The Mailbox ponders whether sportswashing achieves its aim when you can see it coming. Also: McTominay’s last chance; Arsenal’s drum; POTY and more.
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Does sportswashing work?
I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate with regards to sportswashing. Please forgive any lack of knowledge/ignorance on my part, I am genuinely curious about it, but does sportswashing actually work?
Qatar world cup was obviously surrounded by a furore about their human rights record and their treatment of women. They spent all the money in the world for that tournament in an effort to bolster their reputation.
Man City’s owners are from a country with a similar record to Qatar and are also considered ‘bad guys’. They’ve spent millions on, in and around Manchester; improving facilities, investing in the community and, obviously, making Man City a Big Club. Ditto PSG’s owners.
Newcastle’s new owners need no introduction at this point but to my knowledge, they have intimated intention to do to Newcastle what Man City’s owners have done to Manchester.
If Man Utd get taken over by Qataris, it is reasonable to assume they will also do as Man City have – invest in and around the local community, build the club back up to its former glory (shudder).
Now, all these people/groups/owners have spent (or potentially will spend) millions of pounds on the club and surrounding areas. No-one can really dispute that that is a good thing. Local communities benefit, the club benefits and the fans benefit. Everyone is a winner, including the owners. So they have done some good. But is anyone really thinking ”oh, Man City’s owners have invested in the local community, Abu Dhabi must be a great place to go”?
Everyone knows why these people are spending such vast amounts of money, but does it work? The Qatar World Cup was one of the best tournaments I’ve watched. I loved it, watched nearly every game. Has it changed my opinion on Qatar? Not in the slightest. Do I think Abu Dhabi is a great place for gay people to go? No, doesnt matter how much better the area surrounding the Etihad is now, they still have an appalling human rights record.
Even if Qataris bought my club (Liverpool) and turned Liverpool into the greatest, bestest city on Earth, it isnt going to change my opinion on the regime that controls the country. I would enjoy the benefits of mega rich owners (shiny players, local area being rejuvenated etc etc) but I still wouldnt suggest Qatar as a destination for any gay people I know.
So does sportswashing even work when everybody knows that is exactly why they are doing such good things? Or is it a case that if even one Newcastle fan changes their opinion and suddenly loves Saudi Arabia that the sportswashing works? Is it not possible for Newcastle fans to enjoy the benefits of being richer than God whilst still finding the regime reprehensible? Surely Man City fans can enjoy being uber-successful without thinking that Abu Dhabi is the nicest place in the world?
I want to state categorically that I am against the human rights records, treatment of women and the LGBQT+ community in these countries and maybe I’m in the minority being able to seperate the football from the country. Or maybe I’m part of the problem, ignoring the issues in favour of the football. I honestly dont know, as I said at the start of the mail, I am genuinely curious.
TL:DR Does sportswashing actually work if everyone knows it’s sportswashing?
Clive LFC (Man Utd worry me, please bring back Woodward and OGS)
Has McTominay blown it?
To start off I just want to address the talk about a quadruple: I haven’t heard a single United fan talking about this as anything other than being in four (well, 3 now) competitions. Maybe it’s just the company I keep but none of my United-supporting friends or family even have us in the conversation for a league win. I/they would like us to win the FA Cup and Europa League if possible (though I’m more interested in the latter, personally), but pushing City for second is, in my view, the best we could reasonably hope for in the league and that’s far more than I thought possible pre-season.
Anyway, I just have a couple points about Wednesday night. First, I think that was probably McTominay’s last big chance to show he can be a part of this team and, unfortunately, he kinda blew it. Picking up a needless yellow card after half an hour and generally being anonymous throughout his half shows why he is 5th in line for that midfield berth. I don’t think he’s anything like as bad as some people make out but we are now in a position where we need to be ruthless with the squad and he should not make the cut.
Second, I truly hate the offside rule. I have for years and VAR is only making it worse. The margins are just unnecessarily fine and it’s not actually reflecting the true circumstances. For Casemiro’s disallowed goal, are we really saying that if he had been a couple of inches further back that would have been fine? Or that a defender (none of whom were actually marking him anyway) would have suddenly been able to intercept the cross? Not a chance.
For me, the closest we have ever been to a working offside law is when it was down to clear daylight between the last defender and attacker, but even then context is also key; for instance, why should a defender on the opposite flank to, say, a winger receiving the ball on the other have any influence on the offside when they are having no influence on the active play in general? I also don’t see why a player should be given offside if they have got themselves back onside before they actually touch the ball – surely any perceived advantage has gone once they are back onside? Anyway, it’s a stupid law that is being enforced by people who are either unwilling to or incapable of enforcing it properly, either with or without the technology, so it needs changing.
I had no issue with their West Ham goal, other than how all our lot totally switched off – I can only assume Ten Hag will have roasted them for that one – but whether they thought it was in our out, play to the whistle.
All in all, I can’t believe how well this season has gone up until now (well, since the first two games at least), so I am loving the job that Ten Hag is doing. I don’t think we will win the two remaining cups (too many games, not enough rest) but the important thing is that it doesn’t feel impossible any more. Hopefully this is the true dawn (the opposite of a false own?) and we can build on this initial success.
…I’ve followed United for a pretty long time, and I can’t remember a single drop-off in quality like going from Varane/Martinez/Casemiro to Maguire/Lindelof/McTominay. The first half was like watching a different sport.
– It doesn’t impact the result and doesn’t help United so no one will talk about it, but who do we ask about VAR not noticing a ball went out of play during review, but the broadcasters finding a perfectly clear angle a minute later? Since the Rashford incident, United have been on an absolute hiding from VAR and marginal decisions. I guess that’s the karma thing, can anyone let me know what number is balance?
– Noah’s email has to be parody. Or he started following football in 2010. Ferguson never faced any challenges? Huh.
– Similarly, I assume Alex’s interest in football finances started pretty recently. There will always be a myth around United and spending under Ferguson, but the fachts are that Liverpool spent more on transfers in the 90s than United. Chelsea spent vastly more in the 00’s. City spent more since 2010. United of today are more skewed relative to competition (as are all the big 3 spenders) than anytime under Ferguson.
– For me as a reasonably engaged liberal, I will force myself to disconnect from United if we’re purchased by a nation-state. It’s not what football should be about, it’s not what fandom should be about and the last thing we should be doing as a society is giving carte blanche to literal human-rights offenders because of tribal sports support.
– The question ALL fans should be asking is how the Premier League and FA have allowed the situation to arise where the only possible way for a football team to win in a football competition is to be subsidised by oil-rich states. Except Arsenal. Up the Gunners?
I’m sorry, did Noah just suggest Sir Alex had it easy in the managers he faced?
Pahahaha I needed a laugh on a Thursday morning. He overcame Pep, he overcame Jose (in his pomp), he regularly overcame a manager who fundamentally changed the entirety of league football in Wenger. He battled the great managers in Europe and regularly came out on top.
But poor old Klopp, my heart bleeds for his suffering.
…So Liverpool and City have raised the bar with record breaking point hauls but competition in the league is also at its fiercest, with teams from the bottom pulling off “offsets” on a weekly basis.
Makes perfect sense and Fergie again proved to be a fraud by scouse wisdom, competing against the likes of Ancelotti, Mourinho and Wenger when Klopp and Guardiola both managed to lose the league title to Claudio ****ing Ranieri.
Simon (“Not to mention the Diches” must be a mailbox hall of famer) MUFC
When you walk…
“…one thing you seem to forget or ignore is that, YNWA means that when life happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. If we won’t walk together through the storm, how could we ask to join the merry when the sky spits the gold of sunshine on us?”
Try telling that Loris Karius…
Just trying to help
Levenshulme Blue, Manchester 19
Early shouts for POTY
As a Liverpool supporter this obv does not make great reading.
In no particular order
Partey,Odegaard , Saka – Arsenal
Cassimero, Rashford – United
Maddison – Leicester
KDB, EBH – City
Pahlina – Fulham
Caicedo – BHA
Toney – Brentford
Kane – Spurs
Any obvious (and unintentional) omissions? Trossard, Pope………
He bangs the drum
Give me a lad playing a drum “tunelessly” over someone who meets pleasing play with a polite round of applause any day of the week.
Who are the “real” fans anyway? The miserable “prawn sandwich” brigade?
I couldn’t care less what your background is but if you are lucky enough to get a ticket for the Emirates, and it’s pretty impossible these days, then your job is to make some noise.
How about that first goal from Saka? If that isn’t worth making noise about then I don’t know what is!
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
…I swear each week there is some new stick to beat Arsenal with? We’ve been gloatingly told for years how Highbury was a library and the Emirates has no atmosphere. Yet every fan I know who has gone this season has said it has been absolutely rocking. To G Thomas Breda, what is embarrassing about fans enjoying the game, and generating energy and passion? Tunelessly banging a drum – well at least we know your POV. From mine, it’s great. The guys who meet under the arches by the stadium early to light flares and chant are awesome. I can hear the stadium from where I live, often an hour before kick off and I’ve never heard it like that so I think its great. I’d rather that than chanting offensive slogans and fights.
And to Stu, if you do your mental exercise with any club that won the league, you could make excuses. Don’t let anyone or anything ruin your enjoyment of this team. We’ve achieved nothing this year, so why worry about ‘losing to City’ when it hasn’t occurred yet. And if we don’t win the league, no matter what other fans say, before the season we wanted the Champions League, and we are definitely on course to achieve that. Any rival fan who says ‘Chelsea weren’t strong, Liverpool collapsed’ etc etc is just sour grapes. We are on for a great points total, and we’ve done it with a young side with homegrown players leading the charge.
The only thing to worry about is the 13 games to go. Stuff the rest.
John Matrix AFC
…Not sure I understand Stu, if you get the most points you win the league so yes you are the best, so if Arsenal achieve that…
Also bemused by G Thomas, what is a ‘real’ Arsenal fan? The Ashburton Army most certainly have improved the atmosphere (along with various other factors) why on earth would we be embarrassed?
Belief is infectious 🙂
Kind regards etc etc
Managed to get to the game yesterday – first Arsenal game in absolute ages, so was pretty pleased with the performance and getting a pretty important win to take us 5 points clear of City with 13 games left, against a manager who has done pretty well against Arteta over the years.
Someone in the morning mailbox mentioned how United fans are pretty openly talking about doing a quadruple whereas Arsenal fans aren’t really talking about the title; obviously hard not to acknowledge we’re top going into the business end of the season but in my opinion I think its because the expectation for Arsenal going into this season was to get top 4 whereas for United it was seen as something of a transition season. Obviously, ETH has done a pretty amazing job to get them to where they are now, trophy already in the bag and a possible further 3, even if the Prem they’re probably dark horses and need both ourselves and City to slip up somewhat to come back into it.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have been either top or within a couple of points of the top for most of the season so expectations have changed quite radically. Going into the season it looked like another year of Liverpool and City duking it out again, Tottenham pushing on with big transfers in the summer and the same with Chelsea so we’d be fighting for a spot in the Champions League places. Now, at this stage of the season with the way we’ve gone, anything that isnt either winning the title or finishing within 2/3 points of City after another 13-game winning run to finish the season off will be seen as quite a disappointment. United started off awfully and have come back to be in a pretty good place at this stage of the season, so even being mentioned for all the trophies is a massive improvement for them.
Moving onto the game itself, was a pretty cagey start, everyone and their dog knew what Everton were going to do; compact, low block, no space, hit on the counter and deny Jorginho/Odegaard/Saka any space to create anything of note. Trossard has been an incredible signing and is doing a great job as a false 9 but I do think in the summer we need to get a different type of striker – a bigger lad whos much better in the air and able to bring others in, hold the ball up, run the channels etc. Someone like Toney or DCL would be pretty bang on but with Jesus, Nketiah and Balogun returning don’t see that happening really. Would be useful to have a target man especially as a lot of teams are setting up against Arsenal in this way now.
Saka – wow, what a player, has to be favourite for PFA POTY if we get the title at this point, has really worked on his finishing and it shows, that near post finish on his right is one he’s used a few times this season and it’s incredible to see the difference between last years finishing and this. Long term I do think we need one more winger, Nelson has too many injuries for him to be the guy and Pepe will probably be off this year so will be interesting who they look at. There was noise about Mousa Diaby from Leverkusen after Mudryk fell through, much more of a winger in the Saka/Martinelli vein.
Second half was much simpler, Dyche obviously moved into damage control and protecting the GD after the first half. Bringing Partey in makes the game so much simpler for us – as good as Jorginho has been he doesn’t have the physicality or danger awareness Partey has, which allows White to push up a bit and Saka isn’t as isolated. Those little first-time passes he does really speeds the game up too and didn’t let Everton get set, Jorginho only being here a few weeks probably isn’t as in tune with the attack as Partey is but it really showed. Was more or less a training game really though after the break, could have easily got another 2/3 if we really wanted, but Arteta decided to slow it down a bit which makes sense with the game on Saturday afternoon and a pretty packed schedule heading into the international break. Was good to see ESR and Viera getting some game time too, hopefully both can play the Europa games so the first-choice wingers get more of a rest.
Everton though – havent watched a huge amount of their games this year outside of the first game at Goodison. Point outside of safety having played a game more, horrible goal difference, DCL injured as he has been pretty much all season, not much going on creatively either. Shame we don’t get many Everton mails here, really does look like they’ll be in a dogfight for survival this year, would be interesting to hear how they feel. Even if they do go down, with all the noise about the financial incompetence, wouldn’t be a surprise if they don’t have the relegation wage clauses.
Got me thinking too – who could they even get big money for if they go down? Tarkowski, Onana, DCL and Iwobi are pretty much the only players I can see them getting remotely decent money for, Pickford probably too with the big new contract, Gray seems like an excellent mid-table winger too but there’s not much there outside of that.
There is already talk of the run-in and it’s finely poised as we stand . I’m presuming this metaphor comes from the athletics track though I suppose horse racing is another obvious option. Either way, due to that mid season World Cup all our usual mile stones have been skewed haven’t they?
We are a little early in the season to be talking about run-ins but then again, I can’t work out what number of games left constitute it. Ten?
Then there’s the ‘home straight’ is that with five to play? (and how can a straight have ‘plenty of twists & turns’ as the pundits keep glibly telling us).
Whichever, apprentice versus master is tingling along well and although this joke isn’t really funny in Spain, Jesus is (probably) coming back at easter. Just the pep that Arsenal’s forward line might need to win key away games. So as in 1989 and a fever pitch last day things’re looking do-able for the Gunners.
Just I guess the last day is later on than usual this season.
Peter (Potter needs a slice of luck and a win against Dortmund) Andalucia.