Barring an extremely unlikely set of results Leicester City Football Club will win this season’s English Premier League. This is extraordinary. Leicester have never won the Premier League even in the days when it was called the League Championship. Last season they only just avoided relegation and at the beginning of this one they were given odds of 5000 to 1 to win the title.
The club is not under the ownership of some Middle East potentate with an air force and in the figure of Claudio Ranieri – likeable as he may be – does not possess a genius manager.
A couple of seasons ago I had the unprivilege of watching Leicester play Watford when both teams were in the Championship ie the next league down. It gives me no pleasure to say that they gave us a right shellacking and I was surprised when initially they struggled in the Premiership. At Christmas 2014 they were bottom of the league.
Football fans use the expression “Championship player” implying that while a player might do well in the Championship he is not good enough for the next league up. It is cruel and it is true. The gulf between the two leagues is enormous.
So, I was surprised when I dug out the programme from that day to find that 6 or 7 of that Leicester team regularly start for them now. The equivalent number for Watford is 2. Yes, Leicester have won with a bunch of Championship players.
If Leicester’s success cannot be explained by either the owners, managers or players what can it be explained by? Sherlock Holmes said that: “…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…” This leads us to the inevitable conclusion that Leicester’s triumph is all down to finding that dead king in one of their car parks.
But to weightier matters. For those who’ve never heard of him, Gary Lineker is a legend. As a player, he scored a huge number of goals for club and country. If you want to see a middle-aged Englishman lose his composure just ask him what is meant by the expression “When Lineker scored.” Many of his goals came while he was playing for Leicester City, his home town. Since then he has made successful careers for himself both as a TV presenter, currently fronting the BBC’s main football highlights programme Match of the Day, and as a crisp salesman.
Earlier on in the season at a time when Leicester were doing well but no one expected them to actually win anything, Lineker promised that should they do so he would present Match of the Day in his underpants. Most people in similar circumstances would promise to streak down a public thoroughfare or clean the steps of St Paul’s with a toothbrush. But Lineker had to come up with something that was not only a bit naff but involved his employer as well.
Leicester’s march to the title has been not unlike the end of The Wicker Man. You think: “It can’t happen, it can’t happen, it can’t happen. Oh. It has.” And now that the structure is engulfed in flame, Lineker and the BBC – unless the latter decide to be ultra-pedantic – are going to have to make good on his promise. While I yield to no one in wishing Mr Lineker – or, the anti-Watford as I think of him – ill, I find the idea of the man sitting in a presenter’s chair wearing nothing but a pair of Marks and Spencer’s Y-fronts stomach-churning enough without anyone making it real. So, oh commentariat, can you come up with a way that Mr Lineker can stand by his word without outraging all that is decent, moral or civilised? If you can you will have the thanks of a grateful nation.
Oh, and today’s Brexit scare story appears to be pro football. Our clubs will be stymied if they can’t employ lots of Belgians. Don’t look at the fact that they do Employ lots of Africans who, AFAIK, aren’t EU citizens.
The World no.1 mens tennis player, that well-known Scots-Irishman Jock O’Vitch, has caused some ripples in the usual areas with his remarks over the ATP (Mens) tennis tour being the bigger draw than the WTA Tour in terms of ratings and therefore being deserving of more prize money.
Of course, in a free world, it doesn’t quite work like that, as it depends on the contract that you have, and the comments of the CEO of the Indian Wells tournament, a Mr Moore, appears to have led to the usual media ‘storm’ and to his resignation in a bout of pseudo-Maoist self-criticism.
Moore said female players “should get down on their knees” in thanks to male counterparts such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The South African – a former player – later apologised for his “erroneous” remarks.
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them,
18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
We shall know that there is progress in the cause of liberty when those who protest against the perfectly reasonable comments of the World No. 1 are laughed at and ridiculed, and those who speak as they see things shall not cower before those who scorn reason and liberty.
And where are the complaints from the same horde that sponsorship deals for some women tennis players far outstrip the earnings of male tennis players?
Further to my earlier post about the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, Kevin Rooney, a self-described fanatical Celtic supporter with a “deep loathing” of Rangers, wrote an article for Spiked in 2012 to which I can add little except to say that I had heard nothing about this case, which horrifies me and proves his point.
A man has been jailed for singing a song that mocks a religious leader, yet liberty campaigners have said nothing.
Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.
So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.
Such songs are part and parcel of the time-honoured tradition of Rangers supporters. And I have yet to meet a Celtic fan who has been caused any harm or suffering by such colourful lyrics. Yet in sentencing Connor McGhie to three months in a young offenders’ institution, the judge stated that ‘the extent of the hatred [McGhie] showed took my breath away’. He went on: ‘Anybody who participates in this disgusting language must be stopped.’
Several things strike me about this court case. For a start, if Rangers fans singing rude songs about their arch rivals Celtic shocks this judge to the core, I can only assume he does not get out very much or knows little of life in Scotland. Not that his ignorance of football culture is a surprise – the chattering classes have always viewed football-related banter with contempt. But what is new about the current climate is that in Scotland, the middle-class distaste for the behaviour of football fans has become enshrined in law.
The other thing that strikes me is how anti-Catholic prejudice seems to be tolerated when it comes from our ‘national treasures’, like Stephen Fry or Richard Dawkins, but not when it comes out of the mouths of football fans. When the pope visited Britain two years ago, liberal campaigners lined up to accuse him of everything from hatred of women to paedophilia. To my knowledge, none of these words were deemed offensive enough to the UK’s Catholic community to prompt arrests or detentions, yet when a Rangers fan shouts of his hatred for the pope, that fan is locked up.
RANGERS and Celtic fans are among those who are joining forces to are support a new campaign in grounds across Scotland for the scrapping of a controversial law designed to stamp out sectarian abuse at football matches.
The demonstration over Saturday and Sunday aims to show a united fans front in protest against the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 on the grounds that it is “fundamentally illiberal and unnecessarily restricts freedom of expression”.
Supporters group Fans Against Criminalisation say protests are expected at Scottish Premiership and Scottish Championship grounds featuring fans from Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Hamilton Academical, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Greenock Morton.
Hibs fans unfurled an “Axe The Act” banner on Sunday during their 3-0 victory over Alloa at Easter Road.
One banner unfurled at Celtic Park on Saturday said: “Scottish football – not singing, no celebrating.”
Another banner containing a rude gesture and the words, “Recognise This”, appeared to be a stark objection to the Scottish Professional Football League’s bid to bring in facial recognition cameras. Some fans have warned they risk driving fans away for making them feel like criminals.
An FAC spokesman said: “We have now been harassed, intimidated, filmed, followed, demonised and criminalised for four years and we have had enough.
It is interesting that fans from both the clubs in the Old Firm are among those involved in the protests. The series of pictures at the top of the Herald article shows banners being raised in protest at Celtic Park rather than Ibrox. Due to its association with Unionism the SNP government dislikes Rangers and would discount any protest coming from that quarter alone.
February 23rd, 2016 | 22 comments - (Comments are closed)
Dan Hannan, in a piece about how Indians would like Britain out of the EU so that Indians can more easily do business with Britain, ruminates upon the irrelevance of mere geography in the modern world:
Two generations ago, when most business was localised and freight costs were high, regional customs unions had a certain appeal. But in the Internet age, geographical proximity has never mattered less. Culture and kinship trump distance.
Likewise, in many eyes, lack of cultural affinity and lack of kinship trump geographical proximity, or they should. The biggest reason why Brexit seems now to be winning in Britain is that we are now watching EUrope make a hopeless mess of mass immigration from its geographically near but culturally very distinct eastern neighbours.
Near the end of the same piece Hannan says:
Next year, Britain will have to decide whether we are defined chiefly by our geography. Must we merge with states which happen to be in the vicinity, or do we recognise that some values transcend continents, linking us to kindred peoples in more distant lands?
I was having similar thoughts here, a while back, when the internet was just getting into its stride as a mass experience.
I see that I also had some rather prophetic things to say in that piece (posted in 2002) about the recently concluded Rugby World Cup (2015). The point being that rugby is an activity that was then and still remains at the mercy of geographical proximity. Rugby tournaments that happen every year, all the time, need to be based in the same approximate locality. Northern Hemisphere rugby teams were in 2002, and remain in 2015, physically separated from their superior Southern Hemisphere rivals. England had a little moment of superiority in the noughts, just winning the 2003 World Cup and coming second in 2007. So when England recently got knocked out at the group stage of the latest Rugby World Cup in 2015, in England, it felt like a uniquely terrible failure. But come the semi-finals this time around, no Northern Hemisphere teams remained in the tournament, despite the event itself having been held in the Northern Hemisphere. In the quarter finals, New Zealand slaughtered France, and Argentina decisively defeated Ireland, France and Ireland having been regarded by many as the best Northern Hemisphere bets. Many had realised that Argentina, who now regularly play against the Southern Hemisphere big three (NZ, Australia, South Africa) have recently got a lot better, but many others, me included, were amazed, not just by the fact of Argentina’s victory over Ireland but by the manner of it. Wales and Scotland did better but still lost, to South Africa and Australia.
However, the fact that regular rugby tournaments are obliged to cluster geographically is no reason for political entities to attempt to do the same. Geographical proximity to weaker teams and separation from the strongest teams is seen by Northern Hemisphere rugby people as a problem, not as any sort of answer to their problems.
With Dan Hannan, I say: Brexit. And it has to be a good sign that this anti-Brexit guy, in an article with very high google visibility, is making excuses about why his team may be about to lose rather than even attempting to make persuasive arguments about why it should win.
November 7th, 2015 | 25 comments - (Comments are closed)
Between 1945 and about 1965, atom bombs and then hydrogen bombs were devised and demonstrated by the two biggest Great Powers, and then manufactured and attached to rockets in sufficient numbers to cause any all-out war between these two superpowers very probably to be a catastrophic defeat for both, to say nothing of being a similar catastrophe for all other humans, within a few hours. This new kind of destructive power also spread to a small club of lesser Great Powers.
This did not happen overnight. It didn’t all come about in 1945. But it happened pretty quickly, historically in the blink of an eye. It changed the world from a place in which Great Wars between Great Powers had to be prepared for, at all costs, to a place in which Great Wars between Great Powers had to be avoided, again, at all costs. That is a very big change.
I do not assert that all wars have ended. Clearly they have not, as one glance through a newspaper or news website will tell you. Small powers still have small wars, and Great Powers regularly join in, in small ways. Sometimes, Great Powers start small wars, like the one in the Ukraine now. But even these small wars have been getting less numerous and smaller in recent decades. Small wars can get big, so even small wars are now discouraged by Great Powers.
Nor do I assert that all preparations for war by Great Powers have ceased, or that they should. But more than ever, the purpose of such preparations is to enable mere confrontations to be emerged from victoriously or failing that satisfactorily, rather than for such preparations – such weapons – constantly to be “used”, in the sense of being fired, fought with, and so on. The purpose of weapons is to scare, as well as to win fights, and they are being “used” whenever anyone is scared by them. Great Powers will still spend lots of money on weaponry.
But what has not happened, for many decades now, and what still shows no sign of happening despite all kinds of diplomatic, ideological and financial turbulence, is an all-out fire-every-weapon-we-have war involving two or more Great – by which I of course mean nuclear – Powers. In this sense, countries like mine, and almost certainly yours too given that you are reading this, have become peaceful in a way that they have never experienced before in all of human history before 1945.
In case anyone mentions Iran, I don’t believe that Iran’s leaders want to use nuclear weapons, as in: detonate them. I think they want to scare their enemies while trying to win other, non-nuclear victories, just like any other nuclear power. I didn’t believe Chairman Mao when he played the nuclear madman either. He was just trying to scare people, and he succeeded also.
And if you want to say that like all historical trends, this one could end, because of this or that imaginable or unimaginable circumstance, then I of course agree with you. History keeps on happening. But for the time being, the trend is as I have described it. We now, still, live in an age of peace more profound than any of our ancestors have ever experienced.
There have already been many, many consequences of this historic turnaround, this Great Change, and there will surely be many more. Indeed, I would say that just about everything of importance, not just politically but in the wider culture, that has happened to the world, anywhere and everywhere, between 1945 and now, can only be understood properly if you factor in the invention of and the deployment of nuclear weapons.
Do I really mean that? Yes, I really do mean that. Indeed, I offer the world, and in particular the Samizdata commentariat, a challenge. Tell me about a change that has happened in the world in recent times, any change, to absolutely anything, and I will be able to show you, at about one or at the most two or three removes, how your particular change has been affected by this great thermonuclear transformation, this Great Change, that I have just described. Indeed, there is nothing in the entire world, I assert, that has not been affected, often very profoundly, by this Great Change. (I don’t promise actually to answer all such comment-challenges on the spot. I merely announce that if I had nothing else to do for the next week, I could. So, let’s make it a team effort. Let those of us who already understand the truth of what I am saying respond as a tag-team to those who are still unconvinced.)
Talking of team efforts, let me offer the example of sport, and in particular the inexorable rise in the importance and in the social and economic impact of professional sport, during the last clutch of decades.
From about the victory of 1997 – in the last few years of the 1990s and the first few years of the 2000s – the British Labour Party strode with immense power, strength, and confidence. It won huge victories over its enemies, asserted itself with great strength and confidence, but was not afraid of getting a little dirty when this was necessary to achieve its agenda. It was not always popular with everyone, but it looked unbeatable and invincible. It and its leadership were not liked by everyone, but what had been achieved had to be respected. By the time of the defeat of 2015, though, Labour was a pathetic shadow of what it had been. After the defeat, it seemed inexplicable that anyone had every thought victory was possible, athough many had (strangely) predicted it. Led and managed by incompetent losers, it was very hard to see a way forward. Although the leaders who had overtly brought it to this point had been deposed, the culture of failure and incompetence remained in place, and their replacements looked likely to be worse.
From about the victory of 1997 – in the last few years of the 1990s and the first few years of the 2000s – the Australian cricket team strode with immense power, strength, and …
Added later: The Guardian yet again. Marina Hyde calls for a new Oscar for Best Instance of Professional Adequacy in Extremely Unsatisfactory Circumstances and reminds us of a “positively legendary” quote from Michael Caine regarding his presence in Jaws 4,
“I have never seen it,” Caine told an interviewer, “but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
I am not really a football person, though I did once understood the offside rule for about ten minutes. Who would have guessed what enjoyment a film about FIFA could bring me and so many others? The only thing that could have made this masterpiece better would have been to have Sepp Blatter play himself. After all, Montgomery Burns managed it.
The England band were completely unaware they were providing the background music for anti-IRA songs during Tuesday’s friendly in Scotland, their leader has said. The band, loosely associated with the Football Association, unwittingly provided the tune for chants of “Fuck the IRA” in the first half of the 3-1 win at Celtic Park.
… is that it was ‘unwitting’ 😛
November 19th, 2014 | 15 comments - (Comments are closed)
The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property. Amongst our many crimes is a sense of humour and the intermittent use of British spelling.
We are also a varied group made up of social individualists, classical liberals, whigs, libertarians, extropians, futurists, ‘Porcupines’, Karl Popper fetishists, recovering neo-conservatives, crazed Ayn Rand worshipers, over-caffeinated Virginia Postrel devotees, witty Frédéric Bastiat wannabes, cypherpunks, minarchists, kritarchists and wild-eyed anarcho-capitalists from Britain, North America, Australia and Europe.