Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Poor game

Thanks to just about every football pisstaker for this picture.

As my contribution to this year's Blog Action Day, which is focused on poverty, I thought I would write about something close to my heart - football. Specifically, the obscenity of footballers' wealth and the almost insuperable differences between their lives and not only those in the Developing World, but even the ordinary fan who pays through the nose to watch them and their pony trickery. I have blogged previously about Anton Ferdinand's taste in watches, and am more or less constantly amazed when I hear that someone can possibly be earning £100,000 (or is it even more these days?) in a week. I know that, in the way of these things, we should always strive to take a positive direction forward, but I hope my innate cynicism will be forgiven.

Poverty is, as any self-respecting A Level Sociology student will tell you, a relative concept. Liz Jones wrote (surprisingly well, I thought) in the Mail on Sunday at the weekend - I was early for the supermarket opening and happened to pick up a copy in the cafe where I was waiting for it to open, OK? - about Ethiopia, and a bleak picture she painted indeed. If one were to compare the current fears of the man on the Clapham Omnibus about the value of his 3 bed semi in Surbiton, or his winter break in the Alps, such a story truly throws these things into sharp perspective.

In these historic times, we are seeing many very strange things. A man who made a fortune selling video games pays £18,000,000 for a trip into space, the Formula 1 circus stages a night-time Grand Prix in Singapore with a carbon footprint akin to a sasquatch with elephantiasis, and of course, Manchester City are poised to spend countless millions on buying every player on the planet while the rest of the developed world is at real risk of losing their livelihoods and the developing world continues to try and survive on handfuls of rice. Or worse.

With the supposed demise of the fat banker, it is in the football world that the most egregious expenditure is now taking place. Football has not been particularly good at the PR aspect of charitable work with the poor. The various organisations that run the game are really not doing enough. The campaign recently launched by FIFA for the South Africa World Cup - '20 Centres for 2010' aims to raise $20,000,000 for 20 football centres across Africa by 2010, with FIFA and its sponsors donating $500 for every goal scored during the World Cup qualifying matches, and the fans also able to give as they see fit. Nice to know that the England/Kazakhstan match will have raised $3,000, while the parsimonious Taffs contributed a big fat zero. When set next to the mind-boggling sums currently being shovelled into the banking system, $20,000,000 is - almost literally - nothing. Even when set against the ludicrous fee paid by City for Robinho, it isn't a huge amount either.
The English FA is even worse. When I was searching through their website for the Social Responsibility section (not easy to find, let me tell you - try it for yourself) I was a little surprised to find a piece about sailors from HMS Endurance helping out some children in Ghana. I'm not sure what that has to do with the FA. Uefa yielded nothing, I'm afraid to say, so I gave up.

Mostly, it seems that individual players have done more than the organisations, and especially when those players - such as the great George Weah and Nwankwo Kanu - have themselves been personally enriched by the game, but still remember their roots. Otherwise, when these megastars reach the end of their illustrious careers, we have the choice of listening to them drone on at Half Time, or of going to their themed bars on the Costa Del Sol.
So, where do we go from here? Would I recommend that any footy fan who would like to see the game do more in the cause of fighting poverty and its causes drops a few quid in the FIFA bucket (no doubt, in reality, there's some sort of credit card arrangement, but you know what I mean...) when they squeeze through the turnstiles in Minsk? I don't think so.
My advice? Carry a banner which, despite your gut feeling, doesn't say Sack the Board or Lynch Ashley, but instead says something along the lines of Eat The Rich.


chuck waggon said...

Sorry to ignore the major thrust of your article but I need to know a couple of things...
Is the man on the Clapham Omnibus on the roof of the bus? Or might he just be om ni bus? Also, why is there an ant on Mr Ferdinand?

c aretaker said...

I'll have no such talk in my premises

frank rich said...

Pardon me for being an ignorant Yank, but when soccer fans have a banner saying "sack the board", who exactly are they appealing to?
Do the soccer teams in England have shareholders? And do those shareholders vote on the make-up of the board?
But it seems to me that a takeover of an English soccer team involves some wheeler-dealers buying a majority of shares which effectively gives them veto power over board decisions as they are, de facto, the board.
So, are soccer fans in fact saying to the club's owners, "sack yourselves"? I feel that I should point out that this approach is not very useful.
Anyway, how about those sox eh?

kim il-sung said...

It is with an achy breaky hart that I circle the topic of the haute bourgeoisie in football.
Is this the fruits of the revolution? That young men who kick Mr Pork's wee-wee case into the onions bag should recieve such enough to buy an auto for gentleman, scholar and acrobat?
Surely only Steve Reeves is worth such a purse! Or maybe Barry Silkman! You know, only my Rayners could make Silk man form Mr Pork's wee-wee case! Oh, ho ho!
But serious, it is a sick societe that pays its entertainers more than grows of foodstuffs doctor W.H.O. and lathe-turners. No wonders there is povertea when stupiditea falls like cats and dogs.

h gomes said...

I'm gonna cry myself blind