The great Bill Shankly

The legendary manager of Liverpool, Bill Shankly, was born in the Ayrshire mining village of Glenbuck 100 years ago today.

A lifelong socialist, the first song he learned as a child was the Red Flag. He brought his socialist principles to the game he loved, when it was still the ‘people’s game’, successfully forging Liverpool from its lowly status as a Second Division club to the force it would become in British, European and world football.

Shankly quotes:

‘Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple’.

‘Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the ceiling. Aim for the ceiling and you’ll stay on the floor’.

‘I’m a people’s man – only the people matter’.

‘The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they do not know the game’.

‘Chairman Mao has never seen a greater show of red strength’.

Shankly to the Brussels hotel clerk who queried his signing ‘Anfield’ as his address on the hotel register – ‘But that’s where I live’.

On awaiting Everton’s arrival for a derby game at Anfield, Shankly gave a box of toilet rolls to the doorman and said – ‘Give them these when they arrive – they’ll need them’!

‘The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life’.

The ugly business of the beautiful game – how football lost its soul

sarsakRecently The Independent published a global league table of football clubs according to the average salaries they pay their players.

It comes as little surprise to learn that sitting at the top of the table is Manchester City, which currently pays on average over £100,000 a week to its first team players. Just behind them sits Real Madrid at just over £90,000 per week, then Barcelona, and so on.

Focusing in on the English Premiership, the gap between the top paying club, Man City, and the second, Chelsea, is quite considerable at £100,764 per week against £78,053 per week respectively. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the Premiership league table for salaries, is Norwich City, paying its players a comparatively modest £19,434 per week on average.

If anybody was still in any doubt that the relationship between the real world and top flight football was at best now a tenuous one, a cursory glance at these figures should end them. Football has become an increasingly corrupt global business that reflects the very worst excesses of a free market gone haywire in its corrosive impact on wider society. Ostentation and obscenity sits at the apex of football, just as it does in every private multinational business, with no time for anything approaching restraint or decency. It is particularly telling that it is in Spain and the UK where the highest salaries in top flight football are paid, considering that it is in these countries where ordinary people are paying the highest price economically and socially under the weight of the worst global economic crisis since the 1930s. In fact, more than telling it’s an insult.
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Interview with Palestinian footballer & hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak

Palestinian footballer & hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak with pic of CantonaHere is Palestinian national football Team player, Mahmoud Sarsak at Old Trafford on 28th May.

He stands below a picture of his hero Eric Cantona, who helped spearhead an international campaign for his release. Mahmoud was detained for 3 years without charge by the Israeli authorities. 18 months of those were in solitary confinement, under 24 hour surveillance provided by G4S. Mahmoud was on hunger strike for over 90 days during which he lost half is body weight before he was eventually released. He is on a tour of the UK talking about his experiences, helping strengthen the BDS campaign, and exposing the role of G4S in the occupation, and specifically its role in the imprisonment of Palestinians. During his time in Manchester he visited the National Football Museum, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The video interview is conducted in English & Arabic and produced by supporters of FC United.
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Eve of Euro 2013 Film of Palestinian Football

Fantastic video made by Philosophy Football: State of play – football in Palestine 2013

In the autumn of 2011 Philosophy Football met Honey Thalijeh, then captain of the Palestine Women’s Football team. Inspired by what she told us about what football meant to her country we promised that when Euro 2013 opened in Israel we would be in Palestine.

From 5-18 June Israel hosts the second biggest international team tournament in European football, the Euro 2013 Under 21′s Championship. It’s the biggest international sporting event ever held in Israel. And England have a decent chance of winning.

But on the other side of the wall Israel built, football is played and watched in Palestine under the most abnormal of conditions. Massive restrictions of movement, 24-hour surveillance and illegal settlements and land grabs, yet on the football pitch, as recognised by FIFA, Palestine plays football as a nation.

Palestine football pitch t shirtThroughout the tournament Israel will do everything it can to keep attention away from football on the Palestinian side of the wall. Our film, shot over the past few days, will help to break this silence. On Tuesday it was premiered in Ramallah at the HQ of the Palestine Olympic Association and simultaneously released on YouTube.

Today Philosophy Football also launches our Palestine Football Supporters Club T-shirt for a game with no borders, no walls. JUST £17.99 – £5 OFF – For the opening week of the Tournament, usual price £22.99. Sizes S-XXL and womens fitted. The t-shirt is available from Philosophy Football here.

The shirt has been produced to popularise the cause of Palestinian football. This shirt will fund this first film and future initiative of this sort.

Link: Mark Perryman discussing “No Surrender”

englandBanning the ‘No Surrender’ chant against Ireland won’t work. Dialogue, not diktat, is needed to find a new tune to unite fans
For as long as I’ve been a travelling England fan (my first game was Moldova away in 1996), a decent proportion of England fans have used the musical pause after the third line of God Save the Queen to insert “No Surrender” with as much volume and defiance as they can manage. And as the action ebbs and flows on the pitch – especially when it ebbs – the chant will go up again: “No surrender, no surrender, no surrender to the IRA scum!”

Not everybody joins in, but enough do to ensure the sentiment is firmly established as part and parcel of what being an England fan is – whether we like it or not (in my case and plenty of other fans’ case, the latter). The FA know all this only too well, but over the years they’ve put their hands over their collective ears and wished it would go away. Well, it hasn’t. On some occasions, they have cranked up the volume for the poor opera singer belting out God Save the Queen, in the hope no one will hear the unofficial fourth line. Fat chance that will work on Wednesday.

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Boycott Israel’s hosting of the Euro Under 21′s

Philosophy Football 'Boycott Apartheid Israel' shirtOn Wednesday 5 June the Euro U 21′s football tournament opens in Israel. It’s the second biggest European tournament, England have a real chance of winning it, it’s the greatest sporting event Israel has ever hosted. And at Philosophy Football we’re not celebrating. Why?

Because no journalists question why Israel is hosting a European tournament. Every other country in that region plays football in the Asian Confederation but none will have any sporting ties with Israel. For one reason only, its brutally lethal mistreatment of Palestine.

In the 1970s Apartheid South Africa was isolated by a sporting boycott. Israel is every bit as discriminatory and murderous in its mistreatment of Palestinians as Apartheid South Africa’s mistreatment of its black majority. Israel cannot enjoy the normality of sporting and cultural relations until this is put right.

To mark the opening of the tournament, Philosophy Football launches as an alternative our ‘Boycott Apartheid Israel’ T-shirt. To the point, wear it with pride in Palestinian football; keep up with Palestinan football here.

Available for a SPECIAL LOW CAMPAIGN PRICE – JUST £14.99 from Philosophy Football

Di Canio in Swindon, the Dog That Didn’t Bark

Mark Haddon’s book “The Curious Incident Of the Dog In the Night-time” was set in Swindon, referencing the famous dictum by Sherlock Holmes, in the story “The Silver Blaze”

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

Throughout the recent furore concerning Paolo Di Canio, the contrast between the reaction to his appointment at Sunderland and his appointment at Swindon has been pronounced. For example, pompous Tory idiot Iain Dale:

It was OK for him to manage little old Swindon Town in League One, but oh no, the thought of him managing Premier League Sunderland is repellent. No, I’ll tell you what is repellent – it’s the so-called ‘liberal left’ deciding who should do what based on whether someone conforms to their own idea of normality or political acceptability. And then, only deciding to enforce their own illiberal ideas when it suits them. Where were the howls of indignation when Di Canio took over at Swindon Town? No one cared, because, well, it was only little old Swindon, wasn’t it?

finalconflictIt is not entirely true of course that there was no reaction to Di Canio’s appointment at Swindon, as I have explained myself before. Several Swindon Town Fans returned their season tickets in protest at his appointment, as admitted by the Club’s chief executive, Nick Watson, in June 2011. Di Canio’s appointment was also noted by the far right, on the neo-Nazi website Final Conflict. (This was not a spoof). Opposition to Di Canio’s appointment at Swindon was also reported in the national press, for example the Daily Mail.

But certainly pressure on Sunderland AFC has been much more sustained. Even the American NBC have reported how the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have called for Di Canio to be sacked by Sunderland’s American owner, Ellis Short.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, dismissed the statement and said Wednesday that Di Canio should be fired, comparing him to sacked Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice.

“I would say sports is a very special category. Sports plays a very important role with young people,” he said. “I would say racism or bigotry reverberates in a greater way, so the standard needs to be much higher than, I would say, the manager of a garage.”

“Our society uses athletes and sports figures not only to sell Wheaties and sneakers, but also because they are looked up to as role models,” he said. “Here [with Di Canio], I think firing is appropriate.”

Foxman said he believed people could have “an epiphany” about past mistakes and be given a second chance if they had genuinely changed.

“This is not one of those. He [Di Canio] is very clear what he is. He’s both a fascist and a racist and he’s proud of it,” he said.

“For the moment, he denies it [being a fascist and a racist] because his job is at stake,” he added.

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Paolo Di Canio: We Must Oppose Fascism Becoming Acceptable

di Canio fascist saluteI was delighted at the response of David Miliband in resigning as vice chair of Sunderland after the appointment of open fascist Paolo di Canio as manager. Since then, Durham NUM have asked for their banner to be returned, up until now proudly displayed at the Stadium of Light:

Davey Hopper, General Secretary of the NUM in Durham, and a former secretary at Monkwearmouth pit – on which Sunderland’s Stadium of Light is built – said the fury of his members had sparked the move.

He said: “We are writing to the club asking for the return of the banner unless Di Canio says he is not a fascist. Otherwise his appointment will besmirch the memory of the miners who lost their lives in the fight against fascism in World War II.

“We do not want our union associated with the club now.”

Back in 2011, Wiltshire and Swindon GMB, where I am branch secretary, withdrew our sponsorship and commercial links with Swindon Town FC, when they appointed Di Canio. During the twelve months up to that point we had provided £350 in direct sponsorship, and £3500 in business to the conference/catering arm as we used the club venue for training. We also provided a free advert for season tickets in our branch newsletter with distribution of 5000. These were popular decisions among the branch committee, and the direct sponsorship brought with it free tickets and other benefits that were raffled among members. Small beer compared to some big sponsors, but Wiltshire and Swindon GMB had a genuine commitment to the club.
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They Thought It Was All over

As England prepare for a World Cup Qualifier double-header Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman reviews the decline and fall of a Football Nation

Philosophy Football shirtNever mind the debate over the dodgy third goal in ’66, was it or wasn’t it over the line. The most famous piece of commentary in English footballing history, “some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over, it is now,” proves definitively England’s fourth goal against Germany should have been disallowed. A goal scored with a pitch invasion underway, absolutely against the rules of the game.

And thus England’s 47 years of hurt began. Up to 1966 we’d been World Cup quarter-finalists at best, and no European Cup had been lifted by an English club side either. Spurs had been the first English team to win a European Trophy, the Cup-Winners Cup in 1963, followed by Bobby Moore captaining West Ham to winning the same trophy in 1965.

Immediately after ’66 English club sides did begin to dominate European competitions. In quick succession Leeds, Newcastle and Arsenal won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, while Manchester United lifted the European Cup in 1968, following north of the border Celtic’s success the previous year. Into the 1970s, apart from the European Cup English club sides continued to do well in the other two European competitions. Chelsea, Manchester CIty, Liverpool, Spurs all won these tournaments, while any Leeds fan of a certain age will tell you that their club, not Bayern Munich, were the ‘true’ winners of the 1975 European Cup with disallowed goals robbing them of victory.

It was the late 1970s to mid 1980s however when English domination of Europe really established itself. Liverpool winning the European Cup in 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984. Nottingham Forest’s back-to-back wins in 1979 and 1980. Aston Villa in 1982. This was a remarkable run of success. But after the 1985-1990 ban of English club sides from European club competitions following the Heysel final involving Liverpool and Juventus which led to 39 deaths from a combination of rioting and poor stadium facilities, nothing like this kind of domination.

Since the English clubs were re-admitted, they have won just four Champions Leagues in 21 years. Spanish clubs can boast 6 wins, Italian 5. As for the UEFA Cup and the Europa League, just one win since 1992, Liverpool’s in 2001.

This season’s failure of a single English club side to make it through to the Champions League quarter-finals has been widely commented on as the worst English performance since 1996. But actually the decline and fall of English club sides’ dominance of Europe goes considerably deeper than this. In ’66 the fans and the clubs might well have thought it was ‘all over’, a golden period of club football about to begin. But despite all the Premier League-driven hype it has never recovered anything like the heights of 30 years ago. The sweet irony of the centrepiece of the FA’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations being a Champions League Final in the season of English clubs’ worst performance in the competition not to be missed.

If the situation for English club sides in Europe doesn’t look too good, this is nothing compared to the England team. After Euro ’96 and reaching the semi-final, the bare minimum surely for a major football nation in a home tournament, there’s been no progress beyond the quarter-finals at a Euro or World Cup since. Never mind the nearly five decades of hurt, these past 17 years have been bad enough. In European terms Croatia and Russia can claim to have done better, with a semi-final each since ’96 and not at home either. Turkey has managed two semi-final appearances. The Czech Republic reached the final in ’96 and the semi again in 2004. Apart from that little lot England can’t claim to come anywhere close to matching the records of Holland, Portugal, Italy, Germany, France and Spain in European Championship and World Cups since ’96. And then there’s Greece, who we squeezed past in 2001 to make sure of qualifying for the following year’s World Cup, and then they had the cheek to go and win Euro 2004, a feat that still remains beyond the reach of England.

What might be the reasons for this spectacular failure? In their excellent book Why England Lose, authors Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski offer a number of reasons, the principle one being that given the size of England’s population and number of professional footballers, being regular quarter-finalists but not much better is the kind of position we should expect in world football. This sits uneasily with our martial and imperial history and the fact we like to think we invented the game; but in reality it’s a theory not too far wide of the mark. It is the expectation that somehow 1966 wasn’t the blip it has proved to be and being a world power in football is our natural position in sporting life that distorts the magnitude of our failure . To that extent the 4-1 defeat to Germany at World Cup 2010 may prove a more important benchmark for the next 47 years than 1966 has proved to be for the past 47 years. It is unlikely ever again, certainly not in 2014 for anybody in their right mind, that England will go to a major tournament expecting to win it. And so when we make it to the quarters and not much further, we can be pleased with ourselves rather than agonising over the latest in the game of what-might-have-beens but weren’t.

I would add some other factors too. Firstly the psychological. In an England tournament squad the players know the expectations are unreasonably high. At club level they are mostly idolised — many have win a cabinet full of winners’ medals already — and they play their international football every season in the Champions League. Yet with England, unless they defy history and get past the quarters they are losers at best, vilified at worst. They can’t win. Secondly, our style of play. And as fans we’re culpable in this too. The English love a fast-moving physical game, ‘get stuck in’ with loads of commitment. Good enough to get England to the quarter-finals, but not many tournaments are won playing like this. Thirdly the narrow base of team recruitment. Despite all the changes in our society, professional footballers still come overwhelmingly from a narrow, and numerically declining, social base. And entire communities are entirely under-represented: Asian, Chinese, East European and other sizeable immigrant communities hardly feature in the professional game. No this isn’t the much touted “political correctness gone mad,” it’s ensuring we draw on all the talents that might be available. England doesn’t.

Fourthly we fail to learn from others. Yes there are foreign players, managers and coaches in English football. But the changes they bring with them still hardly impact on club football, and on the national team scarcely at all. It’s all a bit foreign, and what do we have to learn from the Germans, the Spanish and the Italians anyway? This inward-looking cocksureness largely insulates football from other far more successful sports too. How many of those who’ve excelled in establishing regimes that produce winners in other sports are headhunted to contribute something to football? Finally, our lack of experience of tournament football. Age-group competitions at a European and World Cup level are consistently undervalued, with the best players often not even sent there to represent England. And apart from the 2012 exception no England team competes in the Olympic football tournament, for many young players an essential experience towards a future World Cup. One simple solution: introduce what would be a hugely popular and highly competitive football tournament in the Commonwealth Games.

Five ideas; there will be plenty more. Just the kind of thing the FA should be debating as part of its 150th anniversary. Instead, England appear to be quaking in their boots at the prospect of the must-win game against Montenegro next Tuesday. This is a country with a population roughly comparable to the numbers living in the London Borough of Hammersmith. OK we seem to be as safe as houses facing San Marino in the first of the World Cup double headers, but plucky Montenegro have us worried. Looking back at our accumulated decline and fall, club and country, since 1966 with good reason.

Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction, aka Philosophy Football