Saturday, 29 September 2007

The Shaman Of Our Football

His Grace Arsene, the shaman of our football- The superlative Arsene Wenger has scarily made Arsenal even better post Thierry Henry
By Russell Brand

Six or seven games in we are able to ascertain the flavour of the season, we have savoured the first giddy sips and can now assess whether this shall be a vintage year. It'll be some time till we rinse away the spectacular taste of that swoonsome, dark rascal Jose Mourinho, probably we'll dispatch into the spittoon far sooner the bitter tang of Martin Jol, the poor sod, like a cuckolded father putting a brave face on for his bewildered kids, while Daniel Levy capers around Europe in a push-up bra with his knickers showing.

Fernando Torres is reckoned to be the new Ian Rush by Steven Gerrard and the arrival of the cartoonishly pretty Spaniard does seem significant. His input could ensure a realistic challenge from Merseyside for the first time in a decade-and-a-half and who but the blue faction of that city would begrudge them?

There is much to ponder in this richly evolving drama but my attention is drawn currently to Arsène Wenger, whose beautiful, more "royal" than ever, Arsenal visit Upton Park tomorrow. Last season West Ham bested the Gunners twice, a feat that is unlikely to be repeated as Arsenal appear to have several teams playing with a grace, confidence and joy that is almost transcendental.

Given the concern that many expressed pre-season about post-Henry Arsenal this is a surprising and exciting development and one that can only really be attributed to Wenger, who to me seems to be vibrating above the frequency typically associated with our national game. I consider him a mystic, a shaman, an alchemist, speaking from somewhere far behind his inky eyes, issuing spiritual sermons on the game's decline and our obligation to nurture English talent.

"English football's responsibility is to continue raising quality without losing its soul," he says, talking of foreign money and bare terraces as potential symbols of an atheistic erosion of our holy essence. Ten years ago Wenger came over here, taking our jobs, recruited a clutch of Gallics and Latinos and picked up the double with the insouciance of a gent collecting a baguette and an espresso. The debate continues to this day as to whether the influx of foreign talent has harmed our national team; I feel that if the game is elevated and standards raised that will ultimately be positive across all strata and few would dispute the contribution made by "the professor" unless they are actual racists or Spurs fans.

Now that Wenger has expressed concern about the development of young English players it does seem more serious. But aside from his new ecclesiastical role he has no duty to anyone other than the fans and board of Arsenal and that doesn't run to positive discrimination in favour of Anglo Saxons.

He spoke of fans as "the keepers of the game" which is a further nod to the civic, if not sacred nature of the sport, which makes me query the new directive to referees to regard with renewed positivity "hard to call" offside decisions, the reasoning being that "a dodgy goal is preferable to a dodgy offside". Is that an edict with which most fans would concur? Obviously that would be contingent on whether it was scored or conceded.

For me the relative scarcity of goals, perhaps the factor that has prevented football enchanting America, enhances their sanctity. Gary Lineker and his sexy, brown legs would never put the ball in the net in a pre-match kick-about so as not to tarnish the magic of that rarely achieved objective and in midweek I saw, in a match against Real Zaragoza, that paragon of the footballer as divine, Thierry Henry, on sighting a raised flag, curtail his magisterial canter towards goal with the despondence of a man abruptly woken from a beautiful dream.

It was as if, in that moment, meaning itself had been suspended, the ball with trickling inertia departed from its master, who himself was left to wonder, when would come his first goal in La Liga. Amidst the swirl of the scandals the rumours, the ignoble chatter and limitless tainted money something chaste and sacred remains and it belongs to us, the fans and cannot be bought, sold or branded. Wenger is aware of this, which is why one can over look the paucity of Englishmen in his side; he could field a team of ravens and be closer to the games essence than most, and I hope, for West Ham's sake, that tomorrow he does.

Guardian column

1 comment:

swag said...

Thanks. Long live the master Anglo-Saxon race. *rolleyes*


Copyright 2007 ID Media Inc, All Right Reserved. Crafted by Nurudin Jauhari