Saturday, July 15, 2006

That's it; I'm back. Not only from Budapest but from keyboard purdah. I bought a dirt cheap keyboard and a not as cheap splitter and voila, I can once more vent my spleen and other things.

And funnily enough I'm moved to talk about football again, and the BBC.

I was on the train last Sunday when the World Cup was being played out. I didn't fancy the Italians versus the French much anyway; one of those occasions where you wish that both sides could lose. And to my pleasure and illumination, to an extent they have.

The Italians, having used a bunch of very experienced players to elbow their way off with the prize once again, have just announced that that same set of players (give or take a few) were part of the biggest corruption scandal ever to hit football. The last few seasons, it seems, were fixed.

Mind you, I did used to wonder myself, as a Westham fan, whether we didn't occasionally throw a few games. A 4-0 abject defeat to Notts Forest many moons ago in an FA Cup Semi springs to mind, not to mention losing 4-0 to Newcastle in 1987 (or was it 86? Difficult to remember through the mists of years and tears back to my young self).

Still West Ham are just that way: always erratic, not worth betting on as a fan, anyway.

The Beeb though set this in a quite farcical context, comparing this massive and systematised fraud with all manner of relative nonentities- while never actually explaining in detail the nature of the fraud. The truth is that football, while never very clean, is now organisedly corrupt. I wouldn't be surprised to find that World Cup matches had been fixed this time round- this time more than ever before, I'd say. I watched a number of matches on the grounds that it helps me relax and only happens once every four years, and I've never seen so many bad referee's decisions that effectively cost matches. It's not just the bad decisions, its the bad application of bad laws (tackling from behind, contact in the air, challenging goalies, raised feet, offside, advantage- you name it, referees with their technocratic swagger can get it wrong these days). Brazil-Ghana with its two offside Brazilian goals and numerous decisions favourable to the yellow shirts made me despair somewhat-- but then all the matches I saw did that, including needless to say the Rooney-Portugal affair.

What I am waiting for, still, is for England to be able to take that free-kick they were given when Rooney was being manhandled (it that's the word) by three wretched Portuguese. The Ref blew his whistle and then didn't stop play, allowing the harrassment to continue- and then he over-noticed Rooney's crafty footgrind into the groin to the point that Rooney had to go. It was a classic case of the sheriff, having lost control, punishing the vigilante. And I'm all in favour of vigilanteism where the technocrats have 'command' (so to speak), so I was, as they say, 'gutted'.

The thing is that the whole event was so scripted it's as if give or take a couple of dummies who don't know their place in the scheme of things (like Rooney), everyone was doing what they were paid to do- not so much play football but fail at the appropriate places and times. Zidane's headbutt actually made me laugh; who can think of a better explanation than that Zidane was paid to do it like some WWWF wrestler?

What I am saying is not restricted to the traditional idea of the crude attempts of the Grobbelaars of this world to make a few bucks: I am saying that the monetisation of a game whose participants never had too much integrity (and didn't need to have, really) has created layer upon layer of grubby control placed upon the free play of football- which is, after all, just a game and unable to bear the stress of the grown-up kids with their money manias.

One final thing: all the focus has been on the referees so far, regarding the verdicts. I absolutely don't believe that it is restricted to referees and senior management. The players too must have some degree of involvement. At the very least one can see the money they demand as an incentive to play as a kind of extortion.

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