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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Something For The Weekend (93)



By Steve Wade

When it comes to listing my favourite television comedies, I probably would not put Till Death Do Us Part amongst them. The Likely Lads was my favourite of that era and then that thing about the hotel in Torquay. Alf Garnett did too much shouting for my taste, Anthony Booth was too smug by half but I suppose he was a fair representative of a generation who thought they knew
everything, and it was only redeemed by Dandy Nichols' deadpan timing as the 'silly moo'. It also has to be said that a good proportion of the audience actually shared Alf's prejudices and values, and probably never actually got the joke.

It's all old hat these days and its political aims and values now seem as outmoded as the Benny Hill Show or Pans People on Top Of The Pops. But one scene still remains in memory. Alf is going on about the Jews and the
'Scouse Git' is wondering aloud, whether Alf is a Jew himself, and the more Alf gestures in his denial, the more Jewish he looks (cue some standard music hall Jewish hand gestures). 'I'm not a Jew', he kept saying, while Booth taunted him into a red-faced, eye-bulging rage. It was the classic Jewish double-bind, best encapsulated by Groucho Marx's, 'Have you stopped beating your wife?', verbal trap. Both Warren Mitchell and Johnny Speight are/were Jewish.

As Eric Morecambe would say - 'Get out of that one!'.

I couldn't help thinking of this when Graeme Le Saux was asked his opinion on the state of homophobia in football, last week, on the BBC's Football Focus. He swallowed hard, grimaced, generally looked very uncomfortable and then proceeded to try and explain his own experience of homophobic chants, while trying to give an enlightened opinion but still making sure everyone understood that he himself is not gay. Cue footage of Robbie Fowler doing his outrageous gestures in a match a few years ago and Le Saux's discomfiture was complete. A note of hilarity was introduced when the
blushing and disconcerted Graeme, explained that one of the reasons he was branded gay, was that he read the Guardian newspaper.

Now, I have to admit that I have known quite a few Guardian readers over the years and I even read it once myself (just out of curiosity you understand) but it never struck me that it was the sort of thing gays in particular read. Naively I always thought it was the sort of newspaper that social-workers, school-teachers and vegetarian Lefties read but I had no idea that being seen reading it, marked you out as one who bats for the
other side. Naturally, I went straight out to the newsagents and cancelled all my papers which have an arts and culture section and ordered Der Stu:rmer instead - lots of topless Arians and tanks in the motoring section.

Already, I am filled with self-doubt, as I recall that generally I have found myself feeling happier in the company of Guardian readers, than I tend to be in the midst of a football crowd. Guardian readers, I have found, are generally people with their hearts in the right place, while football fans seem to demonstrate a brutal streak of misanthropy. Guardian readers generally demonstrate a modicum of intelligence, while I have often had the shameful thought, when attending a football match, that I was actually surrounded by total and unspeakable morons. Birds of a feather and all that.

It seems that it is necessary to revert to some quantity theory of evil, to explain the behaviour of football fans; and it seems obvious, that where it is eliminated in one area it must by necessity resurface in another. While fan's web-sites will generally avoid racism, they will have no such qualms about other areas of vile prejudice or slander. Spurs fans may object to Hitler salutes and refuse to see Bosnich's goose-stepping joke, but the same fans now have the lyrics of chants, which call Wenger a paedophile and Sol Campbell gay, on their web-site.

Cue Goldberg joke:

Goldberg meets a friend who has recently moved to New York. 'What do you think of it?', Goldberg says. 'There's two things I can't stand', his friend
replies. 'What's that?', Goldberg asks. 'The racism and the schwarzers', his friend says.

/Joke End

But I think it runs deeper than this. If the fans are so viciously homophobic and no professional player dare risk coming out, without facing the tragic consequences that overtook the last one who did, then what of
ex-players? If they are at no risk from the bigotry of the fans, then the only explanation is that homophobia is institutionalised at every level in the game. It is no good the BBC asking why no player is willing to come out,if their own recruitment policy excludes gays from their presentation. They now have an Asian presenter for Football Focus (who I don't think is very good), as a positive role-model to make the game as inclusive as possible; so why no gay presenter? Until that happens, no player is going to run the gauntlet of the red-tops, while being cold-shouldered by the Beeb and the rest of the broadcasters.

If they could find a gay Asian afro-Caribbean woman, they will just about cover all the bases. And if racists really are a minority in football, then why not bring Big Ron back too.

But enough of this hand-wringing about the fact that most people are hateful bastard morons, who prove daily that if Jesus returned tomorrow, that the f***ers would nail him up all over again - with pictures in the Sun.
Instead, a few words about the brilliant win England enjoyed on Wednesday, which chalked up yet another point for Graham Taylor, by proving that he can still spot a player and that the direct game sometimes yields dividends, when the tippy-tap passing game, founders on tight formations.

A great contribution from Peter Crouch and a classic headed goal. Add this to the contribution of Wright-Phillips who proved he could play for England without fear and a MOTM performance from Joe Cole and there was a lot to celebrate. Big Peter might not be the sort of player a kid's going to fantasize about becoming, over the park, but when he comes on he always unsettles the opposition and while Rooney was totally stifled in his deep position, acres seem to appear as soon as Crouch stepped on the pitch.

The pundits were very reluctant to say it but Mourinho deserves a hell of a lot of credit for doing such a good job on Cole, who is beginning to look world-class and seems to be carrying a lot more muscle than he used to
(whoops what a give-away) and plays with the mien of a tough professional, rather than some kid showing off to his mates. What with his transformation of Terry and fat boy Lampard, the Chelsea manager seems to have the
incredible knack of offering new challenges to English players and inspiring them to new heights.

With the present obsession that English is best, it is not surprising that our Portuguese Maestro is not given the credit he deserves. Hopefully, Villa's O'Leary can take a leaf out of his book and inspire his rookie
defenders to new heights on Saturday. An ominous silence has fallen over the fans over this one because, it is an incredibly important game; a game the rest of the season hinges on. Lose this one and the club will be chin-deep
in the brown stuff and it will be fasten your safety-belts time.

Head between your legs and brace yourself- emergency landing procedure at the ready.
The Journalist

Writer: J P Fear Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Saturday March 4 2006

Time: 9:37AM

 

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