Sunday, December 10, 2006

Political Football

So, Manchester United are going to play a European select XI next March to celebrate 50 years of the Treaty of Rome (if my sister's reading this, that established what is now the EU), as well as their own half century of participation in European competition.

1. Why choose Man U as the team with 50 years of European tradition? Why not Rangers, who debuted in the same season? Or Fiorentina, Nice, Dortmund, Anderlecht, or Spora Luxemburg, who were all from original Treaty of Rome nations and also appeared in 1957? Or Real Madrid, who won the first 5 European Cups, and have the best record of any team in UEFA Competitions over the period? Perhaps the Red Devils marketablity is stronger than some of those names, but that surely isn't the motivation for this, is it?

2. Why choose an English team at all? We didn't even enter the first European Cup in 1955 because we thought we were better than all those perfidious garlic eating foreigners (ironic that Chelsea, the multinational dreamcoat of a team in 2006, would have been our representative that year) and we've not had the best reputation on the continent since. Five year ban for Heysel, anyone? Hardly the greatest advert for European harmony, especially when you consider the "special" ways we do things an die Insel off the football pitch (why Britain's membership of the EU is not rescinded for disservices to coffee is a fly that frequently buzzes around my brain).

3. The match itself will probably be a damp squib. About a year ago I watched a "friendly for peace" between Barcelona and a combined Palestinian-Israeli XI from the Camp Nou. The best bit was Sean Connery doing the ceremonial kick-off; the game was a terrible bore: the Israelis didn't attack, they just defended their territory, and the Palestinians were powerless to take on a much stronger opponent. And peace in the Middle East is still as far off as it ever was. This time, there will surely be restrictions on the players participating: I'm guessing they won't let non-EU players join in, which means no Vidic, Heinze or Solskjaer for United and no Ronaldinho, Messi, Drogba, Shevchenko or Adriano for the select XI.

4. If I were in charge of the selections (don't worry, they've given the yacht-dwelling Marcello Lippi that arduous task), I'd try to get Jean-Marc Bosman out of retirement, as it's through the ruling that bears his name that the EU has had the biggest impact on football. Actually it would be great to have him introduced to the teams before the kick-off: all the millionaire stars of today's game should shake him by the hand - without his court case, they wouldn't have the massive contracts that so dominate the top European leagues now.

On the other hand:
Hmm, it's bound to be a crappy match, so it's bound to be on Eurosport, which means I can watch it. Hurrah! (everything on Eurosport is crap, but football is better than snooker with Portuguese commentary)

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