Monday, 24 September 2007

It Matters More When There's Money On It

Skybet loses money. Abramovich loses face. Mike Dean loses the plot.
Far more importantly, Premiership football lost a little more of its soul during yesterday's farce of an encounter between the American Reds and the Russian/Israeli Blues - it may well have been spectacular theatre but it certainly wasn't sport.
United won with a goal during the half time break, a sending off that wasn't warranted and penalty that was highly dubious. However, they would have won whatever and the match, already cheapened by the crisis at Chelsea, simply never happened. It was one of Baudrillard's illusory spectacular society realities - we expected a competitive football match with both sides straining for victory, we got a fractious facade.
Chelsea's performance was under the influence of demons. Despite a promise of financial inducements for a performance in the pre-match dressing room visit by Abramovich, the Chelsea players refused to perform. This is entirely indicative of the current uproar at the club. Through his imposition of a hierarchical culture based on division, backstabbing and private cliques, Abramovich has virtually destroyed what Mourinho created.
Chelsea have gone Dutch. The Netherlands national team perfected the art of racial disharmony within a hierarchy but they had the advantage that the negative impact of their organisational racism could be easily solved by simply dropping the likes of Seedorf, Davids, Kluivert etc. Chelsea are not so lucky (sic). From the moment Abramovich decided that he knows enough about football to be lecturing Michael Essien about midfield distribution, the chasm became all-consuming. Roman is a racist and the Black squad members have taken enough and they are talented and rich enough to sidestep the orders emanating from the Russian's dictatorial agenda.
Drogba was in tears at Mourinho's training ground departure; Ashley Cole, Malouda and Drogs bitterly complained at developments at Friday's attempt at a clear-the-air counselling session; a total non-performance was perpetrated by all Chelsea's Black players at Old Trafford. The fact that Van Basten was sitting behind Roman and his security entourage in the VIP section only adds to the Dutch analogy as he too has displayed a racist colour bias in his managership of the Dutch team. The perfect man for the job then, I guess...
"Those in power control the future by controlling the past" was one of Orwell's angles on psychopathy and the Chelsea publicity machine has spent the last few days reinventing the history of Mourinho's departure.
Mourinho resigned = reality.
Mourinho left by mutual agreement on Thursday morning but had been sacked by Friday and had never even been at the club by Sunday morning = Roman's reality.
The Portuguese staff, the Black players and the fans are horrified by Mourinho's exit = reality.
There was widespread dissension in the squad, Mourinho was despised and, anyway, Sheva wasn't happy = Roman's reality.
Shevchenko was substituted to the sound of "what a waste of money" from the Red hordes as the Ukrainian moved yet further beyond his sell-by date = reality.
Everybody in the Chelsea VIP section, under coercive influence, applauded rapturously as Sheva left the pitch having so nearly saved the day by his tireless running and speed = Roman's reality.
Chelsea have lost one of the best managers in Europe and replaced him with a man who enjoyed great success at Maccabi Haifa = reality.
This is a new dawn where Roman is directly involved in team selection = Chelsea's reality.
No successful and strategic businessman would have chosen to sack his prime asset three days before such a huge game - forget Liverpool, forget Arsenal, the title race only ever involved the Big 2 (prior to yesterday, anyway). If Abramovich had been acting to a private agenda, he would have selected a less destabilising window, say, the international break, and he would have assured himself that the reactive choice Avram Grant had the necessary coaching qualifications. There is proper grudge between the Big 2 - check out Peter Kenyon's face after the sending off - and Abramovich was check-mated by Mourinho who left when he could cause the maximum disruption.
Undermined first by the appointment of Frank Arneson and then by the arrival of Grant, Mourinho is shrewd enough to spot the signs and, although committed professionally to the club and to his contract, he developed a secondary and hidden agenda for potential use in emergencies.
Mourinho was the only individual with Chelsea affiliations to gain from yesterday. Chelsea's lack of a performance showed both the absence of his influence on the match and the respect in which he was held by 90% of the players. His price inflated for his next post and his bank account bulging with £23 million from Roman's leaky wallet, Mourinho also dumped big style on Abramovich, Arneson, Grant, Kenyon and Clarke. I have this image of Mourinho sipping some high quality Portuguese red while giggling his way through the performance of his triumph. If his encounter with Abramovich was a chess match, Wednesday's move would have had a !! following it...
Chelsea are suffering and will continue to experience organisational dysfunctionality which is fair dinkum really. However, the other key aspects that prevented a proper game of football from occurring yesterday are the more pertinent malignancies.
Prior to Black Wednesday, the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOB) had selected Mark Halsey for the Big Game. A volte-face was necessary and, after a considerable delay (the referee for the Big Game was the last to be confirmed for the weekend), the PGMOB under the tutelage of a select grouping of bookmakers decided on Mike Dean. Looking like Jasper Carrot on mogadon, Dean could have chosen to referee professionally and the inevitable United victory would still have resulted as Chelsea were about as lethal as Accrington Stanley. Instead, Dean chose to bring the game and the officials who manipulate it into disrepute on a global stage. United scored during the half-time break and via a dubious penalty while Mikel, who had the audacity not to sign for United, was the player of choice for the incorrect dismissal and Rooney, outrageously, was allowed to stay on the pitch. There was bias but it was unnecessary bias as Chelsea were self destructing anyway as shown by the three other penalty appeals against them and Joe Cole's desperate attempts to be dismissed. But, more disturbingly, the match decisions were entirely randomised. In the view of our Trading Team, the early penalty call (the "very committed" Joe Cole again) together with the same player and Rooney's sendings off were the only valid breakpoints. Grant's statement regarding "some strange decisions" was totally valid - tossing a coin after contentious happenings would have provided greater meritocracy.
Dean has got a bit of history with regard to betting having been banned by the PGMOB for his links to online gambling syndicate, Arbitros and Sunday only strengthened our view that the man's professionalism is compromised by his inappropriate desires. He also has selective hearing. Dean, the same Mike Dean that didn't hear the Islamophobic chants screeched at Mido by 3000 Newcastle fans, clearly heard the visiting fans rendition of "the referee's a bastard" yesterday as he refused Chelsea a valid corner just seconds later. Cack-handed in the extreme...
Following Rob Styles and his comedy capers (and nice new patio) that ruined the Liverpool/ Chelsea match last month, both the encounters featuring the Big 4 this season have been inexorably cheapened by a partnership of bookmakers and financiers influencing events on the pitch. Of course, this is the staple diet for the majority of Premiership games but these lesser events don't display the corruption of the English game to a worldwide audience.
The atmosphere was very subdued in the Sky commentary area post-match. There was none of the joyous glee that accompanied Skybet's betting coup on the last Sky match at Old Trafford against Tottenham. Just Jamie Redknapp looking for a fight, Richard Keys with gritted teeth and Andy Gray repeatedly stabbing his leg with his pen (revealing body language in case you didn't know). Sky were in control of this betting market until Mourinho's departure but, by kick off, they had considerable liabilities on a Man United victory. Gray began the second half with a thinly disguised menace to Dean after their half-time altercation. "I don't agree with you and I don't think many people do" was Gray's interpretation on Dean's justification for sending off Mikel.
The glum faces were founded on financial consequence. If Sky had maintained control of this, the first ever £500 million pre-match market, the rewards would have been considerable. As it was, they got hit by the mug money and one can't help but see elements of justice in Murdoch's men having to pay out to the masses who, in the norm, are abusively targeted by Sky's aggressive business posturing. Having also been undermined in the Liverpool versus Chelsea Big Game, Sky will be awaiting the next Shakesperean tragedy with some trepidation.
Sunday's encounter was a mismatch of a game as well as a collection of errors parading as a football match. Anybody who has watched the Cricket Twenty20 marketing experience is able to see that video technology reveals reality. That is real reality rather than the randomised version of it served up by the PGMOB. All of the key decisions in the two Big Games to date would have been rendered correct by the use of video. It is our misfortune that a by-product of the truth is a deterioration in the bookies bottom line.
In the words of Foucault: "in the economy of doubt, there is a fundamental difference between madness, on the one hand, and error, on the other". The event that was Manchester United and Chelsea exhibited both.

© Football Is Fixed/Dietrological