Friday, July 21, 2006


Sledging's Out In The Summer

Le grand butt de head is old news now, I suppose, but I've been meaning to write a spot about it ever since. Or, to be more precise, ever since the morning after the night before, as callers to Five Live's phone-in programme thrashed about desperately looking for an excuse for Zizou's daft actions.

'Materazzi must have said something horrible for Zidane - so cool usually - to act the way he did.' 'What he said must have been racist.' 'Materazzi is a racist, and you don't need proof to say that.' 'Having worked out he is a racist, the only question is how long he should be banned for.' And so on, and so on, escalating ludicrously until some people were suggesting that Zidane had struck a blow against racism and colonial oppression, instead of being a hot-headed fool who over-reacted in the heat of the moment.

Even when people went so far as to dare to criticise Zidane, it was always tempered with a deep criticism of Materazzi for his alleged 'racism', although since Zidane hasn't said what he heard, and all the 'expert lip-readers' hired by the various Fleet Street rags came up with a different conclusion as to what had been said, I think we can safely assume that he hasn't been proven guilty yet.

Almost nobody has come to the defence of sledging as an art-form. A well placed insult is a beautiful thing. So, let me give some credit where it's due - to Duleep Allirajah for pointing that out, and for providing a particularly good example of how it can be an artform:

Glenn McGrath: ‘Hey, Brandes, why are you so fucking fat?’
Eddo Brandes: ‘Cos every time I fuck your wife she gives me a biscuit’.

Also, credit must go to the analysis of the incident on 'Woman's Hour' last weekend on Radio 4, as the panellists pointed out the ritual aspects to the joke Materazzi is believed to have said, an Italian version of 'yo mama' jokes that Zidane himself was famed for partaking in when he played for Juve.

By the way, I refuse to feel embarrassed about the fact I was listening to 'Woman's Hour' - 42% of all that show's listeners are male, and before you laugh, remember ladies, that means we know what you're thinking.

George had won many accolades in his career as 'Bison Impersonator Extraordinaire'.

Wandering slightly OT

Four years ago it was claimed by various folks that France's winning team had proved that multicultural France could 'work'.

Now rainbow France has been defeated by a disgustingly white Italian team. Does that not prove that multicultural France is a now failure? Apparently not as Ive seen no mention of this reversal anywhere in the MSM. Maybe Im not looking hard enough.
Erm, yes and no. Two objections first:

1) You don't mean four years ago, they haven't won anything for six and the World Cup for eight.

2) I would question the concept that they 'failed' in these finals. After all, they did get to the final, and in doing so did considerably better than 30 out of the 31 other teams in the tournament.

However, you do have a point. The claims made after their victory in 1998 may have been helpful in the short term, but in the long term they've been damaging. It's a perfect example of 'soccerism' - where Europe's disconnected political elites turn to football to answer the social problems that their own bad policies and failure to connect with voters have resulted in.

In the long term, France always were going to come unstuck, and as you say, the danger of praising race as the causative factor in victory is that it becomes hard to deny race as the causative factor in subsequent losses.
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