Monday, September 11, 2006

Post Script.

So, Raymond Domenech is prepared to make some concessions... he'll only pick Claude Makelele for competitive fixtures. When I railed against the France coach's arrogant rejection of common sense last week, I assumed UEFA would soon have to intervene; but after Domenech's comments on Friday (see the ever helpful guardian), I cannot imagine that Chelsea will do anything but take the issue to the highest authority.

Domenech claims the "law" is behind in him, and that picking Makelele for internationals is only fair and just, "even against his [Makelele's] own wishes". This fatuous claim makes a mockery of the current situation, whereby a player can currently be suspended from playing for his domestic side, in the event of his refusal to attend an international fixture once called up. This law, which is sensible in that it prevents clubs dictating which of their players can or cannot be selected for international duty, has been twisted by the France manager into a means of half-nelsoning the unfortunate Monsieur Makelele into abiding by his demands. It apparently isn't enough that Makelele retired once before, only to be persuaded to go back on this (2005 BBC report): now he must remain in servitude to his national side until they see fit to eject him from the set-up, or, presumably, his legs give out from under him - although whether that would be enough to persuade Domenech not to select him again remains to be seen.

As I argued before, this course of action violates an unwritten agreement, that when a player sees the dying of the light, and opts to prolong his years in the game (and presumably his chance to earn money before retirement and obscurity, or worse, Football Focus) by absenting himself from the field of international competition, the presiding manager keeps his side of the deal, ie. doesn't name him in the next sodding squad. If a coach can bend the rules in his favour, to override any sense of free agency an aging player may have, then the governing body may be forced to draw up an official system - which would doubtless be open to abuse. FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren's comments appear to support Makelele, in that by putting his international retirement in writing, he would not be subject to a ban; but it appears someone has yet to inform Domenech of this.

At any rate, I look forward to seeing how the affair pans out. Domenech's eccentricity was a feature of the World Cup, and perhaps we'll now bear witness to a bizarre game of one-upmanship between the Frenchman and the equally crackpot Chelsea boss. Given the pugnacious nature of both, it could be fun.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

By way of introduction...

Okay, well, I guess a quick introduction is due, as a debutante in the blogodome. This journal will attempt to look chiefly at events from the sporting world, as refracted through my own eyes. Hopefully it'll be stimulating, interesting, amusing and even satirical; and I'll probably meander from the subject matter, as the mood takes me - but feel free to shout 'stop' if I'm going on...

Anyway, I think it's best to get stuck right into the meat and two veg, as it were. It seems that storm clouds are a-brewing above Stamford Bridge once again. I'm going to attempt to refrain from being partisan in these posts, but I think I can intimate that I'm not the greatest fan of Mourinho's Blues, and their Abramovich fuelled revolution.

However, other than to snipe at William Gallas, Chelsea's press department has rumbled into action today with a statement in defense of the Special One's comments regarding Claude Makelele's supposed international retirement. According to a BBC report, Chelsea have backed their manager, and moved to dissociate his choice of words from their potential "social and political" implications.

To backtrack slightly, the fuss revolves around Mourinho's decision to describe Makelele as a "slave", that he could be made to play for his country despite his apparent decision to retire from the international arena - Kevin McCarra in the guardian. This led to a barrage of small-minded (at least as I see it) nonsense from Raymond Domenech, the French national coach, and Makelele's team mate, Lillian Thuram, (see the guardian again) describing Big Jose's use of the term as "insulting" and "offensive".

Now, here I have to interject on Mourinho's behalf (I'm sure he'll thank me in time). The Portuguese is undoubtedly a shrewd manipulator, and adept at antagonising those who provoke his ire - but to equate Mourinho's inconsequent ranting with a deliberately insensitive jibe at the legacy of the African slave trade, as Domenech and Thuram have done, seems to me as unhelpful as it is reductive. The term 'slave' is not solely rooted in the lexicon of black oppression - it goes way back, referring in its essence to the enforced bondage of one individual to another. Of course it would be naïve to ignore the resonance of the word in the modern era; but it rankles to see this argument needlessly degenerate into an issue of race. As far as I understand the situation, Makelele declared his intention to retire from internationals post-Germany '06, only for Domenech to brazenly select him for their next competitive match. Does that not in some way make Maka a "servant completely divested of freedom and personal rights"? Domenech is correct to say that people died to free themselves from slavery - but it trivialises the issue to raise it in a bout of mud-slinging.

Domenech's perverse handling of the situation is the most unsettling aspect of these exchanges. That a player's desire to not be selected for international matches has no regulation in UEFA's rulebook means that there must be an unwritten code, restricting a manager from picking such a player. Domenech's breach of this left Makelele open to suspension if he refused to play, and potentially uncorks a barrel of monkeys about when a player can or cannot excuse himself for international duty. For him to then engage in a diatribe against Mourinho's perceived racial slur is extraordinary, and muddies the waters of an already convoluted issue.

Well, that's enough for a first post, I think. What with Bjorn throwing his toys out of the pram, Murray on the brink of a first QF, and England looking like breaking the summer's ODI hoodoo (as I write, at least) there should be plenty more to talk about. And that's definitely the last time I wade in on Jose Mourinho's side...