Sunday, May 25, 2008

More than just a game

“Fate” is how Alex Ferguson described Manchester United’s victory over Chelsea on Wednesday. Fate it wasn’t, there was much more to it than that. A victory for Chelsea would have signalled the end of football and with it the end of history itself.

Manchester United’s victory was been built on a history of footballing success. It’s a story of famous heroes - Busby and Ferguson - and tales of derring-do – The Munich Air Disaster, the 1968 and 1999 European Cup Final’s. Only by travelling this journey have they built a position where they can compete with the best.

A victory for Chelsea, the nouveau riche of European football, would have forged the link between money and trophies. It would have removed the requirement to build success over time. In short, it would have proved that money buys trophies dismissing the precursor of being good at football.

This would have finally proved the triumph of science and logic over human endeavour, spirit and imagination. Why waste the effort and experience the tragedy to win trophies, when such triumphs can be achieved quickly, objectively and without waste?

Chelsea are an efficient, bullying, belligerent team. Strong and well drilled built and bought for the purpose of winning.

Manchester United are, by comparison, swashbuckling adventurers; risk taking and imaginative, brave and spirited. Had Chelsea triumphed the very thing that makes us human will have been defeated. And the thing that our own imagination has created: science, will have, finally turned on us.

This is what makes us people and more specifically British. We are a people whose essence is built on adventure. To leave an island for an unknown destination, as we once did, is a demonstration of imagination and spirit unparalleled. It is said that Britians love a gallant loser more than it does a winner. This isn’t true; Britains respect the adventurers’ spirit; to try is to and live. To succeed is merely a bi-product.

Presented to us on Wednesday was a vision of what might be. The master puppeteer Abramovich lording over his chosen court jesters. “Lamps and JT” the arrogant two-headed beast playing centre stage. The scent of burning flesh and impending doom was real as Terry stepped up to slaughter the innocent. Then, as though the Gods had mustered an ounce of strength he slipped allowing goodness to return. As if the great poets were writing the game, then Nicolas Anelka; the greediest footballer on the planet missed; the horror presented to us before we were returned to The Shire and safety.

I am no Manchester United fan; and they are hardly without criticism. They too have been enticed by logic over spirit and have been at the forefront of the movement to pull up the drawbridge to success. Our constant thirst to strive for logicality will see football’s inevitable decline with a small number of billionaire clubs competing and technology deciding every marginal ruling. Only Alex Ferguson stands between football and oblivion.


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