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Thursday, 9 February 2012

The overt racism of the English media

...because the English have done so well at the job

Fabio Capello's departure last night was almost simultaneous to the publishing of yesterday's blog post. If you missed it in the maelstrom you can read it here.
The past twenty four hours in football have, naturally, been dominated by the job of England Manager. There has been precious little chance for any proper football news to break through. As a result tonight's offering is not about Arsenal (though I do want to quickly mention the £5 return coach fare offered by the Club for the FA Cup game at Sunderland next week, a super gesture from Arsenal FC). In fact this blog is not even really about England - most regulars here will know that international football is a tedious sideshow as far as I'm concerned and exists only in the Summer when there is no Arsenal to watch. Tonight's post is about the reaction of the media to Capello's resignation, and their clamour for Harry The Twitch to take over.
In the past few weeks the media in this Country has been questioning how far we have really come in tackling racism in the game. Frankly it's a stupid debate as racism is not prevalent in football grounds in this Country. Sure, it exists in some of those that watch football, but that is true of some people in any walk of life. The high profile incidents involving Luis Suarez and John Terry have brought the issue to the fore. Arrests at football matches for racist remarks etc have been reported in the press - these arrests are nothing new, but the current climate made them "news." What has been particularly clear from our media, whether it be the printed word, Sky, BBC, TalkSport or whoever, is that racism is unacceptable in any form. It can not be condoned or encouraged. Racist remarks and views are to be stamped out. These are the sort of phrases we have been hearing in the media since Luis Suarez was first reported by Patrice Evra, and it's difficult to argue against, I'm sure you'll agree. You can imagine my shock, then, to see fat Barry Fry on Sky Sports News last night shouting in to the camera, and I quote, "...we don't want any more of these foreigners. We've had enough of foreigners." That's right Barry, we could do without these successful Manager's coming over here and helping us qualify for major tournaments with the most overrated talent in the World at their disposal. He went on to say how "they don't have the passion" and that the next England Manager must be English as "they can show the passion for our Country." Not that Barry would be guilty of using his own stereotype in order to get his point across. I'm sure he didn't realise it, but what Fry said was inherently racist. And Sky allowed it to be broadcast, and then replayed it all night and all morning. These foreigners with no passion - Arsene Wenger? Jose Mourinho? Carlo Ancelotti? Paolo Di Canio? Barry Fry wasn't alone, mind you - he merely set things off and running before a number of others picked up the baton and ran with it.
On the BBC website we had Alan Shearer and Peter Reid talking about "foreigners" and their failings, and how they don't "get" our ways and "don't understand" our media. Dan Walker of the BBC stated on Twitter that Capello's "unwillingness to master the lingo was frustrating" - to who, exactly? The muppets in the press? It hasn't been a problem to Trappatoni in Ireland, and his English is far worse than Capello's. There is this misconception that the foreign bosses can not inspire players. I remember Gareth Southgate complaining that Sven didn't get the players going at half-time in the Brazil quarter-final in 2002. This overlooks the fact that, if you need a Manager to get you buzzing to win a World Cup quarter-final, it says rather more about you than the man in charge.
Then we come to the written press. It is here that we have to put up with people like Oliver Holt and Charlie Wyett, serial offenders at getting their facts wrong, who seem to have forgotten that they are reporters. They are there to report, not to give opinion, not to set a public agenda, not to speak for the masses. These press journalists have been full of the "English passion needed" nonsense all day long. Of course this has brought them to the conclusion that England's leader must be Harry Redknapp. That conclusion has nothing to do with him being the biggest rent-a-quote in the history of football, obviously. The stuff on Twitter last night and this morning has been quite incredible. It seems that Fabio Capello was nothing more than a failure - two pretty flawless qualifications out of two (what happened under the last English boss?) Brian Woolnough had the gall to mock David Bernstein for describing Capello as a "great Manager." I would suggest that Fabio Capello's record as a football manager puts him among the legends of the game. It seems that history is to be expunged in the interests of showing that British is best. Who needs all that foreign technique etc when you can have English tubthumping instead? According to the press a man with one FA Cup to his name is a far better bet, because he's English, than a man with numerous Title's and European Cup's, but is Italian.
Sky Sports News today has actually been embarrassing. It has been wall-to-wall "Redknapp for England." It resembles the sort of thing you get with the US Presidential race. Sky have elected Harry as the "popular" choice for the job, and are being backed up by the press. Harry, it seems, is the Messiah of English football (I suppose after yesterday I can't quote Monty Python to finish that sentence). In the face of this storm the FA are being left with no choice.
If I was on the FA Board I would make sure to appoint Harry Redknapp as England Manager. I would keep every press cutting, every interview and every piece of video that demanded his appointment. Then when it all goes wrong, as it inevitably will, I would use it to defend Redknapp to the hilt. The press want him, let them have him. But then use their nonsense to beat them over the head with when they change their minds. We have, of course, been here before. The media demanded that Kevin Keegan should get the job. The FA gave it to him. It quickly became apparent that there was something missing. The media turned on Keegan. Most football supporters knew Keegan wasn't a top Manager before he was appointed. In the end he realised it himself and fell on his sword, genuinely honest to the end.
The main point of this post was to point out that the press have been slating Luis Suarez, various supporters and John Terry in recent weeks, for racism. They have made it clear that the guilty must be punished. I just find it ironic that their view of the "personal qualities" of a "foreigner" are what dictates whether or not someone should be England Manager. That is a prejudiced and racist standpoint. Of course the England Manager should be English, in an ideal World. But when there are no English Manager's with the requisite achievements then you must look for the best man for the job, regardless of his nationality. Little Englander syndrome won't do. And the media should not castigate people for racism when what they have done in the past twenty-four hours is effectively tantamount to the same thing. Let's face it, we couldn't understand why a "foreigner" was appointed to Arsenal in 1996, but Arsene Wenger showed he was the best man for the job. Maybe, just maybe, the problem with the England team is not who the Manager is, but the fact that the players are just not good enough, and haven't been since 1966.