Baby Boom

The real Gooner of the Year

Football’s a funny old game. On any given day you can never tell which issue is going to take off and burn through press offices the world over. Last year, Platini and Bleater were all a twitter about the 6+5 rule and the issue of debt in football. Those stories burned through the newsrooms with the usual mixture of hysteria, hyperbole, and a smattering of level-headed analysis and then… nothing happened.

Well, not “nothing” but almost nothing. The 6+5 rule was firmly swatted away by the European Commission saying that

Our position is clear: FIFA’s ’6+5′ Rule is based on direct discrimination on the grounds of nationality, and is thus against one of the fundamental principles of EU law.

Meanwhile, debt in the various leagues seems to have been swept under the carpet. Insane plans like installing an MLB style salary “cap” and other reforms have been exposed as unworkable solutions owing to the multi-various league rules and national laws which govern sports. Sure, they are still looking at the issue, what with UEFA trying to flex some muscle over big spenders even as recently as a few weeks ago, but it seems to me to be a half-hearted attempt to control the problem. What else could I think when I see that Platini is suddenly embracing Roman Abramovich as the model of fiscal responsibility?

No, the story du jour is not debt, or 6+5, or really even the Eduardo ban. The Story of this international break is FIFA’s two window ban on Chelsea’s transfer dealings for signing Gael Kakuta away from Lens. Suddenly, like Florida shark attack stories in the summer, everyone and their brother is being fined or taken to court over the transfer of young men from one club to another.  Leeds United alone are involved in three claims against Manchester City and Everton, meanwhile the aforementioned City are also involved in three claims, all going against them at the moment and their city rivals are involved in no less than two paper stories.

Funnily enough, Arsenal, the club that supposedly started this all with the transfer of Cesc from Barcelona, has been left out of this mess. It seems likely that they learned a lesson after the Fran Merida ruling (which is still under appeal) and have instead opted to just pay transfer fees such as in the cases of Theo Walcott and King Ramsey I.

The thing is, we don’t know what’s really going on. I’m sure some of these moves for these youngsters have been problematic, in which case the courts will sort them out. Frankly, I don’t know how a country like Spain can have a law that says that a player cannot sign a contract until they are 18 and yet at the same time award a club £2m because they had a “pre-contract” with the player.

The worst part of all this is it seems like what we’re seeing is a hysteria start to arise at a time when what’s most needed is an honest look into what’s really going on. When the CEO of the South African Football Association describes Ian Wright, Alex Song, and George Eastham’s joint venture, Cape United FC, as “raping the country” just because they have a profit motive at the end of their business plan. Then I think we may be in danger of stepping off the edge just a bit and need to back up.

It looks to me as if there’s a sort of power struggle going on here, between player’s rights and club’s rights. That struggle needs to be balanced by the courts and rules need to be put in place which make sense and which are legally binding. At the moment the courts, and governing bodies, are siding with  the academies and I think that’s dangerous. It seem like the academies have all the power with these “pre-contracts” whereby they can hold onto and basically do what they want with these kids (footballistically) and where the kid has no power in this situation. Labor (and make no mistake, these children are labor or at least they are being treated like “pre-labor”) has only two means of power: either through contractual obligation of the corporation or by moving on to another company that pays them better, treats them better etc. So, with the courts seemingly ruling strictly in favor of the companies, I think we’re doing a disservice to the kids in this equation.

There needs to be a better system in place to protect both the players and give them the maximum amount of opportunity possible while also making sure that we protect the investment of the companies who can spend years developing these kids talent. Without that balance we will see exploitation and corruption and all the other ills that the courts protect each party from.

And maybe that’s the saddest part of all this; that there’s no way to get around the fact that we’ve commodified these children and put a value on something that most of them would do for free. Unfortunately, I can’t see a way back.

England’s Full Court Press

Ok, now this is really pissing me off to no end.

My regular reader knows that I don’t really watch internationals: I don’t care about some old line drawn in the sand where the people on one side are “perfect” and the people on the other are “cunts” and I don’t care for the inevitable racism and xenophobia that make up no small part of Nationalism Football. That’s right, let’s call it what it is; it’s not international football because with very few exceptions most national teams won’t take players from another country. No, this occasional break from real football so that national clubs can play each other has nothing to do with internationalism, this is Nationalism Football. And after reading this morning’s bleatings by the Brit press about what a horrible diver Eduardo is despite the fact that he’s not, while simultaneously saying that proven serial diver Rooney should not be labeled a diver because it might effect the referees, and how the referee for Wednesday’s match is already “drowning”, I’m actually pissed off enough to root for a national team: Croatia.

Take a look at this screen cap from the first link above. Ostensibly, it’s a story about how Croatia and Eduardo are united and mentally prepared for Wednesday’s match. But the subtext is glaring “EDUARDO IS A DIVER, BOO HIM THE WHOLE TIME, GO ENGERLAND.”

Carrick is a cheating cunt

Look at the image they used and look at the caption. Michael Carrick had, up to that point, pretty much tried to break everyone’s ankles on the pitch and nearly succeeded on Denilson. But here they show Carrick, barely in frame, and Eduardo looking like he’s about to do a triple-gainer.We can’t see Carrick’s feet, we don’t know what call the referee made, we don’t know anything about this picture except what our friend Jeremy Wilson has told us to think about this picture.

It’s important that they used the Carrick tackle here, because had they used one of Darren Fletcher’s numerous yellow card fouls it wouldn’t have been as effective: Carrick is English, Fletcher is only British.

How better to whip up the English fans into a frenzy than take a totally decontextualized photograph, and then put some text on it that says “Eduardo caught in the act” and then claim that Carrick was quote un-quote tackling? Frankly, if a CD which contains the chant “Sit down you pedophile” is slander in England, how is it that this image and this story, which is a pretty obvious attempt to slur Eduardo’s reputation ahead of the England Croatia match, isn’t being pulled for slander? This is exactly what Arsene Wenger was worried would happen now that UEFA has unfairly singled Eduardo out. What I’m also afraid of is that no matter how this 2 match ban plays out, pieces like this mean that Eduardo will never receive fair treatment in any match from here on out. Well, maybe if he lets ANOTHER English player break his legs he’ll start to get some fair treatment.

But why stop with Eduardo? Why not have a go at the referee? The Telegraph again obliges, calling him “inexperienced,” “rarely hesitant in waving his cards” and quoting another source that the referee was so out of his depth that he was “drowning” in a contentious match between Juve and Chelsea. My favorite quote though, the one that’s supposed to really hammer home that this referee doesn’t know what he’s doing is this “awarding Juventus a penalty so contentious it triggered a 15-man mêlée.” A 15 man melee in a Chelsea match? That’s about as rare as air molecules. It’s perfect to warn fans ahead of the match that referee is shite, that way they can boo him too when he gives Lampard a yellow card for an ankle-breaking tackle on Eduardo.

But bringing it all home is England’s finest ever referee and new-found blogger extraordinaire, Graham “three yellow cards” Poll. He penned a great piece yesterday, warning of the dangers of calling players divers because calling a player a diver might influence a referee’s decision, which in turn might cause that player to get unfairly kicked all over the pitch.

Well, by “players” I mean, just Rooney, because Poll goes on to laud Drogba for staying on his feet this season, and openly accuses Eduardo of diving. See, what Graham Poll is worried about isn’t the truth or whether labeling a player like Eduardo a diver might adversely effect referee’s calls against him on Wednesday. No, he’s worried that all of us pointing out Rooney’s blatant dives — like this one against Arsenal which is universally accepted as a dive, or this one against Tottenham where he gets a yellow card for simulation (cheating), or this disgraceful cheating against Chelsea where he both dives AND pretends he was injured, or his coup de grace, the absolutely shameful Dida-like fakery against Blackburn Rovers — Poll is worried that all of us pointing to those examples of fakery might hurt England’s chances in the World Cup. Because Graham Poll, the guy who’s job it was to be professionally fair, suddenly doesn’t seem to give two fucks about fairness.

In the end, I’m not worried that Eduardo won’t be able to overcome this, he overcame Taylor breaking his leg and the year of rehab it took to get back into the game, but I am pissed off. I’m pissed off that because of this Nationalism Football week I’ve got to sit here and have an heroic Arsenal player get slagged off in the press. I’m pissed that this might effect Arsenal next week when we take on City because there will inevitably be a challenge that goes in on Eduardo and all of these slanderous news stories will, no doubt, be fresh on everyone’s mind and that because of this bullshit press Eduardo and Arsenal might not get a fair shake.

It’s time to end this slur against Eduardo and Arsenal and get back to playing real football.

Racism, Xenophobia, and Labor Day

You don't labor on labor day

It’s labor day here in America (or labour in England) and it’s a tradition that we don’t work. Conveniently, there’s also not shite happening with Arsenal this morning.

So, just a quick round-up of Arsenal players and their international duties. Followed by a round-up of Arsenal’s team injuries. All washed down with a bit of Thierry Henry taking the piss out of Raymond Domenech.

Now, since you’ll probably want to talk about something while at work and since I don’t want to write something I will instead just ask a question and let you all respond.

During yesterday’s kickaround I had no less than two people say that this whole Rooney/Terry/Eduardo controversy has made them so sick of the EPL that at least one is swearing off the Premier League this year. The one guy said that the English xenophobia has gotten so strong and so obvious that he’s just not going to watch it while the other guy pointed out that he felt there was also an element of race in this whole thing. I have written about this topic quite extensively; UEFA and FIFA’s seemingly pro-racism policies when it comes to Zenit, the seemingly racist and xenophobic reaction to Taylor breaking Eduardo’s leg, or Phil Neville’s insane proclamation that “foreigners” tackle dirty, and of course last week’s crazy statements by England captain John Terry that only foreigners dive. It seems like I have to write about this pretty much every month and it seems like English players and the English press love to blame “foreigners” for all of the EPLs ills (even foreign owners are to blame for the credit crisis!). Since I’m tired of writing about this every week, this is your chance to write in and talk about what you think.

So…

As an Arsenal supporter, what part do you feel that race and/or xenophobia play in the EPL, in decisions on the field, on the comments made by iconic players, and in the post match commentary by pundits?