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...


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