Sunday, 20 May 2012

Reasons to be cheerful

Reasons to be cheerful: Spurs have been relegated to the Europa League; John Terry wasn't on the pitch;  er ... that's it, really.

One of the annoying features of ITV's coverage of the Champion's League Final was the way that the camera regularly cut to check on Roman Abramovitch and his entourage (latest squeeze and mini-me to the fore). Not since the days of the Colosseum have the reactions of the rich bloke in the best seats been so carefully scrutinised. His symbolic acceptance of the trophy at the end was both appropriate and slightly nauseating at the same time. Does he think he now owns it?

At one point (just after Drogba's equaliser, I think) we saw security trying to prevent others further up the tier moving into the empty seats just behind the Russian as they celebrated. I assumed these seats had been reserved to provide a cordon sanitaire around a man who we must presume has grounds to fear a bullet in the neck, however it transpired that the seats were occupied by dignitaries who chose to spend most of the game elsewhere. The mystery of their identity was solved at full-time as a grinning George Osborne appeared alongside the German Finance Minister.

I'd hazard a guess that what they were up to during the game involved the simultaneous G8 summit at Camp David in the USA. But I suspect Osborne's absence during most of the match was due less to the need to get on the blower to the PM and more to his total lack of interest in the sport, though he'll no doubt be a lifelong Chelsea fan from henceforth, the freeloading glory hunter. To judge from another officially released photo (i.e. staged for you and me), David Cameron was engaged in some competitive banter with Angela Merkel at the time, with only Barack Obama stopping things turning ugly.

I don't imagine Merkel cares much for football (unlike the seated guy in front of her who looks like he is about to be sick). Cameron, with his clenched fists aloft pose, is trying too hard to look like a typical British sports fan. It's the sort of thing you do in a bar, but looks naff in a conference room (note the sleeves rolled up to show that real work is going on too - I doubt the aircon has failed). To some, this is just an example of politicians trying to connect with more ordinary folk, but the sight of the PM celebrating the triumph of Russian gangster capitalism is as distasteful as all that Murdoch arse-licking.

Cameron is on record as claiming an affiliation with Aston Villa, sparked by being taken to Villa Park as a boy by his uncle, Sir William Dugdale, a former chairmen of the club (no, I don't supposed he ever stood on the Holte End). A real Villain wouldn't be seen dead celebrating the success of another team, particularly a mob who play in blue. You can always tell the casual fan (or non-fan, as I sniffily prefer to think of them) when they ask you who you will be supporting as a neutral in a big match. I predictably wanted Bayern to win, for purely negative reasons (i.e. I didn't want Chelsea to lift the trophy), but I do not support them. Neutrals don't support, supporters do.

The 2011-12 season is likely to prove a watershed. The success of Man City last week and then Chelsea last night proved beyond doubt that money can buy you success. The cheerleaders of the EPL and CL will point to the last-minute drama and insist we have just witnessed two "miracles", but the bald facts don't lie. Spend enough and you will win. The only surprise has been that John Terry's slippers, dodgy refereeing, and Abramovitch's impatience with managers have conspired to delay his acquisition of the big one.

The danger for Arsenal is that the clamour for Silent Stan to spunk a billion, or move over and let Alisher Usmanov do so, will now intensify, particularly if Robin van Persie moves to a club willing to do just that. A win for Bayern would not have been a triumph for humble values. This is FC Hollywood after all, and their success has owed much to big money signings such as Robben and Ribery, though they are a club that lives within its means, albeit those means are boosted by strong commercial revenues that reflect a nationwide fanbase.

On the night their nerves got to them. Perhaps playing at home was less an advantage than a burden. How often will you see someone as stereotypically German as Schweinsteiger miss a penalty? Chelsea were dull but effective in killing most of the game, and Drogba managed one good move for the equaliser (Lampard's role in blocking the defender's run should not go unacknowledged). When it came down to penalties, despite Mata fluffing his lines, Chelsea had less to lose and were consequently the more clinical.

This final will not live long in the memory of neutrals, or at least not for footballing reasons. This was a balance sheet victory. Will Roman feel he has achieved all he can and so wind down his interest in Chelsea? He's got to spend his billions on something, and even converting Battersea Power Station into a new stadium will only soak up so much. Expect a bid for Messi or Ronaldo this summer.


  1. Have you any idea how depressing this was to read on the mobile version while bleary eyed in the morning? It got worse and worse and a slow, agonising way.

    Summary suggests it's about Chelsea. Not good so far. Click on it, and see a picture with people in blue holding up a cup. Not good.

    Half reading the text, and half looking at the picture. "Is that Osborne? Can't be. What the fuck is he doing there?" You click on the picture. Inconclusive. Maybe it's not him.

    Back to the text. It is fucking Osborne.

    Blearily read more text. "..German finance minister...blah blah.. Cameron..." Cameron? What the fuck is this to do with Cameron? Isn't he somewhere else? Isn't he a tennis fan?

    Scroll down. Picture of picture of Cameron pretending to be excited and posing for photo op. World's most powerful man wasting time watching a dull football match, when he doesn't have to pretend to be interested. Try not to vomit.

    Did you not think of how this would look to innocent readers? Think of the children.

  2. Yeah, but think how it must feel to be a Spurs fan.