Crooked or not, the soccer is back


Crooked or not, the soccer is back

When money speaks, the truth keeps silent, but long live the Premier League nevertheless, writes LOUIS DE VILLIERS.


ON Sunday night I watched the first weekend of European soccer after an off-season that felt much longer than it actually was.

I never know if it's the soccer we miss in those eight weeks or so every year, or the chance to joke with our friends and the mostly reassuring conversation topic of the English Premier League … the background buzz in the Uber, the bar or barber chair.

You care enough to be angered by certain opinions, but you can't honestly reckon that your material happiness has a lot to do with the fate of an English football club 13,000km from your front door.

BUT! You and your chums can nevertheless agree, nudging and winking, that it matters after all and in that way add a little extra frivolous joy or pain to your experience of this life.

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

Definitely Anfield, brother!

In my previous neighbourhood, someone bought a semi-detached in the industrial zone, paved the small garden and solemnly renamed the plot Anfield in hammered bronze against its vibracrete wall.

When I walked my dogs past there, I sometimes laughed, sometimes felt slightly sad, but mostly thought: if you think it's Anfield, then it's Anfield, my bra; I have a soft spot for Liverpool myself, why not?

After all, your self-deception is one of a kind.

However, my football teams are, in order: Barcelona, ​​Mamelodi Sundowns and Tottenham Hotspur.

I started following them in the opposite direction. When we could only occasionally watch football on TV in the late 1970s, early 1980s, Spurs were the exciting team: great attack and unreliable defence.

If I bump into a former co-supporter and we've ingested enough beers, our recitations are sometimes quite schoolboy-like pathetic. Archibald! Perryman! Crookes! Ardiles! Hoddle! Waddle! … and so on and so forth.

Wow, I almost sound like Ron Manager:

The Sundowns story

And when our own PSL was at its best in the late 1980s, Sundowns; the days of the Masingas, Wire Chirwali and Zane Moosa; later, Chukwu and Feutmba.

All on the foundation of huge bank fraud and a love story that easily makes Sundowns followers weepy.

If Zola Mahobe and Snowy Moshoeshoe hadn't robbed Standard Bank back then, we would have been forever at the mercy of Chiefs and Pirates supporters and the Motaungs and Khozas who boast about their relatively poor soccer.

Here, a former colleague tells an enjoyable story of South African football in the 1980s. 

Sundowns are no worse than they were then. But practically all the other South African teams are, so these days I only watch when they play against other big African clubs. There is little doubt in my mind that they will win the South African league for the seventh time in a row this year.

Rich, poor, smart and dumb

This happens all over the world: there are rich clubs, poor clubs, smart clubs and stupid clubs.

The smart poor ones (Brighton, Union Berlin) are popular; the rich dumb ones (Kaizer Chiefs, Chelsea) provide comedians with work; the rich smart ones (Manchester City, Real Madrid) win almost everything; and the poor dumb ones (Deportivo de La Coruña, Everton) are bankrupted or end up in the fourth division.

Bayern Munich

In Germany, Bayern Munich will almost certainly win their 12th Bundesliga in a row this year; in France, Paris Saint-Germain have won Ligue 1 nine times out of the last 11 since they were acquired by the Qatari government.

In Italy, the Milan clubs and Napoli trumped the dominant Juventus in the last three seasons, but before that Juve won nine titles in a row.

Spurs’ pain is felt everywhere

But back to Tottenham, which reminds me of doomed friends from yesteryear until now: you know they're going to get terribly hurt again, mostly by their own doing, and you know that pain is always felt everywhere.

Mum brought me a Tottenham jersey from London around 1972 and assured me they were the aristocracy of English football.

One day an old man asked me if I knew when they won the English first division.

“1961,” he said.

And when else?” I then asked, excited about the aristocrats

“No, only in 1961.”

But by then my fate was already sealed. You're not allowed to select a new team in your league that is better than your current one; I'm so sick of Tottenham that sometimes I want to gravitate to Brighton, but I'm not sure if they're not already a better team than my current one.

Ag well.

One thing about Spurs — they attack well and defend poorly, resulting in a spectacle at both ends of the field. Joy and pain are guaranteed if you can get yourself to give a damn.

Money and the Prem

The English like to brag about the competitiveness and unpredictability of their Premier League, but it is also increasingly a figment of the imagination.

Dreams abound that teams such as Liverpool and Arsenal might be able to provide significant opposition for the oil-rich, canny Manchester City, but without a World Cup tournament in the middle of the season like last season, it is difficult to see how.

If Manchester City win the Premier League this year, it will be their fourth title in a row, something that happened 30 seasons ago in Spain, where two-and-a-half teams dominate everything.

I bet they will and it won't be their only trophy either. Erling Haaland will win his second Golden Boot at a trot if he isn't injured. This was already clear last Friday night against Burnley, when the team was just starting to roar. The young Viking is already red hot:

It's by far the most popular sports competition on earth, as well as symptomatic of everything that's wrong with top-quality sport in our time — when money speaks, the truth keeps silent about what's crooked in this case.

The latest set of rich entities to acquire sports clubs as hobbies are mostly brazen Middle Eastern theocracies or American hedge funds. Whatever colour of laundry wins the Premier League will have one or the other to thank.

Whoever wins, loses most of us.

But nevertheless, long live the Prem! It's morally arbitrary enough that you can use it to stimulate conversations or silence them as you wish.

Keep sport sports

I can't imagine that the late Ian Curtis watched soccer, but rather him representing Manchester than the vociferous City supporters Oasis, which I once again pledge never to expose you to:

And from England's second football city, England's leading music group:

The most famous Spurs supporter is the one and only Adele, so I'll leave you with something generically from London. Enjoy the weekend — life is hard enough, keep sport sports!

♦ VWB ♦

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