Saturday, 11 August 2007

Riding The Snake

This year I'll ride the snake like a soccer shaman
By Russell Brand

Today I am going to watch West Ham v Man City for the first game of the new calendar. The season's commencement feels all fresh, lovely and new. We've rinsed away the horror and regret of last season; I suppose that's another of the sublime delights entailed within the game - a terminable, manageable existence within defined parameters. Regardless of how spectacular or drab your term has been it'll all begin again next August. That's comforting. Better than actual life where if you hijack a bus and drive it into old folks home yawping slogans and hurling fireworks the consequences will haunt you to your grave.

I shall make my way to Upton Park all virginal and brimming with innocent expectation with a couple of chums, perhaps singing "three little maids from school are we" from the Mikado. Noel Gallagher will be there in his capacity as a City fan elevating further the jeopardy for this already thrilling encounter as football kindly provides a context for good-natured banter and playful threats - again within defined parameters.

The close season, or anti-season - a kind of negative un-time that exists only in relation to the Platonic, pure season - has been a fiscal torrent with cash flooding the Premiership and now buoyant corpses bloated with expectation bob towards the first whistle.

There has been much condemnation of the way in which the influx of money has poisoned the game and it's difficult to dispute that recent events have tarnished football's romance. But the effects of rampant capitalism are not confined to peculiar transfers and boardroom espionage - it's ballsing up the entire planet. I saw in a red top that cocaine was found in the lavvies at 25% of Premiership grounds, implying that the clubs are somehow culpable. People take cocaine; people go to football, that is all that's been proven in that barmy cistern survey. Similarly the whole world is governed by an ideology that demands that the acquisition of money must subjugate all else: morality, spirituality and good old-fashioned sexiness are secondary to commerce, and this cannot be blamed on Carlos Tevez, Malcolm Glazer or even Thaksin Shinawatra, although he might've been closer to the nub of the problem in his last job.

When caught up in the magic of live football it's easy to believe that the power of the crowd is what ultimately matters; the inherent unity feels like socialism but each of the screaming 34,000 has been taxed on entry and however loud they may sound their voices are seldom heard. It is apparently futile to resist progress although tiny victories are occasionally achieved: disenchanted Manchester United fans have established FC United, a collectively financed club that truly belongs to its supporters. Presumably, though, were the club to clamber through the multitude of leagues to penetrate the national consciousness and challenge for trinkets the inevitable tide would also consume this idealistic vessel.

Myself, I get all caught up in the rhubarb, I'm intrigued by escalating transfer fees and bonkers wages, I enjoy the soap opera. How can United fail to win the title this year? They've assembled a terrifying gang of world-class players, and quaint idealism aside I'm tantalised by the prospect of seeing Tevez hook up with Rooney. Chelsea's current injury problems may impair them early on but that Malouda bloke looked good in the Community Shield and they know how to scrap. I'd like Liverpool to do well - Torres is a handsome devil and I'm sure he'll cause all sorts of bother. Arsenal have a stability which oughtn't to be underestimated and were coping without Henry for the majority of last season. And I suppose we'll all be interested to see what Spurs do with their panoply of strikers.

There's been more diverse transfer activity than in recent memory but I'll still be surprised if the top four in May ain't the typical blend of red and blue. Newcastle, Villa, Pompey, Blackburn, West Ham and Sunderland will be shuffling around the Uefa places and I think Reading, Bolton and Wigan might be auditioning for the fizzy pop league.

Apart from the obvious top four element I'll be interested to see how those predictions pan out because I have an unscientific mind fuelled chiefly by emotion and whimsy. I shall be utterly agog if come next August the above paragraph doesn't appear to be the result of a drunken, myopic pianist being deceived that my keyboard is a futuristic Steinway and told to "just go nuts".

I shall enjoy this year's football; I'll ride the snake, like Jim Morrisson as a soccer-ball shaman. I'm not going to focus on the incremental erosion of the essence of the beautiful game because it is symptomatic of a much larger problem. I'd like to suggest that we enjoy the football then come late May, in the un-season, instead of watching the to-ing and fro-ing and the "I'd rather not go-ing" we unite under one glorious banner march down Whitehall and kick off a proper revolution.

Guardian column

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