Football

Apologies – the Rights and Wrongs


The apologies from Luis Suarez and Kenny Daglish do what Aidan Burley's apology in the wake of his Nazi-themed party did not; namely accept responsibility

Apologies are tricky things. The admission of being in the wrong, and the facing of the consequences. It’s a humbling thing to have to do, but also a brave thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s much more common to see a weak, non-apology: the “I’m sorry if I caused any offence” line.

This afternoon, Liverpool Football Club have issued a couple of apologies. Having read them through, I’m rather impressed. They seem like full, sincere apologies, which is something of a breath of fresh air. Before I launch into an examination and explanation, I’ll declare a two-fold interest: firstly, I am a Liverpool fan; secondly, I don’t like Luis Suarez. He’s a good player, but ever since his cheating against Ghana in the World Cup, I haven’t cared for him.

Right, now that’s done with… Yesterday, ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United, Suarez refused to shake hands with United player Patrice Evra. There’s history between the two, specifically that Suarez was punished for racially abusing Evra earlier in the season.

Below is the text of Suarez’s apology:

“I have spoken with the Manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong. I’ve not only let him down, but also the Club and what it stands for and I’m sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened. I should have shaken Patrice Evra’s hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions. I would like to put this whole issue behind me and concentrate on playing football.”

Note what Suarez says here. He identifies (correctly) what he did wrong, states what he should have done, and apologises for not doing that. He doesn’t apologise for the offence that people took at his actions, because it was the actions themselves that were wrong.

Kenny Daglish, Liverpool’s manager, has also apologised for his horribly misjudged defence of Suarez in a post-match interview:

“When I went on TV after yesterday’s game I hadn’t seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I’d like to apologise for that.”

Again, Kenny does the same thing. He identifies what he did wrong, and apologises for it. Neither man makes mention of the people who were offended, because to do so would shift the blame onto them, when it was the player and manager who were in the wrong.

For a bit of a comparison, take a look at this “apology” from Conservative MP Aidan Burley after he was revealed to have attended an extremely offensive Nazi-themed stag party, where attendees dressed up in SS uniforms and made toasts to the Third Reich:

“Deeply regret inappropriate behaviour by some guests at stag party I attended and I am extremely sorry for any offence that was caused.”

(Again, with the interest declaring: I am a Labour Party member and activist, and I am not at all a fan of Mr Burley)

Now, leaving aside for the moment that Burley’s version of events later turned out to be false, this is a textbook example of the “non-apology” I mentioned above. Look at what he’s apologising for: “any offence that was caused”. He’s not apologising for attending the party, for not stopping his fellow party-goers when their behaviour became unacceptable, or leaving when it did. He apologises that people were offended by his actions. He doesn’t believe that he did anything wrong, but he’s sorry that you do.

Yesterday I was ashamed of my football club. Today I am not. Kenny Daglish and Luis Suarez, whatever you may think of them or of Liverpool, have accepted that they were in the wrong, accepted responsibility, and have apologised for what they did. This doesn’t make everything magically okay, but it’s a first step.

If this sort of humility were replicated across our society, we could only be better for it.

On Football and Pies


The humble pie should, I submit, be the benchmark by which football matches are to be judged.

I’ve never been a terribly sporty person. Maybe it’s my asthma. Or the fact that I’m not particularly fit. Or maybe it’s just that I’m bloody awful at it. But I’ve always been a reasonably enthusiastic spectator.

There is something about physically being at a sporting event which defies rational explanation. The atmosphere is infectious, and a good crowd raises the tone of an event in a way that Sky cannot replicate- no matter how many dimensions they show it in. When I went, as a child, to the Manchester Velodrome for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, I was enraptured.

But, for me, the real charm lies with Football and Rugby League games. My football team of choice is Liverpool FC, but they being a top-flight team, tickets are rather expensive. So as a child growing up on the banks of the Mersey, I only went to Anfield the once (it was magnificent, by the way).

More frequently I went to see Scunthorpe United, my dad’s team, playing at Glanford Park whenever we were visiting my Grandparents. I even went to see them at Wembley. The shouting, the drumming, the very air is alive with electricity. It’s intoxicating, and if you haven’t experienced it then I strongly recommend that you do.

For me, a key part of the experience is a silly tradition: the half-time pie. This, regrettably, is something that southerners have consistently failed to fully grasp (argue with me on that point if you like- you’d be wrong). This has been demonstrated to me on two particular occasions, at Wembley (where the pies were vile), and today at Adams Park, Wycombe.

The problem at Wycombe was not the quality of the pie, but rather its contents. See, my theory is that a true half-time pie must contain beef in some form. Steak, steak and kidney, or (my personal favourite) minced beef and onion. A chicken and mushroom pie (which was Wycombe’s sole offering), whilst not undelicious, is not therefore appropriate.

Or maybe that’s just the view of a mad football fan. Feel free to argue it either way.

But although today’s game between Scunthorpe United and Wycombe Wanderers failed the pie test, it met two other benchmarks of tradition: the referee was a moron (that was never offside), and we was robbed!

Vuvuzelas


Okay, so I promised this would be posted last night (Monday), but clearly it wasn’t . The reason for that is an attack of either perfectionism, or crap writing (depending on your viewpoint).  Basically, I got the damn thing finished in time, but was particularly unhappy with it, something which most writers will be familiar with. After banging my head against the damn thing for several hours, and reminding myself that this was only supposed to be a quick piece and not a contender for the Man Booker prize, I got it to a stage where I’m happy enough to post it, at least.

This piece was, unsurprisingly, inspired by the droning noise that has been haunting the 2010 World Cup with all the controversy of Nick Griffin’s ghost. It’s not intended to be a in favour of or against the vuvuzelas (though I do find them annoying after a few minutes into a game). It’s just an evolution of an idea that occurred to me during the England v US game.

I hope you enjoy it.

Vuvuzelas

By Matthew S. Dent

Everyone remembers where they were when it happened. It was one of those moments. Most people were glued to their televisions, grinning inanely. Or at the pub, still dancing, singing, and getting drunk.

No one had expected that it would happen.

No one expected what would come next.

Those men in white shirts filed past Mandela. They wore their medals proudly. Even they hadn’t thought this was possible. That they could be stood in Soccer City victorious had been only a dream, even up to the final whistle.

But it had happened. And as Nelson Mandela commended the gold statuette into the hands of Steven Gerard, the vuvuzelas reached a triumphant and approving climax. The whole stadium was vibrating, and back home, a nation was rejoicing.

Holding the trophy above his head, no one watching expected the sudden dark shape that darted for his face. The trophy tumbled to the ground, as the entire England team fell under the swarm of gigantic, black-and-yellow insects, descending from above the stadium.

How long had they hidden there? In broad sight, were everyone not focused on the spectacle below. Clear to be heard, were the air not filled with the roar of plastic horns. How long had they been the unnoticed spectators of the tournament, nestled in the rafters through the day? These winged vuvuzelas were unnoticed no longer.

Jubilation turned to terror. Spectators turned to flee. The horn calls had ended, replaced by the screams of those who had sounded them. But that terrible, droning buzzing endured, escalating and drowning out all other sounds, until that terrible sound was all that existed.