Nether Netherland: The future of football is supporting individuals, not teams



There are certain things that unify people, things that are either undeniably of benefit to the world or significant populations. Here’s a selection, none of which can be disputed: removing all comments from articles on the internet, melted cheese baked around and on top of pasta, and the day that tiresome attention-seeker and imagination black hole Tracy Emin finally follows through with her threat to move to France. Though that last one might not benefit France. It works in football, too. Dimitar Berbatov delights everyone with a passing interest in either erotica or football, and often acts as a gateway drug from one to the other. He demonstrates the future of football. Supporting a team is a futile gesture, riddled with the possibility that any or all of the managers, owners, players or fans will let you down. The future is to hand over your dedication to individuals. 

Dimitar Berbatov is our Niall from One Direction - the rest of Fulham can go hang in comparison. There’s nothing wrong with Bryan Ruiz or Martin Jol, for example, and they make Fulham a largely benign presence, but let’s take a helicopter view - it’s what Brendan Rodgers would want, after all. They’re owned by litigious funster Mohammed Al-Fayed, and to preserve this website, it’s probably not worth getting into all the reasons he’s worthy of your hate. Think about them yourself, and for God’s sake, do not write them down in public.  They’re also based in West London: the worst part of London - and that’s saying something. There are, taking just a cursory view, plenty of reasons to be disgusted by Fulham.  Imagine the state of them when Mark Hughes managed them: odious. 

Support Dimitar Berbatov, though, and he can be the wind beneath your wings; the slight relief from your severe unhappiness. He considerately and sensuously eases across the pitch, so it’s never too hard to track him for the full ninety minutes. He’s putting on a show, and you can enjoy it - a not so private dancer for money. The casual, assured flirting with the ball, so effective and subtle that it doesn’t need to be as crass as a sprint. No, for the spectators, and particularly his supporters, the treats are true synapse-tinglers. Controlling the ball sailing a full twelve feet above his head, nutmegging a fullback with a Cruyff turn, all the way looking like a sultry example of fertility. You’d be able to exorcise Daniel Levy from your mind. Give up Spurs, and you can just enjoy his English debut season. Give up Ferguson’s grim bullying, and watch his overhead kick complete a hat-trick against Liverpool. Don't worry about the ridiculous Michael Jackson statue at Craven Cottage, and just look at the gallant lope and exquisite penalty against Arsenal yesterday.

It works for managers, too. Jose Mourinho is not quite as widely loved, but he’s just as much of a treat to his followers. If, say, you’re a diehard Manchester United or Liverpool fan, it was a struggle to enjoy Mourinho as he bested Alex Ferguson, smouldered in the accepted manner, and insulted Rafa Benitez as a side project. Chelsea were and are owned by Roman Abramovich - who acquired his wealth in a dubious manner, at best. If you’re a moral Chelsea fan, that would prove hugely difficult to bear, in the same way that Manchester United fans feel sick to line the pockets of the Glazers. Support Mourinho and the dilemma means so much less. It’s not for you to defend dodgy business dealings to other supporters, or feel misery every time you look at the executive box. No, you get to repeatedly watch Mourinho’s best quips on YouTube, or pleasure yourself as he gives Vilanova a pointy one in the eye.

There are other examples. Pep Guardiola would no longer represent all that is wrong with the institution of Catalan arrogance, he would just be a beguilingly balding, sensual football revolutionary with a good line in skinny ties. Even better, everybody could get behind Eric Cantona kicking the idiot in the head: no longer would it be restricted to those in an around the Old Trafford area. Nobody, not even Scousers, would have to feign respect for Phil Thomspon anymore.

Obviously it would ruin fan segregation and the sense of thrilling tribalism, and kill the footballing industry generally as it fails in this new business model. Sky would go out of business, and the big bucks would exit the game as the club-as-brand crumbled. The Glazers would be forced into dining at soup kitchens as their cash cow withered into a starved husk as people move to follow Berbatov and Cristiano Ronaldo, their true loves. FSG wouldn't have to own up to the fact that they're clueless, as every other club would become just as directionless. Manchester City fans could camp out in support of David Silva, and no longer have to worry that Roberto Mancini makes them as ludicrous as ever, and excuse them from trying to convince us he stands a chance managing in Europe. It might kill football as we know it. Actually, that makes it an even better idea.


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