PL Diary: How To Annoy Arsenal Fans

You could point out that it's too early to get giddy or that Jack Wilshere's goal was a fluke, or you could ask whether they should really try and occupy high moral ground...

Last Updated: 19/11/13 at 12:47 Post Comment

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If you want to annoy an Arsenal fan, you can do so in a number of ways. You could point out that in the last decade, Arsenal have done little of note except prepare Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie to win stuff elsewhere; they've got close and then fallen apart at some point in every season. You could point out that it's a bit too early to get this giddy about football, and watch plenty of them froth. But that's skin-deep stuff when it comes to Arsenal. If you want to be all smart-arse about it, ask them why the club, with its 'moral' way of running things with the balance sheet, is so demonstrably immoral in a fair few ways.

You could first ask why they charge the highest prices in the league for Category A games, and the highest prices for their season tickets, when the club haven't won anything for years, and haven't invested money on the stands relative to their resources. You could perhaps ask them why their club does this in a borough of London that has some of the worst poverty in the city. What a gift to the community.

You might ask them, then, why their boss turns his nose up at the idea of spending recklessly (this, obviously, does not include Mesut Ozil, because it's not reckless to pay fair a price for a youngish, brilliant player with the ability to inspire an entire squad, let alone first XI), talks about financial doping as if it's a great crime against the world, and yet is happy to hop to continental Europe to exploit labour laws - labour laws which prevent teenagers (children) from signing professional contracts at their clubs and allow English clubs to, essentially, steal them, not paying a fair price for the education and development another club provided. You could then ask them that if they're not taking part in financial doping themselves, whether this business practice is nevertheless something like financial shooting-in-the-kneecaps of other clubs.

You could ask them why the club which near-fellated Nike's own racism campaign in the run-up to a crucial game against Manchester United - when Roy Keane verbally disassembled Patrick Vieira in the pre-match tunnel chat - threw caution to the wind this summer. Before Ozil, who has never called Patrice Evra 'negro' countless times, Arsene Wenger was dropping his trousers and making warm, inviting and sensuous hand gestures in the direction of Luis Suarez, who has (only on one occasion, to his credit) called Evra 'negro' countless times. Arsene Wenger, in only March this year, was saying that clubs must act hard and fast against their own racist fans but obviously didn't think that extended to not employing players who'd done similar. Then again, you might ask Wenger if he really believes the Rooney Rule is a 'kind of racism' as he said in 2012. You could probably go one further and ask him if he also agrees, like countless idiots, that the fact that 'we can't have a Society of White Lawyers is racist'. Then, just for kicks, ask him if he hosts his own mock Music Of White Origin awards? The Gregorian Chanting category'' strong this year.

But if you really want to annoy an Arsenal fan, you could just say, that like Dennis Bergkamp's goal against Newcastle United, Jack Wilshere's first goal against Norwich was a fluke.

*****

Now, the majority of people who are reading this will either have had bosses, or have been bosses themselves. All the people who are reading this will have said something ridiculously stupid at work in their lives. People make mistakes, people occasionally can't grasp the obvious until it's too late. That's what apologies are for. You can make innocent mistakes about anything - someone's past, someone's height, someone's family, even someone's race. The point is that once you recognise your mistake, or someone helpfully points it out to you, you resolve never to do it again.

Which is why it's odd that Roy Hodgson has had so much time to learn about anti-racism ever since he broke the sporting boycott in South Africa in order to play and coach football in the Apartheid era. You would have thought that this faux pas would have been sufficient.

It's then a little bit odd that he chose to side with John Terry over Rio Ferdinand when it came to choosing his World Cup squad. And odd that he apparently chose an abridged version of a tale and reduced it to 'feed the monkey', helpfully using insensitive language to aid his team. Now, the tale itself might not have been racist, helping out white South Africans might not have been racist, and even speaking to John Terry and choosing his company might not have been racist. But at some point an adult does himself a disservice if he fails to learn.

There's also something that should probably be said. If you compare a man to a monkey, and the man is black, you might well upset him, regardless of what you intended. It does not make you a racist, but if you deny the whole context of the word 'monkey', regardless of the legitimacy of the space tale in which it features, then you are at best wilfully ignorant. Some people have clasped to Andros Townsend's declaration that he wasn't offended as a way to ignore this. It would be great if Townsend was not upset by this - nobody wants to feel uncomfortable or upset about their race, and nobody wants to suspect their boss is a racist. However, if you thought your boss was racist, or spoke up about a linguistic faux pas, would you potentially endanger your job? Would you miss out, in this case, on a World Cup place?

The next thing to point out is those who came out to defend Roy Hodgson. The football press is, sadly, institutionally racist. Demographically, people of colour are under-represented in the industry. Of all the writers in the press, it cannot be coincidence that all the people so quick to defend Hodgson were white. There were, though, people of colour in their thousands pointing out to said white writers that they felt very uncomfortable about the word monkey being used in this context. And that's the point. It's all very well saying that the joke's context or delivery stopped it being racist, but if thousands of people who have experienced racism say it's, at best, unwise to use such terminology, it's cultural arrogance to dismiss those calls. Cultural arrogance or perhaps institutional racism. Hodgson apologised, and that's good. Townsend doesn't appear to be upset, and that's even better. Lots of white people saying what black people can't be offended by, that's absolutely terrible. If there's anything white people hate more than racism, it's being told what is and isn't racist.

*****

We should probably end with a joke, shouldn't we? Right then. Adnan Januzaj chose to sign a new contract with Manchester United. HA HA HA HA HA.

Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton

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