Monday, 7 July 2008


I was almost pleased to see the headline in yesterday's Sunday Times over an article about Brazilian players in English, Scottish, and Faroe Islands football. Yes, the Faroes; it's worth a read. But the headline was classic, restoring my faith that none of the old prejudices and stereotypes that made Fleet Street great have really died. You can see a picture of two of Chelsea's latest recruits alongside this column.

'SAMBA STARS ON THE WAY', bringing back the image of a conga line of dancin' Stepin Fetchits juggling footballs with their toes while jiggling to a beat that's far beyond Land Of Hope And Glory. I mean this is nothing as bad as the back page headline from the Daily Mail back in 1983, when Scotland's Alan Welles placed fourth in the World Athletics Championships' 100m to three Americans. WHITE LIGHTNING! screamed the Mail, informing us that Welles had just become the 'world's fastest white man'. I am not making this up, by the way.

Of course the Times means it innocently enough, they know that we all know Brazilians are naturally talented, great dancers, laugh a lot, are some of Rupert Murdoch's best friends and so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby. Different strokes for different folks, as it were. We can only guess what their reaction might be were the Brazilian press to label English players Cloggy Morris Dancers, plodding round their soggy pitches.

But headline aside, I recommend the article, by Jonathan Northcroft. In its sidebar it also includes an interesting 'League Of Nations' table, which points out that there are 14 Brazilians in the English Premier League. But what is interesting is first, that of the 525 players who appeared in the EPL last season, only 184 were English, or roughly 35%. That's not promising for English football, though it is for English spectators.

But what was even more interesting to me was that America was represented by only one fewer player than Brazil. 13 Americans played in the EPL, more than the 12 Dutchmen or 11 Portugese, and just behind Scotland (14) Spain (14) and Wales (16). That's pretty good for a nation which can't understand soccer. Believe me, that whole 'the sport the Americans call soccer' chiche is a topic for another post.

But remember, in the 2002 World Cup, the Americans got to the quarter-finals where a Scottish referee handed Germany a bitterly-fought match, while no one in particular at home watched or cared. Meanwhile, in England, our heroes were the subject of months of 24/7 media hype and attention, and they got to the quarter-finals and rolled over like whipped dogs before the, uh, samba skills of the Brazilians! As a supporter, which situation would YOU rather be in?

And don't forget, the US national team did every bit as well as the English in the recent European championships, didn't they?

No comments: