Firmino is a poor man’s Bergkamp, Trolley Problem and more…

Date published: Monday 4th May 2020 2:28

Roberto Firmino Dennis Bergkamp Liverpool Arsenal

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No return
Brilliant mail from Mark MCFC about all the bizarre and pie-in-the-sky schemes to resume football. They can’t happen, shouldn’t happen and won’t happen. An ounce of common sense tells you it is not possible to resume a contact sport while social distancing is required, let alone manage the infinite number of knock-on consequences for the families of players and staff, and everyone else involved. The inevitable deaths among those involved are not the only problem – just as bad will be the unnecessary demand placed on health services dealing with all the new cases that require treatment, which itself puts health workers at risk.

Obviously there are industries where a relatively high level of risk is deemed necessary, like food production. Unfortunately football is not one of them. All the excuses being used to justify resuming football are not even close to being sufficient. Broadcast and sponsorship deals? Player contracts? Keeping the public entertained? I don’t dismiss any of these as important things in their own right; they’re part of the infrastructure of the game we love. But they are minor details considered in the big picture, and will be worked out one way or another when the time is right.

Even the socialist Guardian is defending the Premier League, talking about clubs needing revenue to survive. As if football clubs are made up of anything other than human beings. Employees of football clubs and others in the wider football industry do need to be able to keep their homes, feed their families, etc. That’s undeniable. But the income to do this absolutely does not need to come from generating the kind of risk to individual and societal health that resuming football will create.

Primarily it will come from government, as it is for millions of others. It can come from billionaire club owners (if you have one), as it is for those who have already been shamed into it. It can come from the broadcasters (multi-national firms Sky, BT, Amazon) deciding that stumping up some cash now is an investment in the game. It can come from millionaire players, who can reduce their salaries or donate some of them to others (as some have).

Whisper it quietly, but perhaps it can even come from the fans – the ones who are still earning and can afford it – deciding that instead of demanding to be allowed to pay to watch high-risk football in the next few months, they can choose to pay to support the players and staff of their beloved clubs to stay at home and stay alive until it really is safe to resume. Consider it charity, consider it an act of solidarity, or consider it a down-payment on future enjoyment. Just consider it.

Some will say this is another Man City fan hoping the season is voided so we can retain the title. That’s bull. The whole ‘void the season’ vs ‘finish the season’ vs ‘come up with some formula to decide trophies, promotion and relegation now’ debate is pointless. When the time comes, at some point in the future, we can see where we are. I don’t really see any insurmountable barrier to playing the remaining games of the season, whenever that happens to be. I’ll be happy to see Liverpool finish off an amazing season, and see City get knocked out of the Champions League again one last time. But if for genuine practical reasons we need to start the next season without finishing this one, so be it.

For now, I hope we can all just stop talking nonsense about resuming the league and just enjoy some very welcome nostalgia that F365 and others are offering up to get us through.
Richard MCFC

 

Haircuts could kill people; are they still worth it?
Right. That’s it. I had already intended to write in on this subject, but Mark, MCFC in this morning’s mailbox has just pushed me over the edge.

A week ago today here in Switzerland, they allowed barbers and hairdressers to reopen. They did the same in Spain. France will follow suit in 7 days’ time.

I will be kind and say that all three are either in wilful denial or just plain ignorant on what is going on around them. Let’s be crystal clear. The ‘risk’ involved in people getting their hair cut isn’t that somebody might catch a bit of a cold or cop a dose of the runs. It is that people will die. Not could or might. People will die. Barbers, hairdressers, clients, bus drivers, cleaning staff, handymen, the list goes on and on. And for what? So you can alleviate our boredom in lockdown? So you can look good in front of the people you are quarantined alongside or prevent them from offering to give you a haircut instead? So you can impress on your zoom meetings?

You see, Mark, everything does need to have perspective. The hysterical reaction to “Project Restart” is sadly lacking in perspective. This, despite every single statement ever made these days coming with the caveat, “when it is safe to do so”. Project Restart is no exception; it came with the specific note that everything would be dependant on the UK Government and its health advisors agreeing with the protocol they establish. I’m not at all suggesting that one blindly trusts one’s government to make the right decisions, nevermind the Premier League, but the objections to Project Restart seem entirely irrational and emotion-driven. They seem to push back at the notion of considering restarting football at all, rather than any specific part of the plan in terms of timing or risk mitigation.

If the bar you are setting is “at least 1 person will die”, then I cannot disagree with you. But as above, at least 1 person will die due to barbers and hairdressers opening up across continental Europe. This is the world we live in now. Even the best health and safety protocols fail, whether by design or by human error (we’ve all seen the way people have used masks wrong, etc). There will be businesses and industries which open up over the next 6 weeks which do not meet your “worth someone dying for” criteria. If governments took this approach and did not allow “not worth dying for” businesses to open over the coming weeks and months, this would lead many to experience genuine human suffering, whether it be through extreme economic hardship, or through increased risk of depression/suicidal thoughts, increased exposure to abusive spouses or parents, etc. This human cost will be as real as COVID-19 deaths – it is just harder to predict and quantify, because there won’t be anyone ticking a box which says “COVID19-related” as you get with deaths at hospitals.

This is a genuine real life Trolley Problem. I can’t recall ever sympathizing with politicians & other decisionmakers before, but I certainly do now, because there isn’t a right answer and even if they get everything spot-on (which they won’t), people will still die and they will still be criticized for it. That does not mean picking the easy answer and erring on the side of extreme caution is the right answer, or the answer which leads to the fewest people dying or suffering.

I do not pretend to have the expertise and information required to opine on exactly what should happen when. But based on the data and timelines publicly available, and on what is going on in countries ‘further along the curve’, it seems reasonable for clubs to resume training in some limited capacity “sometime soon”, and to begin planning how matches could be played safely “eventually”, were the government and health advisors to give their go-ahead, based on (1) the number of daily infections + daily deaths, (2) hospital capacity, (3) availability of masks and gloves, (4) availability of testing. Football should not be reintroduced before it is safe to do so, taking local conditions into consideration. This is true of barbershops and hairdressers, and many other industries that will be opening up over the next 6 weeks. Our perspectives need to be adjusted to the reality of post-COVID19 life, rather than aspiring to levels of absolute guaranteed safety that will not exist for years to come, as doing so is futile and would lead to even more dire unintended consequences.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland

 

Mark MCFC has, in his own words, been pushed over the edge.  I’d be inclined to agree based on the amount of hyperbole knocking around his mail.

No one is suggesting the football starts back before it is deemed safe to do so.  The earliest date they have in mind for a restart is the 8th of June and the world will likely look decidedly different then than it does now in terms of businesses being open.  Would you still be of the same opinion if the majority of offices, factories and shops were open, albeit with safety restrictions in place (as is proposed with football)?  Will you be writing to the Government demanding that they enforce Greggs or Primark to close down because pasties and cheap t-shirts aren’t essential?

If we don’t look at how football can restart now then there’s no point in doing so for 18 months, as that’s the expected timeline for developing and mass producing a vaccine, by which point many clubs will have gone to the wall.

No one is suggesting that players and stadium staff be put at unnecessary risk – the proposals are for large scale testing prior to every match (and before anyone jumps in, this wouldn’t mean NHS staff being unable to access testing FFS do you really think these things are mutually exclusive?) and that anyone who tests positive would be made to self-isolate.   These tests would obviously need to be made before individuals come into contact with others so maybe in a car park? At home before travelling to the ground?  Upon entry to a team/stadium staff designated hotel?  I’m not privy the exact information but I’d be pretty confident in assuming that some people with large scale logistics planning experience, for example professional sport,  would be able to find a safe solution.

I’m not going to comment on the other parts of your mail apart from the ‘anyone who disagrees with me must hate the NHS’ line….seriously mate you’re better than that.
James Outram, Wirral

 

In reply to Mark (No attempts at humour on this one) MCFC, I hate to bring it to everyone but in this logic football has always been killing people. Infectious diseases like ordinary flu, from which people still die, or more serious and less common ones will spread when big crowds gather. If football could not continue when one person would die as a consequence, it could never continue. It is about minimizing the risk and also about accepting that football and other entertainment business bring something to our lives and we need them.

Otherwise why dont we ban cars? There were almost 2 000 people killed in car accidents in 2018 in Great Britain. Road transport is essential for supply of goods and for the whole economy to work, I hear you say. Well, why dont we just ban using cars to get to sports events, to visit friends, to travel for holiday?
Jan, Prague

 

Firmino is a poor man’s Bergkamp
Just watched some of Bergkamp’s assists and believe when people complain Firmino doesn’t get enough goals you should view him as a poor man’s Bergkamp and I mean that as the highest compliment.
David (the vision and touch is what does it for me) Morris 

 

CO-VOID?
Again — I know there’s a shortage of stories to discuss and you need to keep baiting the clicks, but haven’t we been over this ground before?

Looking to restart football isn’t ‘disrespecting’ the dead or ignoring the fact that ‘football could kill people’ as you so ridiculously put in your banner. So could eating a peanut for that matter.

It’s exploring options. Frankly some of the ridiculous comments on here beggar belief. Mark MCFC is coming from a genuine place, i’m sure, but making the playground comparison of ‘Magic Wand’ and only one person die — but that’s your loved one’? What on earth? Why are you publishing this nonsense?

Should cafes and pubs not want to restart their businesses? Perhaps you think that’s not a similar comparison — we all need to eat/drink. Okay,  should the film industry not be looking at ways in which they can work? That’s my industry and we’ve been thinking up ways to continue shooting that are equally contrived — faking depth of shot, moving whole productions to countries like Iceland, etc. We need to work, we need to earn money, so we’re trying to find a way that works, whilst remaining respectful to health and safety. It’s not perfect and it’s not the same, but we have to find a way or our industry will cease to exist.

It’s exploring options, it’s not a ‘meaningless compromise to appease one club’.  As I’ve said before, I don’t want to come down on the side of PL owners, but wanting to go back to a vague sense of normality isn’t a crime. Yes there are players who won’t want to play, but we can’t take one players quotes and then attribute them to the entire league. Players’ health should be a priority, but that’s the same for Rail workers, teachers and the other workers who are starting to look towards a restart. I’m desperate for my kids to get back to school so me and my girlfriend can work again– should I be accused of being disrespectful for wanting schools to come back on June 1st?

Perhaps that’s not a fair comparison — but then again, neither is accusing people of being heartless or lacking empathy for wanting football to restart.
Dan,  London

 

Lettermen
Some tricky letters in the next batch…

The I’s have it: Bodo Illgner in goal, Ivanovic and Irwin at full back, with Rinus Israel (European Cup winner with Feyenoord in 1970 – scored one of the goals, and member of Dutch 1974 WC squad) & Bulgarian legend Trifon Ivanov at centre back. Paul Ince anchors the midfield behind Isco & Iniesta (c). A narrow front three consists of Ibrahimovic, Immobile & Inzaghi. Sub options include Yuri Istomin (CSKA Moscow & USSR), Icardi & Illaramendi.

The J-J’s: The great Pat Jennings in goal, back four of Josimar (Brazil ’86 WC), Juan (2 x Copa America winner with Brazil), Ladislav Jurkemik (Euro ’76 winner with Czechoslovakia) and Robert Jarni (Coventry!). Jens Jeremies sits in front of the defence allowing Junior (Brazil ’82 & ’86 WC) & Wim Jansen (EC winner with Feyenoord and twice WC runner-up with Netherlands) the freedom to roam. Jairzinho & Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone cause havoc on the wings with Juanito (Real Madrid & Spain) at centre forward. Bench options include Janvion, Jonquet, Rob Jones, Johansson, Jankulowski, Juninho, Juskowiak & Gabriel Jesus.

The Special K’s: Oliver Kahn in nets, Manfred Kaltz (of Hamburg, & Euro ’80 winner with West Germany – scored a record 53 penalties in the Bundesliga!) at right back, Ruud Krol (triple EC winner with Ajax and double WC runner-up with Netherlands) at left back. Centre back duties shared between Jurgen Kohler & Ronald Koeman. Roy Keane (c) holds the midfield behind a creative trio of Keegan, Kaka & Raymond Kopa (EC runner-up with Reims before being signed by final opponents Real Madrid where he went on to win three ECs). Miroslav Klose & Sandor Kocsis (75 goals in 68 games for Hungary!!) as twin strikers. Plenty of options in reserve, including Kluivert, Klinsmann, Kopke, Karanka, Kaladze, Kante, Kroos, Karembeu, Kempes & Kubala.

One ‘L’ of a team: Jens Lehman gets the gloves, with a back four of Lahm, Lucio, Mark Lawrenson & Lizarazu. Michael Laudrup, Lampard and Billy Liddell share midfield duties, behind a front three of Leonidas (credited with inventing the bicycle kick), Denis Law & Lineker. Sub options include Brian Laudrup, Liedholm, Litmanen, Larsson, Emerson Leao, Lloris, Leboeuf, Lato, Littbarski, Leonardo & Lewandowski.
Vinny (LFC) Colchester

 

This could wind up a few…
Apparently, the FA is going to organise an awards ceremony to finish off the season. They intend to crown Liverpool as the “team that showed most improvement’ and give them a gold star to stick to the door of their mothers fridge.

The ceremony will be presented by Jimmy White and they have asked Apollo 11 astronaut, Michael Collins, the third astronaut to get to the moon but never actually walk on its surface to present the trophy.

The relegation places will be announced by the Birmingham Six.

Regards,
Eoin (a plastic title to match the plastic treble) Ireland

 

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