Arjen Robben is a disgrace to football

Arjen Robben is a fantastic footballer, one of the best in the world, and has been for some years now. He is also a disgrace to the game. His dive inside the penalty box against Mexico, which handed Holland the penalty that put the Mexicans out of the World Cup, must surely be punished by FIFA. I would place it up there with Luiz Suarez’s bite in Uruguay’s game against Italy in the group stage of the tournament, which earned the Uruguayan a four month ban from football, when it comes to bringing the game into disrepute.

Robben’s form when it comes to diving is well established by now. He is one of the worst offenders, but by no means the only one. In fact, diving has sadly become accepted and widespread at all levels of football and it’s high time it was stamped out. Making Robben’s dive against Mexico even worse is that this World Cup has been an excellent advertisement for football up to now. Great football, excellent refereeing for the most part, packed stadiums, and it appears little if any trouble. The Brazil v Chile match was one of the most exciting games of football I can recall. Who could argue, watching it, that the beautiful game stands alone when it comes to passion, emotion, skill, and excitement?

The Dutch went through against Mexico by cheating. There is no other way to put it. Arjen Robben is a cheat.

What does the sacking of Davie Moyes say about us?

David-Moyes..Imagine being Davie Moyes right now, having your face splashed across the media for days in the wake of your very public dismissal from the biggest job in football, evidence of your failure analysed, dissected, and held up for the entire world to ponder and gloat over.

Most of us, if honest, will have enjoyed watching the public demise of this man we have never met, don’t know, but yet have been invited to excoriate over the duration of his tortured reign at Old Trafford. What does this public and ritual flogging of a man whose only crime was to be selected to manage Manchester United by its previous manager – the most successful occupant of a dugout in British football history, Sir Alex Ferguson – only to flounder and steer last year’s champions into the shallow waters of average and below average: what does this say about us?

Football has traditionally played the role of a pressure valve for the working class, an all too brief escape from the grinding pressure to make ends meet and an opportunity to experience the vicarious glory of a team on the up and up, or else let off steam by giving star players ninety minutes of verbal as an antidote to the stifling constraints and frustrations experienced during the course of the working week. In no other arena are people afforded the license to vent their anger without fear of recrimination or consequence as they are at a football match. Making the experience more salutary is doing so in the company of tens of thousands of other fans in a packed stadium as you watch twenty two millionaires and multi millionaires strut their stuff.

The love-hate relationship between major clubs and their supporters in the modern era lends itself to serious psychological analysis. Given the inordinate money earned by even your average Premier League player, resentment is never far from the emotions of the average supporter, whose season ticket is a luxury and who will not hesitate to turn on any player or manager they believe isn’t up to the task and worth the huge money they’re on.

Think about it: Moyes has gone in ten months from being the ‘chosen one’, Fergie’s dauphin, basking in the kind of endorsement bestowed on adopted sons by Roman emperors when choosing a successor, to being the most ridiculed, loathed, and derided public figure in the country this past week. With every passing and excruciating minute in the job towards his inevitable end, how he must have cursed the day Alex Ferguson called to invite him round to his house to personally offer the opportunity of his life – the opportunity to leave a job for life at Everton, where expectations were low, and fall flat on his arse at Old Trafford, the reputation he’d dedicated himself to attaining over long years spent working long hours at the less than salubrious footballing environs of Preston North End and Everton trashed in the process.

The sullen and serious features of the Glaswegian teetotaller he carries are an instant giveaway. Nothing achieved in David Moyes’ life ever came easy. He comes over as a poster boy for the virtues of corporal punishment in a child’s development – a man who, to judge by a demeanour that is so rigid and stiff he makes a lamppost appear animated by comparison, grew up expecting life to be hard and became hard as a consequence.

Unfortunately for Davie Moyes, surrounded as he was at Old Trafford by a history of near neverending success and the sense of expectation and entitlement that goes with it, the capacity and appetite for hard work was never going to be enough on its own. The paucity of flair and creativity he exudes on a personal level has been evident in United’s performances on the pitch all season. It was as if a brickie had been handed the conductor’s baton of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, such was the laboured and disjointed performances of his team. His inherent conservatism and lack of tactical nous when it came to making adjustments during matches, you could tell, had a negative influence on the confidence and performances of the team as a whole.

The man who appointed him, Alex Ferguson, was obviously drawn to Scottish working class characteristics of hard work, persistence, and grit that he himself possessed in abundance as a young manager making his way in the game. But the modern game is about more than that; it’s also about being able to connect with a squad of very rich young men used to being lauded as latter day divinities at one end of the spectrum, and derided as useless idiots and clowns at the other end. Seen in this light, a talent for man management is essential if there is going to be any chance of success in forging the bonds required to motivate players to give it their all throughout a long season.

The failure of Davie Moyes to slot in at Man Utd is the story of the rejection with which both he and his methods were met by a group of players who’ve been instilled with the values of the gambler and not the artisan. Moyes came up against a tradition of excellence and success built on the repetition of magic rather than the methodical. It’s a realisation that will provide little comfort as he weathers a media storm of vilification, criticism, and outright hostility – the ritual and very public humiliation that comes with the crime of failing to make 75,000 people happy every week.

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