Monday, 26 July 2010

Football, the last true meritocracy?

Cuts. The word on everyone’s lips. For the past six months it seems that every stream of media has been fixated on how and where the axe will fall. Before the election it was all about who was going to do it. Now we have chosen our executioners it’s all about exactly what we are going to have to do without. State pensions? Child trust funds? Winter fuel? If you are thinking of splashing out on a second home for romantic trysts with your secret homosexual lover you’d best wait, Cameron says we will all feel the pinch. How uncle David? Put us out of our misery, we’re a nation frozen in the guillotine! In the latest twist we are actually being asked to decide for ourselves over the summer. It’s called a ‘public engagement exercise’ apparently, but it really means that George Osbourne thinks he’s a clever boy and can get the turkeys to vote for Christmas. He’s wrong though, because come summer no one will care about politics any more, we’ll all be watching the football.

The most soul-suckingly football-jaded housewife mother of four boys, who lives close enough to Old Trafford that she can’t park outside her own house when there’s a big game, is going to be glued to Sky Sports like the rest of us. Under the St. Georges Cross the black civil rights activists are going to forget years of slavery and oppression and wail ‘Eng-er-lund’ as one voice with skinhead BNP hooligans from Millwall. The odd Scotsman might even cheer on our Rooney, hell, the Gallagher brothers will probably watch at least one game together. Football unites us, politics divides us.

I can’t see anything wrong with that. Forget the oligarch club owners with mafia ties and the wife swapping players, football is about the closest thing to a true meritocracy we can manage. Sure, Ronaldo and Beckham get all the Gucci campaigns but they wouldn’t get a cap for their country if they couldn’t kick a ball between two posts well, or whatever it is they do. Players are on the team because they deliver on the pitch, regardless of age, race or religion. Which is more than can be said for Westminster.

Meanwhile, our new government is doing little to persuade us that it isn’t closer to that other great democratic summer distraction, Big Brother, and full of self-serving talent-less fame-seekers. Mere weeks with them and we have a new expenses scandal (I can just imagine the gleeful expressions in broadsheet offices in London as the David Laws news broke. A story so good you couldn’t make it up, and one of those rare occasions where they get to behave like tabloids). What is it about politics that attracts this weasely sort? Can’t be a footballer? Fine, sleep with one. No? OK, go on Big Brother. You’re too dull? Well there is always a career in politics.

For Don't Panic:

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