Posts Tagged With: football wages

Earthlings – I’ve been born again!

 

What was it? Who am I? What does it all mean?

What was it? Who am I? What does it all mean?

I am writing this like somebody from another planet. A profound change has come over me. I have seen the light. The strangest thing is, it happened at the end of a football match. Like a billion other people, I was watching the Champions League final on Saturday on my television screen. It was an all-Spanish final between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid. The game wasn’t that great until near the end when I got an eyeful of Cristiano Ronaldo’s body. He scored a penalty and tore off his shirt to reveal a torso, complete with 6-pack tummy, to make any body-builder weep. What a man, I thought! He’s like a god – a hero to millions of kids everywhere. His iconic status and goal-scoring ability earn him the princely sum of $2 million a month. Not bad, eh? It can’t be easy finding ways of spending that much cash.

Cristiano Ronaldo: some guys really need to show off their great bodies!

Cristiano Ronaldo: some guys really need to show off their great bodies!

Anyway, soon after the penalty the game was over and the crowd whipped out their smartphones to film the celebrations and send pictures to their pals via Facebook. It was a truly global event, with images being beamed into homes in countless countries. But the effort of watching all that testosterone caught up with me and I must have dozed off. Then I had the weirdest dream. I mean really weird.

I was watching the crowd again playing with their gadgets when everything went pitch black. Darkness descended. The crowd were screaming and groaning in horror and confusion. In the distance I saw a bright light in the sky heading towards the stadium. It soon got bigger and so bright that I had to put a hand over my eyes. Then it descended into the middle of the ground causing the players and officials on the pitch to run for their lives. The blinding light started to dim until we could all see a figure standing on top of a kind of pedestal. It seemed to be in the shape of a man – a cross between a druid and Leonard Cohen. Slowly the screaming and wailing subsided and after a short while there was silence. Then the figure began to speak in a deep, soft voice. Luckily for me it spoke in English as my Spanish is a little rusty. This is what it said:

“Earthlings! Humans! Fear not, for I come in peace. But I bring to you a dire warning of danger if you do not mend your ways. You have turned your backs on the gods. You humans have become vain, hedonistic and selfish. Your consumerism has made you spiritually empty, believers in nothing but material riches. How you have shamed the gods! Yes, your behaviour has been truly shameful.” At this point, with my jaw suitably dropped, I watched the reaction from the crowd. I saw that many were on their knees, weeping and begging for mercy. I noticed that Cristiano Ronaldo in particular looked very penitent. He was sobbing uncontrollably and looked nothing like the boastful sports icon of a few minutes previously. There was a pause. Then the figure began to speak again.

Everything went dark except for a blinding light on the pitch...

Everything went dark except for a blinding light on the pitch…

“I have watched you all this evening, enjoying yourselves at this sporting festival. But at what cost to human life has this expensive spectacle taken place! Many of you here are wealthy, while others are poor and hungry. You sportsmen amass wealth and riches as if this was the purpose of life. Have you forgotten that your time on earth should be spent working to improve the lives of others, and by so doing improve your own lives? Have you forgotten that you all face death and will then have nothing, not even the fine clothes that you wear?”. By now everyone that I could see by the dim light was pale and trembling with shame, especially the players. Some of them seemed to be shouting “Please take my money! I will give everything away, I promise!”

The voice continued. “I have some decrees that I must enforce before I leave as I do not trust that you humans will repent. So mark you well the following changes to your life and make good to follow them to the letter.” Suddenly, all the TV screens lit up and began to display the message as if it was being dictated by the galactic visitor. It was like a global Powerpoint presentation, complete with bullet points. It went like this:

  • FOOTBALL will be an amateur game, played for the love of sport and friendly competition with your fellow-humans. It will be a recreational activity that comes after your work is completed
  • HOMES: your houses and apartments will no longer belong to you alone. You have forgotten that all property is only given to you temporarily by the grace of the gods. You will open your homes to the poor and the sick, or to anybody who needs shelter 
  • FACEBOOK will vanish. You will no longer have virtual friends. You will learn to love and cherish your real friends, not squander your lives with images of vanity and foolishness
  • No more internet porn guys - you have been warned!

    No more internet porn guys – you have been warned!

    INTERNET PORN: this has most displeased the gods! You human men have become slaves to lewd images of lust and debauchery. How many hours you spend pleasuring yourselves in grim solitude! From today porn sites will be no more. Instead, you must seek love with other humans before engaging in the fulfillment of sexual desire. This will teach you to be patient, compassionate and considerate in your lovemaking

  • MONEY – the days of paper money, banks and interest are now ended. You will all relinquish your petty, worldly goods and learn to live simple but purposeful lives, guided by charity and great sympathy with your fellow humans

Suddenly the screens went dark again and the only visible light rested on the figure in the middle of the pitch. The presentation was over, but the visitor still had something to say. “Now mark my words and heed my calls for change”, he said. “I am very wise to all human trickery, of that you can be sure. I know another great sporting spectacle is about to begin, what you call the Worldly Cup. I shall return just after the final of that corrupt and corporate extravaganza to see what you earthlings have learned. Until then, the gods and I will pray for you. Farewell.”

Leonard Cohen: was it really you dressed as a druid?

Leonard Cohen: was it really you dressed as a druid?

What happened next is a bit of a blur. I woke up shivering and hungry, desperately in need of human company. So many images were flashing through my mind. What a revelation! Now I’m a bit worried about the World Cup in Brazil. What if there’s a blinding flash at the end of the final? And it’s funny, although I can no longer remember everything the visitor said, I could swear that, whatever the creature was, it spoke with a Yorkshire accent.

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Categories: Brazil, Football, Global Crisis | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty and the Beast

Football is no joke - even in Brazil

Football is no joke – especially in Brazil

Imagine what you could do with a million pounds: yes, £1,000,000. New house, new car, trip around the world? Your life would never quite be the same. Now imagine giving 85 people the same chance of freedom from financial hardship. That’s a lot of very rich people. Or better still, imagine being able to invest £85 million in the education system or health service (that’s more than R$300 million if you’re a Brazilian). New hospitals, new schools, better-paid nurses and teachers. In some countries it could make a huge difference to the welfare of the people.

"It's not a bad life playing footy" Madrid's new god - Gareth Bale

“It’s not a bad life playing footy”  Madrid’s new god – Gareth Bale

Now come slap bang down to earth. One football player has just been bought for the princely sum of…yes, you guessed it, £85 million. Welshman Gareth Bale was sold by Tottenham Hotspur to Spanish giants Real Madrid. Who paid? The fans, of course, some of whom struggle to pay for the latest club T-shirt (£95 pounds-worth of nylon, made in China for about £4). But who cares? Football players have always earned pots of money. It’s all part of the “beautiful game” we know and love.

When I was a kid there were the boys (not girls) who liked football and those who didn’t. That seemed normal. Now if you don’t support a football team and are unable to rattle off the names of this season’s top scorers and the latest transfer news you are boring – a bit weird, actually. And that includes women. They have realised two things: firstly, that knowing a bit about football will get them in with the lads (ie totty) and secondly that footballers themselves are gorgeous specimens of manhood. Well, some of them.

Beauty and the Beast - but which is which?

Beauty and the Beast – but which is which?

Yes, we have to admit football is the new rock ‘n’ roll. But aren’t we becoming blind to what is really happening? The Marxist academic Terry Eagleton said recently that anybody who really cares about political and social change has to agree that football must be abolished. But that’s preposterous I hear you say. It will never happen. Maybe. But to even mention the idea takes some courage. Why?

Football stadiums have become our places of worship. Fans all in blue or red rub shoulders together like members of a tribe, grunting and shouting at their gods like Romans in the amphitheatre. Humans seem to have this need to join a band of brothers and then find another rival band to taunt and leer at. It’s a cultural need. Now that communal rituals have disappeared, we meet the other members of our tribe in the stadium (or rather in the pub beforehand to drink a magic potion and feel the fighting spirit). We also have this need to let out all our natural, instinctive aggression. We used to do it fighting wars to annihilate the enemy and protect our king and country. Now the enemy is the people in green or brown or purple. 

"Listen FIFA - we want hospitals here in Brazil..."

“We want hospitals that are up to FIFA standards”

But all this fun costs money. Poor people used to give their hard-earned cash to the church, believing it might buy them a place in heaven. Now they spend thousands of pounds on season tickets and expensive TV packages so they can pay homage to their new idols. Nobody seems to realise that football clubs are sucking the marrow out of local communities. Fabulously rich football players regularly drive their luxury cars out of the stadium, only to pass streets full of decaying houses where the occupants don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

It's time to stand up and fight

It’s time to stand up and fight

When football began, more than 100 years ago, footballers used to live in the local area, near the ground which served as a kind of community centre. They lived in the same kind of houses as the fans and often drank in the same pubs. Now no footballer would be seen dead in the mean streets where the fans live, unless they were in a blacked-out limousine surrounded by body guards. What does that tell us about the modern game?

In Porto Alegre where I live, one of the local clubs, Grêmio, has just built a magnificent stadium a little way out of town. The aerial view is breathtaking. But the people who live next to the stadium will never be able to go inside. That’s because they are living in squalor; their dwellings are little more than shacks cobbled together from tin and old bricks. When you drive to the stadium the locals stand in a long line next to the road, swinging their arms and urging you to park your car on their patch of litter-strewn scrubland. The saddest thing is their appearance: many look malnourished or deformed. It’s a shocking disgrace.

Grêmio's new stadium in Porto Alegre - a rich spectacle in the midst of abject poverty

Grêmio’s new stadium in Porto Alegre – a rich spectacle in the midst of abject poverty

Thousands of football fans will descend on Porto Alegre for next year’s World Cup. The FIFA promotional video for the city shows a more glamourous side – naturally. Because if tourists saw that an ambitious football club had been allowed to drop a jewel in the middle of a human swamp they would stay away.

Forget the beautiful game: football just got ugly. Or, to put it another way, beauty and the beast are the same thing.

Categories: Brazil, Football, Global Crisis, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Laughing all the way to the bench…

"Another Ferrari if you score a goal, OK?" Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex

“Another Ferrari if you score a goal, OK?”
Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex

Last week one of England’s most famous footballers got angry after the manager left him out of the team for a massive game. The story made the front pages of the newspapers. Now, it seems, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney and boss Sir Alex Ferguson have made up. But what caught my eye was the magnitude of Rooney’s wage packet: £250,000 a week. Enough to buy a three-bedroom house (something young couples in the UK can only dream about) every week. That’s a million pounds a month. Is he worth it? Of course not. But United would argue that unless they give him that much he will move to another club. Here’s my answer: nobody else can afford him. More importantly, Wayne Rooney would play football every Saturday for £250. Why? Because he loves football and doesn’t know how to do anything else. There’s the madness – he doesn’t actually do it for the money.

I cannot wait for the day when the bubble bursts in football; when more fans get sick of seeing overpaid prima donnas prancing around and start staying away from the stadiums. Fans who are struggling to pay the mortgage and monthly bills while their “heroes” live like Caligula. The world economy is in meltdown but our precious footballers need millions of pounds to play with. Oh, and bankers too. They also need millions. Same argument: if you don’t pay them 3 million a year they will go abroad. I say let them go. After all, it was the bankers who triggered the economic collapse in the first place. It was they who gambled with people’s savings and lost it all, only to have their lavish lifestyles saved by government bailouts with taxpayers’ money.

Footballers can lose, but not bankers

Footballers can lose, but not bankers.

Now I’m not saying I wouldn’t mind a few million quid myself. I would be a hypocrite otherwise. If I won the lottery I would rush out and buy a big flashy Range Rover, a farm, a barrel of beer and a big diamond stylus for my record player. But would it make me any happier? I doubt it. What makes us happy is not consuming more, but – and this is going to sound mushy to some of you – doing good things; helping other people; being unselfish. There is nobody as unhappy as a millionaire with no friends.

Leonard Cohen knows the system is rigged

Leonard Cohen knows the system is rigged

Actually, you’ve got to hand it to the rich. They’ve still got the power and always have had. As Leonard Cohen puts it so aptly in his song Everybody Knows: ‘Everybody knows that the dice are loaded/ Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed/ Everybody knows the war is over/ Everybody knows the good guys lost/ Everybody knows the fight was fixed: the poor stay poor and the rich get rich/ That’s how it goes/ Everybody knows’.

In the USA, the Congress is full of white, conservative men who block everything that President Obama tries to do. Here’s my solution:

More women in power! Hilary Clinton and Aung San Suu Kyi

More women in power! Hilary Clinton and Aung San Suu Kyi

replace these dinosaurs with intelligent women who are active in their communities and understand people’s problems first-hand. In fact, I would go further. I would replace all the men in government in all the countries of the world with women. There would be no more guns, bombs and wars. No more rich and poor. Taxes would be spent on creating the conditions for people to live together as equals. Wayne Rooney can continue playing football, but he would earn the same as nurses and teachers.

Karl Marx believed that one day the poor, exploited workers would overthrow their masters and run the show themselves. Then George Orwell’s Animal Farm showed how the new bosses quickly become as bad as the old bosses. But does that mean it is always better to allow the rich and powerful to keep their millions? Try asking that question to some young people in Spain, Greece, and Portugal where jobs are virtually non-existent and future prospects bleaker than ever.

Just a flimsy fence separates rich and poor.That and cast-iron power structures

Just a flimsy fence separates rich and poor.
That, and cast-iron power structures.

So come on, Wayne Rooney, buy a few houses for the struggling, hard-workers of Manchester. Oh, and a Range Rover for yours truly while you’re at it.

Categories: Blighty, Football, Global Crisis, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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