Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Perils of Communal Living

Sharing an apartment as I do with a Liverpool fan, one invoking unyieldingly the Ancient Law of Telly Primacy (that being that "in the event of a clash of fixtures of interest, the fixture involving the team supported by one of the apartment dwellers MUST take primacy. In the event of two clashing fixtures involving teams supported by apartment dwellers, a complex procedure of bartering and brinksmanship must ensue, after 30 seconds of which, one of the them goes down the pub), I watched the Reds' comfortable defeat of Bordeaux live last night.

But you don't want to read about that, do you?

So, of the extent of the Barcelona v Chelsea match that I saw via highlights - which I admittedly saw three times, courtesy of ITV, Setanta and Sky Sports, and could have watched twice an hour through the night on Sky Sports News were I rendered insomniac by tormented souls roaming the night of All Hallow's Eve...but that's enough about Frank Rijkaard - it seems the sixth instalment of this three-season old conflict continued in the vein of its predecessors: a foul, pestilentially spirited affair, interspersed with episodes of the sublime football both sides are capable of, overhung with the sad knowledge of what a bravura show these two could put on were they to play each other with purest, Corinthian intentions.

As I thought about these words, I resolved to try and approach from a different angle than how writing about Chelsea generally ends up: namely, in a vituperative character assassination of their manager and his methods. Look, I thought, his team have taken four points off Barcelona, showed themselves to be the match of the European champions - if not in the capacity for breathtaking episodes of sensual football, at least in their ability to compete with the Catalans and occasionally dominate them - and demonstrated once again their sheer indefatigability in pressure situations.

Which is why the sour, frustrating spectacle of puerile behaviour these teams served up last night comes back to the preening Portuguese. His team have so many positive attributes - leaving aside, if you can for a moment, the questionable morality of their expensive assembly - and have achieved so much, that the genuine detestation their behaviour generates is simply a crying shame.

Unfamiliar with the referee prior to last night, I am unsure whether he is normally such a scattered, confused figure or whether the air of cynicism surrounding the match caused him to take leave of his senses by virtue of some witch's spell or worse, a Mourinho press conference.

Jose Mourinho's interviews are precisely calibrated to generate the atmosphere of bile and negativity in which, he obviously he feels, his team will excel. Barcelona and Frank Rijkaard deserve almost as much scorn for allowing themselves to be drawn into these on- and off-pitch slanging matches and the sight of the enraged Dutchman chasing after a bewildered referee after last night's match would have given Mourinho the ultimate satisfaction in the vindication of his methods. Put simply, Barcelona had been brought down to his level, a place where Mourinho knows the terrain too well to be defeated.

We will probably never know if this Chelsea team could be as successful as they are in the hands of a more gracious character. Perhaps the nature of the club as it is at the moment precludes the survival of morally more upright steward. But, if ever the point needed reiterating, last night was further proof that the shadow of their manager's methods will always dull his team's achievements.


Blogger Fence said...

I used to quite like Mourinho, he is, after all the prettiest of the Premiership's managers, but really, his behaviour is so very off-putting that I'm thinking what we really need is an Anyone But Chelsea club

2:50 p.m.  
Blogger Tommy77 said...

The days of ABU seem like a happy, distant folk memory now. All we had to do was hate the purple-faced monster and his all-conquering team. I feel about them now like the Russians must have felt about the Tsars when Stalin came along.

4:56 p.m.  
Anonymous Paddy said...

As a manyoo fan, I salute Mourinho's antics. As he deflects negative press from his players (onto his character and the club he represents) he's also making makes chelski more detested than manyoo ever were. It seems that Chel$ki's negative football, and their manager's undignified behaviour are giving the ABUs a bit of perspective lately... Maybe things weren't that bad when manyoo were winning after all? At least we did it in style. Winning things with kids, the tabloid's invention of 'mindgames' ("I would love it.."), the rivalry with Wenger... wasn't that more entertaining than this Mastercard sponsor goading his former employer on the Camp Nou touchline on Wednesday night? I say bravo, Jose, you're gorging on extra helpings of personal media attention while The Purple One looks like he could, possibly, steal your thunder this year. And I would love it, love it...

9:40 a.m.  

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