FOOTBALL IS INTERESTING,
AND IF YOU DON'T AGREE YOU CAN FUCK OFF*
Mickey Blue Eyes
*"Football" substituted for "Science" from a phrase attributed by Richard Dawkins to an as-yet-unidentified editor of New Scientist in a confrontation with monotheists.
** See also addendum.
Few football supporters of whatever allegiance would deny Chelsea manager José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix is at least an interesting character. Therefore, human nature means he is bound to have some enemies. I am not one of them. Like many others I actually like him. I even like Harry Redknapp too; the duo is recognised as worthily different despite their doubtful or suspicious behaviour. We must have humour to counterbalance perceived coldness in "objective" intelligence. This is called "common sense." But sense is far from common in football. Hence the humour requirement (and not only in football). Surprises are necessary.
This is also why many fans roll their eyes when some intellectual statistics devotee comes up with percentage play lists or equally useless diagrams that prove......what, exactly? Ultimately, all the match stats and diagrams in the world cannot explain an instinctive great goal or moment of outstanding ball control or passing movement, though there are many such po-faced attempts. To us footy emotionals the only stats that really matter are the final score and fleeting glorious athletic gymnastics. Trying to explain Jose's comic ego is a different matter altogether. You cannot imagine him giving a polite warning cough before he launches into one of his epic diatribes. A good thing too.
So Homo sapiens likes, no needs, scatty spontaneity at least as much as its intellect. It is why, for another instance, some of us admired the recent episode where Jose said West Ham United played "Nineteenth century football" during a 1-1 draw. Sam Allardyce laughed uproariously and said, "I don't give a fuck. We got to him." Afterwards, Jose's face was a study in nineteenth century angst. Whatever you think of Sam and his methods you have to concede he won hands down that little duel of the verbals. Of course the whole football soap opera brings out the best and worst in all of us. It is not just managers, coaches and players who are guilty. All sports are thus; in the opposite corner, computer games are emotionally useless because they are truly frigid, someone's frozen memory for the lonely.
Still, there are limits. It would be tedious to have more than one Jose Mourinho. Best let him indeed be "the special one." That way we both get mileage out of it. It is worth the occasional grotesque pantomime uproar. More than that would be a bore. On a more practical level I would love to see how he managed on a severely limited budget......not much better than anyone else would be my wager. Not that he is ever likely to try: he might lose his self-awarded status, which means his enemies would probably laugh their socks down; to be fair who could blame them?
Jose's other reactive frisson, that vinegary Arsene Wenger of Arsenal is "A specialist in failure" is a sign of Jose's own structural personality defects. Whether you like Wenger or not is beside the point: indisputably the man is a brilliant football manager, not a failure. Someone should remind Jose if he is going to dish it out he best be prepared to take it. He might also remember journalists at so-called "press conferences" are little more than unemployable tell-tale-tits re-telling another manager's words to get a bankable reaction. It is not my idea of how to make a decent living but hey! times are hard down there in the sewers with Rupert Murdoch, market consultants and zero hours employment.
So I was unable to resist his Friday pre-match "conference," hoping for a Jose Moment or two. Alas, he looked and sounded all baggy eyed and reticent, quite uncombative and full of common sense. Maybe it is the newly grey hair and a mellowing of spirit. Here was no pantomime villain, no shouts of "Where's the bogey man, children!?" To reprise Walter Smith, it was all very disappointing. He even failed to criticise Roberto's famous shoes. Typical Jose, he wrong footed us all. I tuned out almost crestfallen.
It failed to help my mood for the next day journey to Sleaze City and our match at Chelsea, a place that with some luck may yet fall apart through sheer rottenness, cold heartedness and constant sight of the vile high rise slums of Canary Wharf. Just imagine having to look at that every day for the rest of your life. Yeuk. Add to that the scam £55 ticket price - if you are at the rear of the lower tier it is like watching through a letter box - and it is no wonder many fans feel enough is enough. And if you could not travel the venue also meant you were wasting your time watching it on TV; commentaries on games in London are so one sided it is laughable, even worse than the egg-shaped moron Alan Green on Radio 5.
Nevertheless it was a good car journey down, fine weather all the way. For the match it even managed to glimmer through the trapped cloud of carbon monoxide hovering over the entire city. Match wise I was optimistic, knowing these days we can beat anybody if we get even breaks and refrain from too much tippy-tappy stuff; however, I was slightly chastened when I saw our line up. To me it looked as though we might fade in the last quarter no matter how well we played. Sadly, so it transpired after we were the better team for most of the match, only to lose yet another late goal to a free kick and poor defence concentration. Really, it was our own fault. In patches Chelsea were clearly outplayed to the point of raggedness, but picked up in the last ten-fifteen minutes when they should have been out of it.
Nor was it much of an occasion. Stamford Bridge is not the most enthusiastic of venues and never has been. All the Russian oligarch money on the planet cannot make it so. Our lot did their best but there is only so much even the most rabid fan feels like shouting when it is keep-ball for minutes on end. As usual Our Boys traced pretty confidence-filled patterns everywhere.....and then usually failed to shoot after working themselves into some very good positions. There are times when this veteran fan gets the willies with unsuccessful possession football. Great when it comes off, maddening when it fails. For it to truly succeed as a Spanish-style spectacle a team needs at least two players who can deliver la matanza. But we do not have them. The result is the kind of frustration that ends up sobbing on a psychiatrist's couch.
Not that there were no efforts. Early on Osman hit an instinctive angled half volley when the ball "stood up" for him perfectly at the end of a superb left wing move. Cech got it over the bar. Then Kevin Mirallas missed a half chance left side of the penalty area. Later, a similar move carved Chelsea open like an underdone chicken and Mirallas made a hopeless mess of a clear chance at the right edge of the D. On other occasions, again particularly down the left, Chelsea were running in circles trying to get the ball back, a goal looked possible, then....nothing. The longer it went on the more you felt we were likely to let one in. With all that oil and gas money on the pitch it only required a moment for it to pay off. The Rent Boys had a couple of missed chances of their own just to make the point.
As usual, the second half tempo was different. We made only one chance when Osman hit a long range shot from outside the right side of the penalty area and Mirallas made the tiniest of deflections for Cech to make a quite magnificent save low down on his left at the post. The enemy had two clear cut chances which they too spurned. Gradually Chelsea worked their way back into the game until in the last ten minutes they looked the more likely as Our Boys finally began to run out of steam. In the second minute of added time it was a tired looking Phil Jagielka who gave away a needless free kick wide left. Lampard took it, the ball zoomed into the middle unhindered by our centre backs or any other defender, and the ball disappeared into a scramble before ending up in the net. It was impossible to see how from my seat. And that was that.
The defeat ended our already-distant chances of finishing fourth in the league, perhaps fifth too. Sixth looks more possible though even that is now threatened by a mildly resurgent Manchester United. In reality it is all there to fight for and anything is possible, however unlikely. That is why football is interesting. It is the hope that "kills" you.
On the return journey I sat in the rear of the car and switched on the back-of-seat TV hoping to catch Roberto's and Jose's post match interviews. Roberto was appropriately pissed off with our bad luck and Chelsea's gamesmanship, as were we all. I anticipated a fiery riposte from Jose; instead, all mellow and reasonable, he said Chelsea were lucky, that it was only a balance because we were lucky when we beat them at Goodison. The latter was bollocks of course, but understandable bollocks. Jose actually looked relieved to gouge a win. I switched the set off, frustrated again. Drat that Jose Mourinho: he has grown up and gone all common sense on us.
**Addendum. For those interested in the hermeneutics of this essay title I recommend this French interpretation:
"Mais, il faut vraiment que des gens arrêtent de traduire "fuck off" par "va te faire foutre" ou "va te faire enculer" - ces deux expressions dépassent de loin le sens que "fuck off" a aujourd'hui. Ce n'est pas parce qu'on associe "fuck" avec "foutre" qu'on peut se permettre de faire n'importe quoi avec !
"Fuck off" est quasiment toujours utilisé dans le sens de "casse-toi" ou "fous le camp", c'est-à-dire, une façon très énervée pour dire "dégage".
No editor, no matter how "funky", of New Scientist would ever, ever have said: "Science is interesting, and if you don't agree you can go fuck yourself," unless he were an extremely bitter person with an enormous score to settle."
Jean-Paul Sartre would have loved that one. Jose, fluent in French, take note.