Where better to start a column based on the author’s casual disdain for football’s more exasperating aspects than the Premier League, home of the passive aggressive beef?
There was no shortage of it as The Most Envied League in the World™ kicked off on Saturday; notable highlights including Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger getting booed by his own fans after his failure to act in the transfer market (again) resulted in an opening day defeat at home to Liverpool, Juan Mata addressing Jose Mourinho’s antipathy towards him by scoring vs. Bournemouth and Fabio Borini’s hair.
Fun though these things will be to monitor over the coming weeks, none were as compelling as the omission of Joe Hart from Pep Guardiola’s first starting line-up.
With rumours swirling about his interest in Marc-André ter Stegen, it was nonetheless a bold decision to pop Hart’s understudy between the sticks for the team’s opening fixture vs. Sunderland, and one that left the press and social media carving a tombstone for Hart’s City career before a ball had been kicked.
Guardiola may be a newbie to the Premier League’s unique brand of narrative driven coverage, but he’s a well-known football obsessive and will have studied the work of his nemesis Jose Mourinho in some depth. Don’t be surprised to see him harnessing the power of the media to leverage support for decisions that City fans might not necessarily approve of in the first instance as the season progresses.
Although might just be testing a new tactical legacy; to dispense with the need for a keeper altogether, simultaneously freeing up Hart for a roving attacking role.
False One, anyone?
They’re less inclined towards subtlety in Germany, preferring instead to showcase their beef and leave onlookers in no uncertain terms as to where they stand.
Franck Ribery led the charge with a vigorous elbowing of Felix Passlack’s face in the German Super Cup, which Bayern went on to win 2-0, but anyone who’s watched Ribery play knows that’s as much a part of his game as missing large parts of the competitive season through injury.
The real, unadulterated beef came in the form of Bayern Munich’s chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge criticising Borussia Dortmund fans for booing Mats Hummels.
Even those will a passing acquaintance with the Bundesliga will be familiar with Bayern’s habit of poaching Dortmund’s exceptional talent for their own nefarious purposes, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when the Yellow Wall express their displeasure at seeing one of their own in red.
Unless, of course, you’re Rummenigge.
“Ingratitude is the world’s wage,” he said. “It’s a disaster that someone who gave everything for the club for years is booed like that – it’s so disappointing.”
If he finds that disappointing, imagine how he’ll feel if Mario Gotze, a man whose foray into Bavaria was largely unsuccessful, suddenly finds he left his form in his yellow shirt.
That’s a conspiracy for another day though.
While competitive instinct has never been a problem for Hope Solo, judgment has occasionally proved to be a more wily adversary during her career.
When 120 minutes of Olympic quarter final couldn’t separate Sweden & the USA, Solo stepped between the sticks for the decisive penalty shootout. Sadly, instead of using the wonderful talent she’s spent the last twenty years honing, the controversial keeper employed mindgames, delaying Lisa Dahlkvist’s decisive penalty by changing her gloves.
Dahlkvist scored anyway, but Solo refused to be outdone, going full Cristiano Ronaldo with her post-match comments.
“We played a bunch of cowards,” she told reporters after the game.
“You saw us give everything that we had today. Unfortunately the better team didn’t win.”
But while Cristiano’s ego air balloon remained largely intact after his classless comments about Iceland during the Euros, Hope Solo’s was punctured before it got off the ground.
Former USWNT & current Sweden manager Pia Sundhage responded to Solo’s lack of grace in defeat thusly:
“I don’t give a crap,” she told reporters. “I’m going to Rio, she’s going home.”
Can anyone smell burning?