then one with Lord Triesman, and in these interviews ideas are born and articulated. But then this birth of ideas is always followed up with the inevitable afterbirth; an interview with a drunken Michel Platini. He must be drunk when he speaks nowadays because it’s the only way that he makes any sense. Here’s his latest bon mot:

Do you want in Liverpool an Arab sheikh as president with one Brazilian coach and nine or 11 African players? Where is Liverpool in that?

I am reminded of a quote I read some time ago that was attributed to Rick Rubin (American music producer). On the set of making Run DMC’s movie “Tougher than leather” Rick argued that the film needed white rappers the Beastie Boys included because “Nobody wants to watch ten niggers play basketball, do they?” Set aside for a moment the racial epithet. Rick Rubin was arguing in a not too subtle manner that identity mattered and that an audience needed to identify with characters in the movie or the movie would be a failure. Which is, to some extent true. However, Rick and Michel’s assumption is that the audience cannot identify with someone who isn’t, basically, a white dude because basically the audience is all white.

The layers of assumptions in Platini’s statement are so thick that it’s difficult to peel them away. First, the big assumption is that there aren’t Africans or Brazilians, or Arabs who live in Liverpool and consider themselves Liverpudlians. Second, Platini uses Nationalism to drive home his point. If he’d have said “an Irish president, a Welsh coach and 9 or 11 Scotsmen for players” it wouldn’t have had the same impact, because most Brits consider those countries to be part of the kingdom. But, in his final layer, he uses a fear of immigration, of the foreign, of the “dark continent” to really seal the deal. They aren’t 11 Welshmen on the team, they are Africans.

It is a deeply disturbing thing for a man of any authority to state, made all the more disturbing by the fact that I don’t think this was some prepared statement. This was glimpse in to his soul, what Platini thinks in private moments when he’s not feeling vulnerable. Almost like what you’d get if you spoke to your racist friend after a few drinks.

Sensing this, I think, Platini tries to rescue himself by throwing a rope around identity politics and drawing that close to him.

Where is Liverpool in that… What is football? Football is a game and this game has become popular because of the identity. You have to have identity, that is where football’s popularity lies.

In Platini’s world, identity is confined to a narrow area directly around the sacred ground of the pitch. If you’re from Liverpool, you could never love Arsenal, or worse some Spanish team. If you’re from Ireland, why don’t you just support your local Irish team? That’s your identity isn’t it? And, of course, if you’re an American who blogs about an English football club, owned by Englishmen, run by a Frenchie, and overrun with 9 or 11 African Francophones, well then you must be a truly mixed up individual. Why don’t you just go and support the Seattle Seahawks you nut?

Platini’s statement really stabs at the heart of what this blog is about — that identity is not a small area around a stadium. Identity is not something that can even be constrained by the boundaries of something as large as a country.  And certainly, identity is not something that is defined for you by some drunken Frenchman.

Identity is something that we are free to choose and I choose Arsenal. No narrow minded bigoted nationalist like Michel Platini is going to change that for me now.

Statements like that have no place in football and only serve to discredit the game.  Is there’s any wonder why UEFA didn’t do anything about the racists in Zenit when there’s a racist at the helm?

While we’re on the topic of stupid nationalists

I’ve said before that I don’t think it would be a good idea for Almunia to put himself in the pool to be England number one; not because I don’t think he’s better than the dreadful David James (he is) but because I don’t think he wants the bubbling cauldron that he’ll have to endure every day. It’s bad enough to just play for the England team (look at the crazy stories about Theo — should he play, shouldn’t he, should he have gone to the World cup, on and on) but to both play for the England team and be a foreigner, (NOT PART OF THE KINGDOM) well that’s a whole ‘nother level of crazy to endure.

But that’s not Rio Ferdinand’s problem. Rio Ferdinand believes he can look into the soul of Almunia and predict what kind of decision he will make.

So if Spain had picked him now and he had a choice of playing for Spain or England who is he going to pick? I’m sure he’d pick Spain so that means he is not English.

I think that’s a non-sequitor. It’s not an option for Almunia and we cannot pretend to know what’s in a man’s heart. We have to base our opinions on the rules and observable data. The rules are that Almunia is eligible to play for England. The data is that he’s a far better keeper than David James. End of story. All this kerfuffle that I keep reading from fans about Hargreaves and his “English Blood” (which blood type is English?) is beside the point. All this talk of knowing what’s in Almunia’s heart is beside the point. Is he eligible? Can he make the cut? If so, then shut your fucking mouth Rio, he could be your teammate and the last thing you should be doing is undermining the confidence you have in your teammates. Right?

So, isn’t this an Arsenal blog?

Erm, yes?

William Gallas admitted that he is to blame for all of Arsenal’s failures this season.

I can say we have not seen the Gallas from 2006 this season so far. In a few matches I have not been so good. Do I experience the most difficult period since I joined Arsenal? We could say yes. Above all I miss consistency. One match is good, the other one is not so good. However, I am doing everything to get to my best again.

Jesus… full credit to Gallas for admitting that he’s the problem defensively this season, it takes a brave man to admit his faults. That said, a real leader would never have taken the pitch if he wasn’t fully prepared. A real leader would have sat himself out. Because, while it takes a lot of guts to confront yourself, it takes a real man to follow through and do something about it. He’s ruled himself out of the internationals with a “thigh strain” which is either a real injury or his way of getting himself back into fitness mentally and physically. Only time will tell.

Robin van Persie has picked up his annual “International Duty Injury Which Rules Him Out for Two Months Only for Him to Return for a Week and Get Injured Again.” Good thing Arsenal “bought” Carlos Vela this year!

And finally, you know who’s ready to replace Gallas? Mikael Silvestre, that’s who. It would be refreshing to see someone else line up next to Kolo for a few matches. You know, in that way that contrast always throws new details into light?

That’s it for today, see you all tomorrow.

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October 2008