All the things he Syed
Mediawatch was nodding at the opening line of Matthew Syed’s column in The Times:
‘I tend to get vexed by the unfavourable comparisons that footballers have to endure each time the Olympic Games come around.’
After all, which joyless w***er watches the compelling competition and entertainment offered by the Olympics and thinks ‘this was good, now how can I use it to talk down something else?’?
Matthew Syed, apparently.
‘And yet there is something that football does lack when you compare it with the Olympics. It has nothing to do with money, or skill, or detonations of brilliance, which are provided in spades. No, it is something softer, more elusive; something to do with the way the game is played. You might call it “respect”.’
You might if you were looking for a simplistic, sweeping statement about over 11,000 competitors at the Rio Olympics. You might if you were happy to studiously ignore little things like, you know, all the drugs and sh*t.
‘Take judo, where the fighters bow to each other at the conclusion of every bout. This is not merely a gesture, but an integral part of the sport. Deep in the culture is the idea that while the game is about skill and strength, it is also about honour and character.’
Forgive Mediawatch for consulting a judo expert on this point but here we find an explanation of the head bow:
‘The origins of bowing goes back to the samurai days. When two warriors met they would bow their heads to show the back of their neck, demonstrating that they trusted the other not to cut off their head. This is a Japanese version of a western handshake, which signifies that the sword hand, i.e. the right hand, is empty.’
It’s almost like it a) has absolutely nothing to do with the Olympics but has its origins in ancient Japanese culture and b) is exactly the same as the handshake Syed dismisses as ‘perfunctory’ in football. Also, not all Olympic judoka are chock-full of respect; Egyptian Islam El Shehaby refused to shake hands with his opponent and was sent home in shame.
‘I was struck, too, by the embrace between Andy Murray and Juan Martín del Potro after the tennis final, these two players separated by the result of a fiercely contested match, but united in mutual respect.’
Of course, Murray and Del Potro have known each other for 13/14 years as they competed together in junior tennis, but their embrace at the end of a tough Olympic final in an individual sport is of course the perfect way to criticise the lack of respect in a team sport steeped in tribalism.
We would also ask whether Murray and Del Potro have only learned this ‘respect’ at the Olympics? After all, back in 2008 they fell out after Del Potro brought Judy into ‘changeover trash-talking’. Having a pop at your opponent’s mother? That doesn’t sound massively respectful to Mediawatch.
‘This is not to idealise the Olympics, because they have deep problems, not least the scourge of doping. And, yes, there have been spats, disagreements and bad blood (think of the women’s 10km swimming, where Aurélie Muller of France pushed Italy’s Rachele Bruni out of the way near the finishing line, and was disqualified). But these have been the exception rather than the rule.
‘In football this equation is reversed. Disrespect is the norm, and instances of humanity are rare. The handshake before the match is perfunctory, and shirt-swapping at the final whistle has long lacked the dignity associated with the famous exchange between Pelé and Bobby Moore. There is bitterness in defeat, a desire to impugn the opposition rather than acknowledge what they have achieved. Rivalry is conflated with enmity.’
Thankfully, no coach at the Olympics has stripped in protest at the decision of the officials, no boxer has lost and left the ring saying “they’re f***ing cheats. They’re known for being cheats”and no British athlete has alleged corruption at being disqualified from a relay race. Thankfully, they have all embraced and bowed and been gracious in defeat. Because they’re in the Olympics. And that makes them so very much better than those football hooligans.
Vexed? Mediawatch is f***ing livid.
This line is just bizarre from Syed:
‘We all love satire, and nobody would wish to sanitise stadiums, but is there really a need to sing about aircraft disasters and stadium tragedies?’
Obviously not, but who the hell calls it satire? And what the juddering jump has it got to do with the Olympics? Should we stand and applaud those hardy few who follow British gymnastics for not singing songs about Chernobyl?
Newsflash: Some absolute c**** follow football. They would; it’s Britain’s most popular spectator sport.
Gary Lineker was one of many to question Syed’s ‘bullsh*t’. He of course had an answer:
Fair enough:) Footballers v skilled and the game a fine meritocracy, as my piece says. But some cultural defects too https://t.co/zluQ1Scjst
— Matthew Syed (@matthewsyed) August 22, 2016
Translation: Football is played by plebs.
Sterling work goes on
The Sun really will not let it lie. Here is Graeme Bryce on Raheem Sterling:
‘Sterling has made plenty of high-profile gaffes in his fledgling career and did himself no favours with his acrimonious split from Liverpool. He was viewed as a spoiled brat, greedy, disloyal, and a bit too full of his own worth.’
Yes. By you. Oddly, there has been no such criticism of John Stones.
‘No one bought into his claim that it was burning ambition which drove him into City’s arms in search of trophies.’
Well, we did. We must be utter fools, because leaving a team that had just finished sixth for one that had just finished second and could offer Champions League football is inexplicable, right? What idiot would do that?
‘Not when he would have needed a wheelbarrow to deposit the cash City were throwing at him, as an already rich kid became filthy rich following his controversial transfer.’
Presumably, John Stones has taken a pay cut to leave Everton.
‘Sterling did not exactly live the life of a saint off the park either and developed a nasty habit of flaunting his wealth with some ill-advised snaps on social media.’
What exactly has he done ON the park, Graeme? And ‘flaunting his wealth’? Hanging’s too good for him. Heard the one about the man who bought his mum a house? What a d***.
‘Now he has become a figure to be scorned and ridiculed on the pitch, while on social media he has more trolls than Norway!’
Racist abuse on social media: So funny it needs an exclamation mark!
Ed Malyon, Daily Mirror, July 28: ‘Arsenal target Shkodran Mustafi has a release clause of €50million, MirrorFootball can reveal, but Valencia would sell him for half that as they look to recoup losses from missing out on the Champions League.’
John Cross, Daily Mirror, August 22: ‘Arsene Wenger has been quoted a staggering £50million for Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi.’
Just talk, fellas.
The Barnsley Academy of Defenders
‘What is it about Barnsley that makes them keep producing top-class defenders?’ asks Garth Crooks in his BBC Team of the Week.
‘It was Mick McCarthy who first brought my attention to the famous Yorkshire club, then John Stones and now Everton’s Mason Holgate seems intent on continuing this amazing sequence.’
McCarthy broke through the Barnsley ranks in 1977; John Stones broke through in 2012. It’s like La Masia.
Mediawatch cannot argue with Sergio Aguero’s inclusion in Crooks’ XI of the week, but we can argue with this on the Argentine:
‘Aguero is once again on cue for another 25 goals this season. If the Argentine were to reach that incredible landmark for the fifth consecutive campaign we may have to consider him Premier League player of the decade, never mind the season.’
The slight problem, Garth, is that Aguero has not scored 25 goals in four consecutive campaigns (he scored 17 in 2012/13). Still, he gets our vote, the handsome b***ard.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) August 22, 2016
Or ‘England first-choice keeper to be included in England squad’.