Ronaldo Stars in Theatre of Hate

THERE WAS a smug shot of Christiano Ronaldo on my desk yesterday (I was writing a little colour piece for the paper about the Euros being more enjoyable without England) when a passing colleague not normally given to outbursts of vitriol leant over and pointed at Diveinho and snarled: “I hope he gets his bloody legs broken… both of them!”
That may not be the spirit of touchy-feely pan-European fraternity through football that UEFA are hoping that the European Championships might promote but it seems a fair reflection of at least one dark aspect of public opinion that these set piece events can trigger. There is a lot of sublimated anger out there and with or without England, for some, it will be a theatre of hate.

Scientists have long speculated about the presence of anti-matter, a negative force equal and opposite to the more measurable building blocks of the universe. Pah! Hey, boffins, get your instruments and start work on the average football crowd. For the next three weeks there will an upsurge in tangible social and emotional forces as usually placid individuals declare themselves irrationally and passionately anti-German, anti-French, anti-Spanish and especially – because of the gravititional pull of the sulky stepover show-pony – anti-Portuguese. My colleague will not be the only one hoping to see Ronaldo snapped in half, and now, after his shameless spell of brazen flirting with Real Madrid, some of them will be Man United fans.
A survey out this week suggested the English will be supporting Portugal and Spain in the tournament which strikes me as bad science. Who did they ask? Band-wagon jumpers and playground glory hunters in the Home Counties? As the BBC adverts suggest, little Scousers will support Torres, Surrey schoolkids will back their local lad Ronaldo and Arsenal and Cheslea fans will probably thrown their weight behind France – but just as many real supporters will be cheering on the opposition to those teams as a direct and conscious act of anti-support.
It is a media and marketing myth that the entire watching audience is a single entity that lines up behind whoever the spin-machine decides is the story. Just because Ronaldo is a G14 marketing man’s wet dream doesn’t mean we can be manipulated into some flimsy support for them because it suits a corporate branding strategy. There is nothing more infuriating than to be told by an employee of Rupert Murdoch that “the whole nation is behind XXXX tonight” just because their continued participation can help them sell more dishes, more papers, more advertising space and condemn us to another round of sensational sizzling superlatives.
The media always call this wrong. Real fans with a partisan commitment to their own team do not switch allegience to another side so cheaply. Sorry but I won’t be backing Man U or Chelsea or Liverpool in the Champions League. I want them to lose. I want them to get thrashed, have three sent off and another six heavily injured. I want their plane to break down on the way home so they sit on the runway for six sleepless hours waiting in the cold and I want them to get battered in the next domestic game because of they are fatigued. I hate the Big Four and see no benefit for Boro in their winning a single game ever, even in training.
And the same logic applies in international tournaments. I will not be dragooned into supporting some remote national entity just because their team includes a member of the elite marketing team of prima donna pin-ups central to an structurally distorted money making enterprise rigged against my own side and who sell fizzy drinks, razors and god knows what else over-priced tat.
Far from the gullible nation lining up behind Ronaldo, Torres and Anelka most and partisan supporters will line up against them. And do it vocally. It is healthy.
Of course, there is another darker dimension that is also waiting to be manipulated. While fans proxy passion will be partly channelled based on individuals there is also an insidious under-current of barely disguised xenophobia. Let’s be honest here, the English don’t like a lot of other countries, especially when they have the audacity to overtly display their own nationality through something like football. And even less so when they do well at it.
The English view the rest of the world through a particularly limited lens of history when it comes to football. It is a case of 1966 And All That. Most English supporters, when they are not screaming against individual hate figures will be anti-supporting entire nations, principally those playing against Germany. Anti-support of Germany is practically a national duty, just as in chilly Jockoland it is a badge of civic pride to oppose England at every turn. The nightmare scenario for such Little Englanders will be a Germany-Portugal final.
Not for me though. I grew up in Germany – I first started going to watch football regularly at the mighty Arminia Bielefeld – and love the place. Germany has a brilliant football history and a lively fan culture that revolves around standing, singing and drinking plus low prices and superb stadiums designed with the spectator in mind. What’s not to like? The war? We’ve fought wars against everyone bar Portugal so if you are thinking like that you may as well get your Ronaldo replica shirt on now. The main reason the English hate the Germans is because with their arrogance they remind us of ourselves. I always back Germany in tournaments, much to the annoyance of the rest of the office. They hate it when I get my huge post-ironic “Teesside Krauts” banner out.
Meanwhile, as an illustration that it is not just in England that football is viewed through a patriotic prism with echoes of the war. There was a juicy cross-border tabloid spat in the build-up to the big grudge match between d Germany as a robust Polish tabloid sparked a storm with a neat bit of photo-shopping that showed their manager holding the blood-soaked severed heads of their neighbours’ manager Joachim Lowe and captain Michael Ballack. Fleet Street’s finest will be kicking themselves that they hadn’t thought of that one.
There have been a lot of formal apologies flying around but Poland midfielder Jacek Krzynowek, who plays for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, said the newspaper stories were just: “Part of the psychological war, and it didn’t start yesterday or the day before, but a long time ago.”
You half expect famous Polish hotelier Jan Cleesowitcz to goose-step through the opening ceremony urging spectators not to mention the war. It is not just in England that sport is reflected throug the prism of military history. And some of the other potential fixtures have far more edge than anything we can imagine too.
The English have a rivalry with German because “they bombed our nana’s chippie” but we were not invaded, brutally repressed under the iron heel of the Nazi jackboot and we certainly didn’t have millions of innocent men, women and children slaughtered or marched off to gas chambers. The Dutch, Czechs, French, Austrians and Russians don’t like them much either.
Enjoy the football. Enjoy the absence of England and the media hysteria and over-hyped expectations. Cheer on Pogatetz and Tuncay. Ignore sycophantic commentators telling you to fawn over the usual suspects. Don’t get too angry when my lads win. Cheers, I’m off to buy 240 cans of German lager, a Scorpions compilation and a pile of bratwurst.


66 thoughts on “Ronaldo Stars in Theatre of Hate

  1. Middlesbrough are proposing a swap deal involving winger Gary O’Neil and Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard. (Daily Mail)
    From today’s gossip column.
    I really like Gary O’Neil, I think there is a hell of a player there if he can learn to finish, but this has to be a tempting deal.
    If Gareth plays this mythical 4-2-3-1, which I quite like the sound of, Digard/Bullard/Shawky/even Sidwell as the 2 sounds very solid.
    The only thing against Bullard is his age, he is 30 now or just about?

  2. The Pogo full back debate has been aired before.
    Despite other views expressed he came to the club as a full back and as we see has always played for Austria in that position. He can fill in at that position but he is better in the centre.
    That of course leads on to a potential problem for next season. I noticed someone was away with the fairies and wrote an article in the Gazette that Huth would be fit for next season. I will stretch credulity and assume this will happen – come on chaps just accept it as a possibility for the purposes of discussion even if it is academic in the extreme.
    We would then have to perm two out of the Redcar Rock, Mad Dog and Berlin wall. And Mad Dog is skipper.
    So Mad Dog plays at left back or one of the others sits on the bench. But a left back he aint and certainly would not be as good as Young on the right in the new mobile Boro team.
    There again, why should our Berlin Wall stay standing when the other has long gone.

  3. Ian,
    Completely agree. Pogatetz is a central defender and the games he has played in the euros he has been caught out a few times in between positions and also his pace is a massive factor when he comes up against a tricky winger.
    He will play in the centre for Boro I’m certain of that and it will be up to Huth to get fit and also Riggot lest we forget.
    On the transfer front I’m hoping we can get a deal for Digard wrapped up as it seems to be dragging its feet over a fee, we dont want to be ripped off and im sure PSG dont want him to go for less than what he is worth but all the publicity is just alerting other clubs.
    COME ON BORO!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Bullard is 30 and O’Neil is just turned 25. O’Neil got some tough press after he went off injured very late in the season after being heartily involved in most of our matches.
    He did not manage to put the ball in the back of the net and I think that fact has got to him and could be one of the reasons for him being unsettled.
    Gareth played him on the right when he himself will tell you his preffered position is inside the right winger.
    I agree with Garry on this one not Gareth and think Johnson’s pace should have been utilized on the right wing after he returned from Watford.
    Nice to see Poggy interviewed last night, I think his team are simply not good enough to progress but as long as he stays uninjured together with Tuncay then I will be well happy.
    The lack of England fans fighting each other in the streets after a loss in the Euros is a good thing. But we may get too much of a good thng if the English strikers dont start making themselves first choice on their Prem club teamsheet.
    The England manager doesnt know who are the nailed on starting strike pair because people like Peter Crouch cant get a run of games due to the likes of Torres and Kuyt [ who are both playing fantastically well in this comp]
    All the best teams in this comp have a great strike partnership- Torres & Villa, Sneijder & Nistelroy and take your pick from Portugal.
    Who are England’s front two? Rooney has been unlucky in an England shirt with injuries, sendings off and giving away the Pen against Russia that meant we had to beat Croatia. We didnt beat Croatia because we have not got a world class front two.
    The strike partnership for England has been mixed up and reshuffled more times than the Boro strikers last season!
    Memories of Shearer and Owen terrorising defences are what I am on about-
    Maybe Crouchy needs to move away from Anfield to get a game while he is not too old. Not just for himself but for England.
    Gareth Barry is about to move from his Captains role of first man on the team sheet at Villa to Liverpool.
    Lets hope he enjoys Raffas rotation policy and good wages for wearing a top four team’s shirt and warming a bench. Like so many before him – Wright Philips, Sidwell and the list goes on and our national game suffers.
    Practice makes perfect and some of our lads cant get on the park!
    The last few managers of England have been employed for their CV and equally for their ability to handle the press.
    Fair enough the press are manipulating Walrus Barwick , who is a joke anyway, but many of the other teams in the Euros have managers who were involved in their team and bring that experience into the mix.
    The German managers are an example but Slavan Bilic the Croat manager is the prime example. Can we have Ince and Stewart Pearce in charge please as I dont want to win things in an 80s style of Italian football as it is simply not [add picture of Terry Butcher here] what 3 lions is about!
    And breath …

  5. All my doubts about whether Digard will be a suitable signing for Boro have been swept away.
    The fact he lacks pace, cant score and isnt creative have been blown out of the water by the fact he started so few games because of a thigh injury in Jan initially diagnosed as six weeks. On his return it flared up and missed most of the season. He is now fit, sort of, in an unfit nearly fit sort of getting into Hurworth sort of way.
    That is just the type of player we need and would fit in perfectly at Hurworth, get him signed on now and blow the medical and salary, give PSG the extra E3million they want.

  6. PS on Digard
    Where have they been scouting? Wonder why he is available? Wonder why no one has snapped him up?
    Good spine to the team.
    Corporal Jones
    A crumbling Berlin Wall
    Didier one leg
    Midough the Sphinx.

  7. Further to BoroPhil’s post on the report in the “Mail” about the proposed swap of Gary O’Neil for Jimmy Bullard, The Game supplement in Monday’s “Times” had a first round-up of likely activity in the summer transfer market for the Prem. This is what it says about Boro:
    What we have learnt so far: Middlesbrough require greater depth in midfield, particularly with uncertainty surrounding the future of George Boateng and Gary O’Neil. Mark Schwarzer and Lee Dong Gook have left.
    What will happen next: Much depends on Boateng and, particularly, O’Neil, but Gareth Southgate, the manager, is hoping to sign Sean Davis from Portsmouth and is monitoring Steve Sidwell, the Chelsea midfield player, James Milner, the Newcastle United winger, Zoltán Gera, the West Bromwich Albion midfield player, and Michael Bradley, the Heerenveen midfield player.
    Pre-season matches
    July 18 York City (a)
    July 22 Celtic (Algarve)
    July 24 Vitória Guimarães (Algarve)
    July 29 Carlisle United (a)
    Aug 2 Hibernian (a)
    Aug 5 Darlington (a)”
    According to the section on Fulham, Roy Hodgson is prepared to listen to offers for Jimmy Bullard (valued at £3m) &, of course, he’s now signed Gera!
    BTW, the “Parisien” article referred to in today’s article on Gate’s attempts to sign Digard also points out that PSG signed him from Le Havre for €2.5m last year, so the “probable transfer” will represent “a nice bit of business” for the club!
    Oh, & that bit about his not having “passed” a medical is a mistranslation: the French verb “passer” in that context means “to take” or “to undergo” (it’s what we in the trade know as a “faux ami”, or “false friend”)! He’d have used a different expression if he’d actually undergone *and* passed one. 😉

  8. Back to the original theme and Ronaldoveragain getting most of the flak.
    I commissioned some new German machinery that kept coming off its rails and causing huge amounts of downtime. We called in the German suppliers who sat there denying any culpability until I told them in front of our Technical Director we had called it Jurgen Klinsman because it was forever falling over. They didnt find it funny but did sort it out.
    Jurgens antics were far more embarrassing than anything the portugal prat has done.

  9. Stupid question I know but Digard signed last year for 2.5 million euro’s and now they are after 6 million. Correct me if I am wrong but he played 13 games and then was injured the rest….how and why has this valuation increased so much?
    It cannot be due to anything the player has done so how? Seems to me it is a case of stinging the premiership lads….what else can it be? We were talking 5 million purely to get our money back for O’Neill if he decided to go….so shouldn’t we based on this ‘formula’ be asking for 10+ million?

  10. Oh and btw forget Robinson from spurs as the goal keeper replacement…….watched Lobont (Dinamo Bucharest) from Romania all season and he has been spectacular….also performing well at the euro’s + would be cheap! The ‘cat’ is the boy….forget the spurs and england cast off!

  11. Sorry to disagree with you john but he is 6″ 1 inch…. tall enough i would expect! I have watched him at club level and at international level for over 2 years now and he always plays with passion, never gives up,plays for the shirt and is rarely injured. He regularly makes unbelievable saves and i have never seen him make any howlers !
    My point is he is better than our current options and equal to Schwarz and better than Robinson…. plus he is younger with european cup and international exsperience!
    He seemed to cope with the Italian and French national teams just fine and i think to suggest we could get a better goalkeeper within the premiership cheaper and that they would play with the same passion is a bit far fetched….sorry but thats my opinion.
    If there is a better more committed ‘cheap’ premiership goalkeeper please tell me as i would love to know who they are.

  12. Plus are we not talking about people with the right attitude/ comitment and willing to work to improve the side? Yes there are better goalkeepers but would they come to Boro and could we afford them?

  13. (AV)
    Just taken the liberty to copy this from my post on the Gazette thread.
    ”One story that the Sports would have covered would be the statement by Gate that they would not be signing a first choice keeper.
    It will be a battle between Corporal Jones and Turnbull to take the number one spot.
    A few thoughts.
    Defences are best when settled and everyone has confidence in each other. If there is to be a beauty pageant get it done and dusted because we dont want to be two months into the season swapping and changing keepers.
    The perceived view amongst many fans is that Corporal Jones isn’t up to it and that Turnbull will be for the future. There is a danger that they will be less tolerant to any mistakes.
    Gate has made a bold statement and will have to live with his decision. If he has got it wrong we know he will hold his hands up. If he is playing games and planning to bring someone in that will undermine him with the players. If he sticks by his choice it is 20 games to the window opening and then who knows how many until we have a new keeper settled into the team.
    It is a decision fraught with risk. A perfect topic for a page of debate in the old Sports. (A tenuous link but best I could do)”

  14. Just checked Lobont’s fee’s/ transfers.
    Signed in 2006 for 550,000 euro to Dinamo from florintina. Wages a little over 5000 sterling a week at the moment. Played in Italy, Champions League and Holland with Ajax. Seems very cheap to me as near to Gareths ‘nothing’ as you could get I suspect.

  15. Going back to a BBC advert about “…who are you supporting in this year’s 2008 competition…?
    Our family selected – “nobody” – sorry AV – but – England for the English and stuff the rest – qualify or not – stand by your team – win – lose – or draw!
    What nationality is recorded on your birth certificate? – …and more to the point – what “soil” were you born on?
    We are a Stockton family and believe me, as a Stocktonian, when my father took me to the old Stockton Victoria ground to watch a Boro pre season friendly match (John Hickton’s maiden season) we were “shouting” for Stockton!
    If my memory serves me right Stockton were stuffed 1-7 but we stuck by them until… well the rest is history… the old ground was demolished and built on and named “Wembley Way”!
    Our point “Germany”…? – Your colleagues also have a point!

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