February 23, 2010

Beyond chauvinism

Let’s talk once again about soccer, ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League match at San Siro between Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan and Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea. First of all I have got to confess that I don’t like Mourinho at all. In my very personal experience, he is a most singular man, because, though I am not a huge soccer fan, he sometimes has the power to make me almost a hooligan … against him. And please consider that I have been a supporter of Inter Milan for several years (since the days when I was a young kid). I intensely dislike his endless stoking of controversy, his constant thirst for attention, his arrogance, his obstinacy and his obnoxiousness.

But there is also the other side of the coin to consider: he is one the best antidotes to chauvinism we have ever experienced here in the old Europe. Read this to understand how it works:

Poor old Jose Mourinho. As if he did not have enough on his plate defending himself from the blistering tirades and draconian penalties of the Italian FA, now Carlo Ancelotti has taken the opportunity to stick the boot in. “Apart from the Inter fans, all of Italy will want Chelsea to win,” the Stamford Bridge manager claimed ahead of his side’s visit to San Siro tomorrow night.
Ancelotti’s statement will not have caused any great consternation in Italy, where it is accepted that, in football’s global village, weekend tribal loyalties cannot be laid aside because of the presence of Johnny Foreigner.This is a concept, though, that still seems to baffle all those in Blighty. At half-time during Arsenal’s match with Porto last week, Alan Green expressed his wish that “the majority of goals in the second half go to Arsenal”. Why? Green is not English. He is not an Arsenal fan. He was simply saying what he is told his audience wants. Such is the general failure to understand a very simple idea: your audience, Five Live, Sky, and everyone else, either genuinely does not care who wins, or wants the English team to lose.

European football is not the same as international football. Chelsea represent Chelsea, not the rest of the country. If you do not like them at the weekend, you probably do not like them during the week. So, Jose, dry your eyes. Italy may be against you, but England is with you. But only because you’re not as unpopular as Chelsea. Just.

Well, in the light of the above remarks, I’d dare to say that, should Ancelotti prevail tomorrow night, not only would I probably resign myself, but I would also virtually shake his hand. It’s a wonderful world, isn’t it?