THE MORE THINGS CHANGE …
When all this is over, we will have learned to practise kindness and become more generous towards our fellow man. The flatmate you’ve spent the last 12 weeks in isolation with who leaves the oven on overnight and never flushes? He’s only doing his best. The neighbours who’ve turned every evening of the last three months into some 90s nu-metal lockdown party? They just like what they like. The guy in Sainsbury’s who took the final box of Burford Browns? At least they’re going to a good home. Imagine it! A frictionless society based on patience and willingness to tolerate each other’s strengths and weaknesses. There’s one problem: that would mean imagining life without the France national team. Because at this time of empathy and shared fears it’s heartening, in some way, to know that in some places life goes on.
A growing feature of this shutdown is the willingness of footballers to offer Q&A sessions, presumably while squat-thrusting in their private gyms. With press officers and Mr 15%s now merely voices on the end of a Zoom call, off come the shackles – like Karim Benzema, who’s decided the time is right to appraise the skills of Olivier Giroud, a man who, one might assume, is taking his old place in Les Bleus’ lineup. “You can’t confuse an F1 car with a go-kart and I’m being kind,” he tooted in a live Instachat video with some YouTuber or whatever. “He has his career, he does what he wants and scores the goals he wants to score. He’s in his corner and I’m in mine. If we’re talking about playing style, his suits France well.”
He launched into a slightly kinder explanation of the ways in which Giroud frees up space for Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann, before finding himself unable to resist with a closing “but does everyone like his game? I don’t know.” The faint praise had been applied liberally and soon enough a big enough storm had kicked up for him to double down, or climb down, or whatever the following means. “We didn’t remember what I said about him, especially about what he brings to the French national team,” Benzema later wailed. “We just remembered the moment when I said I was F1 and he was karting. That’s what I think, that’s the truth, and that’s how it is. Because, if you ask me with R9 [Ronaldo]: R9 is F1, and I am karting. That’s the way it is. We’re going to move on.”
Not until The Fiver has had its pound of flesh, Karim. You might want to have a little think about the last time a go-kart won a World Cup. Or watch one of those interviews where F1 drivers take time out from going round in circles in the most intricately-computed machines and admit that they’d give anything for just one more day back in the old wagon they careered around in as kids, where it all began. Just like the selfish louts next door, we’re all into whatever we’re into. But whenever football returns, a Giroud knockdown or selfless run down the channel is going to be just as welcome as a predatory close-range finish at the Bernabéu. We rather miss both.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
It’s only hot retro MBM coverage of Juventus v Manchester United in 1999’s Big Cup semi-final second leg. Join Rob Smyth from 7.45pm BST.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“They even contacted a coach in the same division we play in to check how we play and how we have played in the past. People even got in contact with some of our former players and asked about our starting lineup. It was sick” – Eskilstuna FC chairman Bengin Ozeran gets his fume on, after a friendly between the Swedish seventh-tier side and eighth-tier Näshulta GoIF had to be cancelled when at least one bookmaker opened up betting on the game.
It’s your boy David Squires on … The English Premier League Game.
The latest Football Weekly podcast is right here.
“Re: getting the Premier League season finished and harebrained ideas that might be crazy enough to work (yesterday’s Fiver). Play all remaining fixtures on the same day. Each is a five-a-side game of five minutes each way. The matches can be played on an artificial surface, say at The Pitts in Ancoats. Clubs can send a squad of seven, one of whom is the captain/coach. Goalies must stay inside their area, etc. Drinks in the bar afterwards. I’ve not done the maths but I reckon it should be doable in a day and save a lot of messing about” – Ed Bailey.
“Given that the accepted safe distance is two metres, why can’t this season be determined by completing fixtures as penalty shootouts? Make it best-of-20, every outfield player takes a shot, with discrepancies in the final scores going towards goal difference. After each kick, the ball is changed a la Major League Baseball, and a Disinfectant Task Force is dispatched to fumigate the spot/posts/crossbar as appropriate. And it could be reasonably cheaply televised to a football-starved populace” – Steve Doorey.
“Long before football actually stopped, I had predicted it, albeit from a different angle. My concept of holographic football might be worth revisiting? Albeit with a holographic crowd and real players, rather than vice versa” – Rod de Lisle.
“I agree, fans should have a say on their favourite games (yesterday’s Fiver letters). My favourite was Liverpool v Manchester United in the 1985 FA Cup semi-final at Goodison. Two-two. I was 15. Liverpool equalised three minutes from time, Ronnie Whelan’s curler into the top corner. Then United scored in extra-time before Paul Walsh bobbled the ball over the line in injury-time of extra-time. We went berserk on the Gladys Street End followed by a chant of: ‘Atkinson, Atkinson shut your face, Atkinson, shut your face.’ United went on to win the Cup but those two late equalisers brought on pure ecstasy. Now I’m a sad old dad who reads The Fiver, waiting in vain to be pleased, and I’m easily pleased” – Patrick Wilkinson.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Big Dan Levy – who earned £4m in 2018-19, plus a deferred bonus of £3m for Tottenham’s overdue stadium being completed – has called on Premier League managers and players to help deal with the coronavirus crisis by accepting lower pay, while reducing the wages of 550 non-football staff at Spurs by 20%.
All 55 of Europe’s national FAs will deal with unmuting challenges in a video conference with Uefa on Wednesday, in a bid to discuss the latest proposals for how the 2019-20 season might end.
And 64 non-league clubs have written to the FA to condemn the voiding of their seasons, accusing it of doing so in “needless and inexplicable haste”.
STILL WANT MORE?
Jack Grealish needs to show he has really grown up this time, reckons Paul Doyle.
Jacob Steinberg waxes lyrical about his favourite game, West Ham’s Cup mugging of Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2001.
Steven Caulker gets his chat on with Will Unwin about life in Turkey.
Kits quiz! Remember these beauties? Test your knowledge here.
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