Thursday 18 October 2007

Unpredictable, astonishing and appalling: Chelsea are back to mirror my life!

Football humour

With a little dust precariously settled after the departure of Jose Mourinho from Chelsea, this colyoom stumbles disconsolate once again towards the truth that football (the 'English game') is a metaphor for life.
If you do nothing but defeat all your enemies, then your victories will feel increasingly meaningless and shallow. To truly know the value and excitement of winning, you have to know what it is to lose.
If you win all the time you have no hope; there are no dreams left unfulfilled. All you are left with is the dread of loss, whereas if you lose often, your dreams of winning grow all the time.
Before the arrival of the Special One at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea FC offered their fans all that life had to offer.
They would destroy Manchester United at Old Trafford, and three days later lose ignominiously to a team of part-time herring fisherman from a hamlet in Norway whose goalie was blind in one eye.
Regardless of whether managed by Hoddle, Vialli, Gullit, or the original Tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri, Chelsea never fielded the same team week to week, played one day with passion, commitment and flashes of dazzling brilliance, only to offer for the next game a performance damnably lacklustre and dreadful.
Each glamorous manager bought international superstar goalscorers to Stamford Bridge, who, having donned the blue shirt, became instantly unable to find the net ever again (some things never change).
Following Chelsea before Mourinho was excruciating, infuriating, exhilarating and inspiring.
The former because an ethos of inconsistency permeated the entire club.
The latter because life is like that: scattered with rare and beautiful victories, besmirched by ugly shoddy shabby times and most importantly, completely beyond our control.
Then came the Russian billionaire, who hired the Portugeezer, and immediately everything changed.
Suddenly Chelsea were entirely predictable.
Almost impossible to beat, they were Premiership Champions two years in a row, whilst picking up an FA Cup, and two Carling Cups on the way. There were two Champions League semi-finals and a double-header against mighty Barcelona that some consider the most exciting European game ever played.
Mourinho picked the right players. He made daring and impressive tactical substitutions, and kept his players out of the English tabloid papers by gushing forth a constant torrent of apparently mad and egocentric nonsense for the gutter press to feed upon.
Something of a genius, something of a despot, it was no surprise that he failed to get on with the post-Communist fascist who was his boss.
Although I have enjoyed the last three years, I am not inordinately sad to see him go.
All that winning became a strain. It didn't feel quite right, and the football was rarely stimulating to watch.
As football reflects life, so my team should have erratic, flawed, passionate yet talented players who do their best, will not always win at the expense of style, and accept their fate with dignity.
Chelsea have never been a dynastic club like Manchester United, who suffer a joyless search for perfection. The Blues are more like you and me: living on the edge of uncertainty, aware that change is the only constant, relishing the good times, and learning from the bad.
My only deep concern for the club I love rests with Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich.
We all sit and shout at the TV and tell our mates what we would do if we could boss the team, but we realise that in the real world, the Manager knows best.
Blinded by power and wealth, misguided by sycophantic Yes-Men, and drowning in his own vanity, Abramovich decided he knew more about football than Jose Mourinho, the man who won the European Cup with a team from Portugal; the man who did not lose a single home league game throughout his entire tenure at Chelsea.
If Abramovich continues to play 'God' by deciding what he thinks is best for the team on the pitch, Chelsea will crumble and die within a few years.
But now, with Mourinho gone, what will happen?
We might win and we might lose. Once again, Life and Chelsea are back on the same track, and it feels good!
In purely commercial terms, Roman Abramovich has scored a massive own goal by sacking Jose Mourinho, but ironically, in the process, he gave me back the team that mirrors life as I see it: ever unpredictable, often astonishing and sometimes plain appalling, Chelsea came back to me. (The Snapper, however, is still in mourning.)
****
On a slightly more literate note, by now the winner of the Man Booker Prize will be known, and the winning author will be showered with fame and wealth.
Indeed, each writer on this year's Booker Shortlist is guaranteed to sell several thousand copies of their nominated novels.
However, it's worth taking a quick look at the numbers of those books sold before they were nominated on the Shortlist.
While ├╝ber-scribbler Ian McEwan's novella 'On Chesil Beach' had found its way into a respectable 99,660 homes, Nichola Barker's 'Darkmans' had sold less than 500 copies.
Two of the other shortlisted books had sold less than 900, and quite amazingly, 'Animal's People' by Indra Sinha had made it onto the list despite having sold only 231 copies.
231 copies? Is that all it takes to catch a ride on the Man Booker Prize Express?
Once you've flogged a few to your mates, your family, and the barstaff at the launch; put 20 in a box in the attic for those yet-to-be-born grandchildren who will be oh-so grateful for your foresight, you'll have flogged 250 copies.
So why would anyone want to try and write fiction? Clearly, it's not for the money. Sure, the above shortlisted books will now make their writers rich, but it is, after all, a short list.
Personally, I think we scribblers are just a bunch of nutters who need to write in order to function as vaguely acceptable human entities, and some of us are better at it than others.
But if you only need to flog 200 copies to make the Man Booker Shortlist, there's hope for us all.
So the next time somebody tells you they are writing a novel, hesitate for at least a second before you gush
'Oh wow! You'll be loaded! Remember us simple folk when you're a gazillionaire!'

Double Vision

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