Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Bye Bye Avram Grant

I don't normally wax lyrical about sporting events. Some people think they are still little more than the Bread and Circuses of the Romans, and to an extent they are correct.

Right: despite Roman Abramovitch's billions andthe placement of his co-religionist puppet Avram Grant as manager, Chelsea slumped out of the FA Cup to South Yorkshire's Barnsley.

However, it is a man of little feeling who feels no empathy with his home-town team. In working class communities there has always been a release to be found in sports, even going back to the Middle Ages and the pre-cursors to football and rugby that involved whole villages, often linked with religious festivals and with some prize at the end of it to bolster the accomplishment and local pride of the winning "team."

Whatever you might think of the Romans, they knew a lot about running an Empire - good and bad. Who's to say we don't like circuses? We certainly need bread!

What I find unpleasant is that the game which is known as the "national game" - certainly in England - has become the plaything of the mega-rich.

Gone are the days when you could stand on the terraces for a couple of quid of a Saturday afternoon (usually behind a cluster of bus drivers and a lonely bloke with a portable radio pressed to his ear to get the audio commentary from the local radio station).

The football clubs are now more and more the plaything of foreign rich men, with teams full of foreignors and prima donnas whose sole loyalty is to their vastly inflated wage packet.

That is why I was so pleased to see so many underdogs get through to the FA Cup semi-finals, West Brom being the exception - yet even they are far from "top flight."

So whatever you think of football, whatever you think of the bread and circuses thrown out to appease our people as their nations are invaded, whatever you think of the big pansies who dive and screech at the first sign of a tackle, you have to agree that the likes of Portsmouth, Cardiff and Barnsley make for better teams to reach the finals than Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Even if you might support the latter clubs, the more the mega-rich owners and pouting foreignor players fail to beat lower level teams, the more we may realise that conviction, effort and belief can achieve more than throwing money at anything.

What is true for sport is also true for politics and life in general.

The mega-rich, the gangsters and suchlike may get their way 90% of the time, but when Barnsley put Chelsea out of the Cup it makes you realise that the old saying is true:

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.


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