Saturday, 12 May 2007

Cooing Over Carlos

First Paolo, now Carlos, I can't take another Latino striker walking out on me
By Russell Brand

I don't want Carlos Tevez to leave West Ham. I really don't. Like how I didn't want Paolo Di Canio to leave, I feel a pang, an impotent pang, a hopeless sense of foreboding, the futility of trying to reject the inevitable. I don't want to lapse into a fruity ode or juvenile love letter but I can't ignore these feelings. . .

He plays with such fervid determination and skill, how can he be replaced? And how can a player, who when he chases a ball inadvertently seems to evoke the image of his deprived youth, be running towards a future beyond the Boleyn Ground? It's beautiful when a footballer achieves effortless rapport with a crowd and Tevez has done this. He has become the embodiment of West Ham's struggle for survival, itself an emblem for the countless battles, trivial and awesome, we conduct throughout our days, catharsis and rehearsal for the struggle we all must face when eventually we die.

Oh Christ, I've gawn all maudlin, I am 15 once more and gushing unwelcome love and unsolicited sperm, I'll not condemn myself. Even Freddy Shepherd, when forced to countenance the departure of a cherished star, in his case Michael Owen, resorts to the hormonal yawps of a teenage jerk - "He should pledge himself to us, no one else wants him." That's pretty emotional, he should be shrieking that sentence outside a kebab shop on a bleary Saturday night with sick on his chin and his mini-skirt pinched between his bum cheeks: "I love you Michael, don't leave me - I can change. . ." With Tevez there is no evidence of impending departure in his demeanour or his game; he plays like it will last forever, like there could be no other club. How do they do that? Is it really just about money and ambition? I suppose it is. What right have I to be disappointed?

I allow my life to be governed by those factors, tucking the revolution down my pants to make my package more impressive whilst all the while pursuing women and power. But I expect more from footballers. Tevez was scarred as a boy and at Boca Juniors, his first club, was offered cosmetic surgery to correct it. Carlos refused out of integrity and self-acceptance - that's lovely isn't it? If I get a pimple I refuse to leave the house. It's odd how I relate to footballers - he's only 23, if I met him in another context I'd flip him a shiny penny, ruffle his hair and give him some tips on dames but as it is I'm forever frozen in adoring childhood peering, from my father's side, at these men, as fierce and loud as when horses rumble by. I only have the luxury of this current fixation as it now seems (don't jinx it, don't jinx it) that West Ham may survive after an implausible run inspired by Carlos and now only (ONLY!) require a draw against Man United at Old Trafford to be guaranteed of safety. I'm a bit miffed that Ferguson plans to field a full strength team, what a bloody cheek, those lads ought be resting after a gruelling season of triumph, they've the inaugural Wembley Cup final to consider.

Alex Ferguson appears more approachable and avuncular lately, I wonder why that is? It coincides with the Rev Ian Paisley becoming a bit more jolly an' all; perhaps there is hope for the world if these two formidable men, who forever seemed on the precipice of hurling chalk at some bothersome pupil, now have the bearing of a pair of Debenham's Father Christmases. So that's a reason for optimism. And after the irreplaceable Paolo we were blessed with Carlos, the lineage may continue, and they needn't all be Latino, these saviours, these heroes. Mark Noble radiates promise and his surname couldn't be more encouraging.

Guardian column

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