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To England, with Love: Some Harsh Facts

June 2, 2011

Neymar in action against Scotland at the Emirates: probably the only match most English fans saw him in.

English filmmaker Stephen Frears has made a career out of exploring the political and social ramifications of his people’s fundamental inability to communicate in films such as The Deal, The Queen and The Hit.

As he once said: “the British are repressive, small-minded, and insular.”

Whether Frears’s characters are monarchs, modern day politicians or 1970s gangsters, they all share those same tragic qualities.

And albeit tragic, those are also compelling qualities; fitting for a good cinematic drama. We feel sorry for the poor, emotionally inarticulate Brits, standing in the rain and fog under a frowning umbrella (cue image of Steve McClaren versus Croatia).

But when it comes to football, the whole insular thing is just plain irritating; there’s no sympathy from me, no sir.

Football is the world’s most popular game – emphasis on world. And yet, many of my Brit friends are so insular that they fail to perceive the sport as a global phenomenon; which is truly tragic since there is, in fact, a lot of football beyond the borders of the English Premier League. And a lot of it is wonderful.

One of those friends, for instance, has just discovered AC Milan’s Thiago Silva.

Yes. Really.

Thus, please allow me to point out a few facts to those provincial fans here (even though I know, trust me, I know that is not the case with every Englishman. But sometimes a rant is very much needed!).

But first, a disclaimer: I’m probably the biggest Anglophile you’ll ever know. I recite Shakespeare in the shower every day; I’ve seen Withnail & I over 100 times; my favourite band of all time is Queen; I bought Tony Blair’s new book on the day of its release (for Christ’s sake!); I did shed a little tear for Blackpool when they were relegated this year (stupid Michael Owen); I studied contemporary British literature and culture in university; and I am now switching from coffee to tea.

(And yes, this ranty post is a bitter reaction to the absurd transfer rumours involving Brazil starlet Neymar. Ugh.)

Therefore, because I love that Northern European island so much, and I sincerely worry about its people and the cultural and football legacy of their nation, here are a few reminders to the generic fan in these dangerous days when the English Premier League (EPL) has been obtusely labeled as “the world’s best league”:

– The EPL is not the world’s best league.

– No league is the world’s best league. They are all unique in their own way.

– Lots of media coverage and fat paychecks (most of them signed by non-British businessmen, mind you) do not necessarily throw a better party.

– Physical strength and fast pace do not automatically equal skill and spectacle.

– Not all players dream of playing in England.

– Not all players dream of playing in England (this bears repetition).

– Yes, some “small” clubs do reject English offers (as I type this, Brazil’s Internacional have just rejected a €12 million bid for Leandro Damião from Tottenham).

– The EPL is not the benchmark we use to determine how good a player is, or if indeed a player is good at all.

– Since 1991, when the FIFA World Player of the Year Award was introduced, only once the world’s best footballer came from an EPL club: 2008, Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo – who’s Portuguese.

– Yes, Messi would do just fine in the EPL. Last time I checked, Manchester United were an EPL team, and the Argentine torn them to rags in the final of the Champions League. Rags.

– You often refer to Robinho as a “failed player”, because he didn’t do so well at Manchester City. It’s Manchester City, in 2008, what do you expect??

– No, Robinho is not a “failed player”. Last time I checked, his new team, AC Milan, had just won the Serie A.

– Serie A is Italy’s league. Southern Europe. FYI.

– Pele, Garrincha and Tostao never played in England, nor in Europe for that matter. Socrates and Zico spent very little time in the Old World. But nevermind, you probably think Dalglish was better than all of them put together.

– Did you watch the 2005 Club World Cup final? If not, maybe you should.

– Who’s the better keeper: Rogerio Ceni or Rob Green?

– Who’s the better central midfielder: Jucilei or Gareth Barry?

– Do you even know who Jucilei is??

– The EPL produces more shattered tibias, fractured fibulas and shredded metatarsals than any other football league in the world. Skillful?

– No, having your leg broken doesn’t mean you are a “real man”. It means you are a dude with a broken leg. And it sucks to be you.

– Has it ever crossed your mind that some players would like to stay in their homeland, and reject EPL offers, because they are happy at home?

– Has it ever occurred to you that emerging nations are now influential global market players, and that Brazil, for instance, can now afford to hold on to their players for a longer period of time?

– They can. Hernanes was almost 26 when he finally moved to Italy last year. Twenty years ago, the biggest star in Brazil was Ronaldo, and he left for Holland when he was 17. Today, Neymar (19) is already in his second season as a superstar, and he’s still put at Santos; and doing well, thank you very much.

– If Santos and Neymar rejected a €35 million offer from Chelsea last year, what makes you think they’ll get the starlet for €21 million this Summer?

– It’s called Mathematics. Greeks and Egyptians came up with it, by the way.

– Just because a player is very good, or shows tremendous potential, doesn’t mean he has/will/wants to move to the EPL.

– Yes, Neymar would do just fine in the EPL. He’s tiny and scrawny, but he has guts and is cheeky and determined. Does he want to move there? Probably not.

– Don’t take it personally, but those cold nights in Stoke just suck.

– Neymar doesn’t value discipline; just like Garrincha didn’t really care for it either. And no, a player doesn’t need to move to the EPL to learn about fair-play or “being tough” and “righteous.”

– He just doesn’t care for it. Why should he? Brazilians value cheekiness and flair, the English value discipline and hard-work. Why should your football philosophy be superior? It’s cultural. Deal with it, don’t sulk.

– And don’t be patronizing either. This is the American age we live in. You had the right to be all mighty when you ruled the world, but not anymore. Put the kettle on.

– And no, Neymar will not move to Chelsea. Not right now at least. So grab a cup o’tea and just relax; watch some of the great football going on right now (yes, right now, during your summer) outside of Europe, for a change.

And finally, for the jugular:

Uruguay has won more World Cups than England.

Good-night to all.

RB.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Max Burton permalink
    June 3, 2011 9:08 am

    You talk about English being patronising but this is the most patronising article I have ever read. A few facts for you most fans do not view the EPL as the greatest league but we see it as one of the top 4 or 5 leagues in world football. The view that it is the best league is portrayed by the media and ironically by a lot of foreign players. At the end of the day money talks and the best South American talent will eventually end of playing in Europe. How many times as a player playing in South America won the world player of the year ???? To be seen as the best you will need to play against the best players week in week out, that is why Neymar will leave. I am not saying that he will go to Chelsea but he will be playing for a top European club within the next year or so.

    I love the Brazillian national team and usually go to a Brazillian bar to watch their world cup matches but if any nation thinks they have the divine right to win it is Brazil not England.

    • June 3, 2011 1:11 pm

      I’m just asking you to use your sense of humor, mate. I’m not being patronizing; I’m presenting the other side of the issue through exaggeration and a bit of fun/joking around. There’s no need to be personally offended here. Didn’t you read in the piece that I clearly understand that that is not the case with every English fan? Do you know how many article I’ve read by *professional* journalists from the insufferable media that say Neymar is pretty much already at Stamford Bridge? It needs to stop. EPL’s divine right to think they can sign any player, and buy Brazilians, or whatever, at banana prices needs to be debated. And yes, Brazilians whine a lot and we think we have the divine right to win every single World Cup, true. But that is another issue – and truth be told, it’s not that different when it comes to English fans. And no, no South American based player has won the world’s best player award, but wasn’t Pele the best when he was around, at Santos? Or Zico at Flamengo? Yes, times have changed, but what I’m trying to say is: times can change again; as they are already changing. All I wish is to present another perspective to the issue, and there’s nothing wrong with bit of fun and a good ole’ rant. Cheers.

  2. Gachanja permalink
    June 15, 2011 3:07 pm

    Ha Rod…could you be on an higher pedestal?

  3. richie permalink
    July 6, 2011 9:55 pm

    You seem like a nice guy but you have a very small understanding of the English or British.For a start when have we ever been northern europeans? We are western europeans!!!(if we are european at all..we dont give a shit to be honest) We are also propably the least insular and most tolerant of nations unlike the parochial,traditional and petty minded catholic nations of southern europe( although they have so much that is wonderful and beautiful).I wish you luck but im just fed up of foreigners making stupid generalisations about my country and people.

    • July 7, 2011 12:17 am

      A) this piece is written in jest. It’s a collection of ranty items meant to be fun. Jokey. And extreme.

      B) “…even though I know, trust me, I know that is not the case with every Englishman. But sometimes a rant is very much needed…” Doesn’t that sound like I am, indeed, aware of the dangers of gross generalization? I am. But then again, see my point in iteam “A”.

      C) Get a sense of humour mate. It’s all good. Relax. I love England, passionately.

      D) Yea, the UK is part of Europe. You’ll have to accept that. Hehe.

      Cheers,

      RB.

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