Eric Cantona has added to his long list of unique and bizarre speeches after collecting the UEFA President’s Award.
The former United forward was on stage ahead of the Champions League draw in Monaco to receive the award, which “recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities”.
Dressed in a rather casual shirt, jeans and flat cap and sporting a familiarly large beard, the 53-year-old began by quoting William Shakespeare’s King Lear: “As flies to wanton boys, we are for the gods.”
The audience, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk, looked on perplexed as Cantona continued: “They will kill us for the sport.
“Soon the science will not only be able to slow down the ageing of the cells, soon the science will fix the cells to the state and so we will become eternal.
“Only accidents, crimes, wars, will still kill us but unfortunately, crimes, wars, will multiply.
“I love football. Thank you.”
If women, who are simply not as good at soccer as men, want to make as much money as male soccer players, then women, collectively, must become so good at soccer as to produce a *greater market interest in women’s soccer*.
— Christopher DeGroot (@CEGrotius) July 8, 2019
With the result that they make as much money as male soccer players. If you want equal pay, perform equally. (I notice that fewer men than women seem to have trouble with this simple principle.)
— Christopher DeGroot (@CEGrotius) July 8, 2019
There is no a priori reason why the sexes, or the races, should perform equally in all domains, as if the world were not an endlessly diverse place, or as if it were answerable to people’s delusional moral sentiments.
— Christopher DeGroot (@CEGrotius) July 8, 2019
Almost everyone who read about this topic from mainstream press sources came away with the impression that the women’s teams were being treated unfairly in the World Cup despite the numbers clearly telling a different story. That’s a problem with the press, not discriminatory pay.
I shouldn’t be amazed, but somehow, as I see article after article repeating trendy nonsense about a gender pay gap in professional soccer, I manage to find a little bit of untarnished innocence deep down inside and say, “How can these hacks be so ignorant and/or dishonest?” Likewise, while watching the final yesterday, I heard the Nike “Dream with Us” commercial at halftime and was actually taken aback at the social-justice propagandizing. “Can you be the generation that ends gender inequality?” “Or will you show that champions in your sport can also look like you?” “What other maudlin, progressive, hashtag platitudes can we stick in here to make you gullible leftists forget all your reflexive, anti-corporate posturing and buy our athletic wear?” Aren’t they supposed to be at least a little subtle about it? Don’t people feel insulted by such blatant pandering? Will I ever become cynical enough to stop asking such rhetorical questions?
The Women’s World Cup in soccer should be a cause for celebration, as the game’s best female players get to show off their talents in front of bigger crowds than most of them have ever played before. But it’s apparently impossible these days for players—as well as coaches, commentators, journalists, or even spectators—to enjoy a major sporting event without filtering the experience through the prism of resistance politics. And so, this edition of the Women’s World Cup, taking place in France now and continuing through the first week in July, has turned into a festival of resentment and grievance.
Too numerous to catalog in their entirety, the complaints have piled up: the women aren’t paid enough; the male-dominated media don’t pay enough attention—and, conversely, too many male reporters are covering the games; the commentary is sexist; the commentators engage in too many stereotypes; the greedy men who run international soccer don’t care whether the women succeed. It’s difficult to watch a broadcast, read a game account, scan a blog, listen to a podcast, or read anything on social media about the tournament without being reminded of all the injustices these athletes and coaches are enduring. One journalist even described the games an “act of defiance.”
Well, yes. As with most things, the games themselves are enjoyable; the commentary about the games is almost entirely worthless, which is why it’s best ignored altogether. It’s a shame that the usual culprits are determined to push a zero-sum gender-war narrative, because the women’s game will generally suffer for the comparison. I’ve been watching this summer’s tournament, as I did four years ago. As always, it’s refreshing to see the absence of the diving and flopping which mars the men’s game, and the overall surfeit of good sportsmanship is wonderful (notwithstanding Cameroon’s embarrassing display of petulance during their defeat to England this week). On the other hand, I can’t remember the last time I saw such a lopsided blowout between professional teams as I did during the U.S.A.’s 13-0 humiliation of Thailand, and there’s no getting away from the fact that the women’s game is noticeably slower and basic errors are more prevalent (on the other other hand, today’s Netherlands-Japan match was as thrilling as any you’ll see, a game where it was truly sad that there had to be a loser). I have no ideological axe to grind; the reason I only tune in to watch women’s games every four years is that I simply don’t have time for more than that. With limited temporal and attentive resources to spend, choices have to be made, and I prefer to watch the more exciting, competitive games featuring the best athletes. At any rate, I think all reasonable people can agree that identity politics ruins everything.
— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) May 7, 2019
Jurgen Klopp said before this game that if Liverpool had to fail, then they should at the very least “fail beautifully”. This was the footballing equivalent of having your cake and eating it: winning beautifully, doggedly, and when nobody gave them a chance.
Few would have thought this possible at full-time in Spain, even fewer when Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were ruled out of the second leg. But Klopp did, and he is quite a persuasive character – as his players proved in, somehow, beating Barcelona 4-0 here. Doing so not only guaranteed them a Champions League final berth, but also a place in Anfield history. They are men behind its greatest ever European night.
Nights like this are why I love this sport, this club, and this manager. My God, what a game.
This writer – this intense thinker who perceived that everything was Sisyphean, who proclaimed that the only way to live was to revolt relentlessly against meaninglessness – loved a mere game. Loved it with as much intensity and consistency as he loved anything. Why?
Consider this: what could be more absurd than 22 people chasing a sphere of inflated leather around a rectangle of grass for 90 minutes, and believing that the amount of times said sphere crosses a couple of painted lines is a matter of the most profound importance? In any sort of rational analysis, football is fundamentally ridiculous. A flurry of imaginary meaning.
But in the absurdist analysis, human striving of any sort is fundamentally ridiculous, and all meaning is at bottom imaginary. Zoom out until yours is the long view of the cosmos, and there is no essential difference between chasing a football and chasing a career, or a first home, or the eradication of racial injustice, or your soulmate. All of our huffing and puffing will exhaust itself and be forgotten, in time. To find meaning anywhere, Camus thought, required approaching life with more than cold reason. It required filtering reality through different states of being.
This seems unnecessarily cerebral to me. Owen makes many interesting points about why “a mere game” can have such a hold on our attention and energy, but he never mentions the simplest one: it’s fun. Fun is too banal a concept for analysis, I suppose. Even our pets intuitively understand fun. If my cat could talk, I’m sure he’d say that it’s just plain fun for him to jump up, skitter across the garage floor, and start batting a pebble around for a few seconds. Writers and thinkers tend to be dreadfully serious, which means they dare not risk looking frivolous by suggesting that some things simply are as they appear; they stand on their own merit without any need for theoretical scaffolding. Games are meaningful in a different way than careers and relationships; they’re not all competing in a zero-sum fashion for the same goal.
Fulham play Tottenham today. It’s too bad Harry Kane is injured, because seeing him and Andre Schurrle in close proximity always makes me think of a certain cartoon duo:
On being nine points clear at the top of the table…
I would really wish that you would all try to, I don’t know, we switch – you come here and I go there. Tomorrow it could be seven and then we play against Man City and it could be four, it’s possible. I’m not the smartest person in the world but I’m really not an idiot – not always at least! So it’s really nothing, it’s absolutely not important how many points you are ahead in December, even if it’s the end of December. So what you all create, and I get that, how can you not be positive about us? But all of you are the first, if we drop three points, the next headline is ‘Are they nervous now?’
So that’s an easy job. I would love to be in your situation. We cannot play that game and we don’t do it. Before the game, we all heard about the result of Tottenham, but do you think the party started already? I didn’t see a smile on any face in the dressing room. We came here in this situation with 54 points after 20 matchdays with completely being focused on the situation, and now it’s not about creating headlines, creating stories, it’s still about preparing football matches, play them as good as you can and try to get as many points as you can. That’s it.
On whether it will be different going to Manchester City as the league leaders on Thursday…
What do you think? When we went to City last year, do you think I had the table in the dressing room and said, ‘We are fourth, they are first?’ It’s just not important, we wanted to win the game. We wanted to win the game – the league game, which we obviously didn’t do but we wanted to win it that day and I think everyone who remembers it saw that. The only thing that has changed is that you all ask [about] it, that’s all. It’s not a problem, you can ask what you want. We go to City not with whatever-point distance, we only go there to try to play the best football game we can play. 100 per cent.
On whether the challenge is different depending on whether you’re chasing or leading at the top based on his experiences at Borussia Dortmund…
No, it was not for us [at Dortmund]. That’s the only thing I really remember, that it was not for us and we never thought about it. We were four points ahead for a while then we had Bayern at home. We won the game and Bayern missed a penalty, then we had six or seven points but the next game was the derby and stuff like that. It is a supporters and journalists’ game [talking about the points gap at the top] – and that’s absolutely OK, play it. But we cannot – we cannot be part of it, absolutely not. The only thing that can get annoying after a while is answering the same questions, so maybe you think a little bit about what you ask and not all the time the same! Then you will make my life easier!
You might think there’s nothing sweeter about being a Liverpool fan right now than seeing the club leading the Premier League while playing fantastic football, but I don’t know, I think I enjoy seeing Klopp treat the British sports media with the acidic contempt they so richly deserve just as much, maybe even more. And like I said before, he gives good copy, so they have to keep coming back for more, even as he reminds them again and again how trifling they are.
Instead, the Sterling affair has been blown up into a political football to be used in the favourite game of British snobs: giving all common football fans a kicking as racist thugs, sticking the boot into the tabloid press for allegedly stoking prejudice and violence, and demanding stricter policing of both. Behind all that lurks the fashionable belief that working-class Brexit supporters are a bigoted mob.
Cometh the hour, cometh the Spiked article about the snobbish Elites looking down upon the People with fear and contempt. Spiked, the stopped clock of online magazines, has found its twice-daily occasion to be correct. (It’s even more touching that Hume, a torch-carrying Trotskyist, should finally have the chance to be right about something for a change.) For those blissfully unaware, during the Chelsea/Manchester City match a couple weeks ago, the television cameras caught several Chelsea fans shouting abuse at City winger Raheem Sterling as he went behind the goal to retrieve the ball for a corner kick. Thousands of amateur lip-readers quickly formed a consensus that one fan in particular had called Sterling a “fucking black cunt.” (American readers may or may not be aware that the dreaded c-word doesn’t carry the same offensive gendered connotations among our British friends; the outrage was over the modifier.)
This sparked a great National Conversation about the specter of racism in football. The Daily Mail, which never saw a barrel-bottom it wouldn’t lick for clicks, helpfully published the scoundrel’s name, age, and address, with a bonus picture of his house, no doubt to facilitate healing conversations between him and well-wishers in the community, and later gleefully snickered at his “having a moan” over losing both his job and lifelong season tickets. The Guardian, which responds to a hint of social injustice the way a flaccid male member responds to a dose of Viagra, temporarily eased its attempts to proselytize for women’s football in order to testify to the omnipresent menace of racism. Nike, fresh from sponsoring Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling rebellion, quickly bolstered its own woke credibility by producing an ad with Sterling. The media spotlight attracted plenty of other people looking to insert themselves into the story somehow. Inevitably, we were reminded that racism is always and forever everywhere, even, or especially, when it doesn’t seem to be anywhere.
Lost in all the furor and soul-searching was the villain’s insistence that he had called Sterling a cunt of the Manc variety, not the black one. (I assume residents of Manchester don’t yet qualify as a protected species under hate-crime laws.) There seems to be a question-begging circularity to the whole spectacle — how do we know he didn’t, in fact, say “Manc” instead of “black”? The shape of one’s mouth appears plausibly similar in both instances, and unless Britain’s CCTV surveillance has gotten even more quasi-totalitarian in recent years, I’m pretty sure we don’t have conclusive video analysis of how, precisely, the blackguard’s tongue was pressed to his teeth in order to form his consonants. The answer seems to be, well, wouldn’t you expect a racist to feign innocence like that? A cynic might suspect that we’ve invested too much in the story to have it all fizzle out over something as prosaic as the facts, so even if it’s not literally true in this instance, it’s generally true that there are racists out there who would say such things, so we should testify to that higher truth anyway. Besides, who would say that there’s anything wrong with a mass revival denouncing racism? I think you know who.
All in all, there’s no redeeming moral to the story. It’s just a sordid spectacle that makes a misanthrope out of the observer. But yes, when the man’s right, the man’s right. This was largely a solidarity-building exercise for a familiar type of pious liberal for whom the threat of racism would have to be invented if it couldn’t be found already existing. Like war games on the cultural level, it’s an opportunity to rehearse maneuvers and test weaponry. But if there’s one thing British sports journalists love more than sermonizing, it’s reveling in drama surrounding Jose Mourinho, and a merciful God delivered just that opportunity this week by having Mourinho finally get fired as Manchester United manager, thus sparing us from further ritual penance.