Twitter as a force for social-reconciliation














Nothing to do with the Twitter article, except that they’re joined together. And Twitter also joins people together. Tenuous.

Twitter is for those who like to tweet at tweeps; nowhere outside of the local Ornithological Society is bird terminology more freely used in general conversation.  Twitter is, in case you’ve been incarcerated in an anti-social media Alcatraz, a platform where one can share muses – up to a limit of 140 characters – to a plethora of adoring followers, who hang on your every post, or as it is termed in their alt-universe: tweet.

The mini-blogging sites most vaunted participants, though, come in the form of celebrities – from your D list wallowers to you’re extradited from reality A list über-celebs. Twitter is a hotbed of immediacy and intimacy, where followers are able to view rolling BREAKING NEWS style updates on the mundane follies of other peoples lives. Not that this makes it any less addictive: it is the ultimate ally for procrastination.

Unwittingly, or maybe wittingly, celebrities welcome us into their glittered lives of extensive Call of Duty sessions, unlimited banter with fellow tabloid darlings and trivial queries about life. Amongst the elite of Britain’s Twitterarti (I know, it’s not a real word) are the over-hyped, car crashing Adonis’s who masquerade as elite sportsmen once in a while: footballers.

In the world of limited vowels, Tweeters are free to follow anybody – without Police intervention – from superstars such as Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, to not-so superstars such as ex-Howard Webb mocker Ryan Babel and Twitter’s very own permanent target for abuse, Robbie Savage. Along with your more established names, the Tweeting arena is awash with emerging young English talent such the two Jack’s, Rodwell and Wilshere, plus the man with two first names as his forename, Jonjo Shelvey.

Allowing access to their private lives is something many footballers have sought to escape over the years, as they sat in their multi-million pound, gold-plated mansions with hundreds of diamond incrusted small dogs running amok. Twitter, though, is forging a bridge between fans and players, after years of money-induced apartheid separated those who play the game from the hoards of adoring masses who view it.

From 1992 onwards – with the inception of the greedy, dollar-signs-in-eyes Premier League – a wedge was driven between fans and players. Whilst the leagues newly ordained millionaires segregated themselves from reality, fans became increasingly disenchanted with their heroes on the pitch. Money, not for the first time, divided the two groups, with the former working-class-idols now belonging to an entirely different social stratum. Gone were the days of footballers living in the same neighbourhoods as fans – where ten foot gates were not deemed necessary – and you could view them as normal people, rather than through the demi-god spectacles we observe them through today.

In an era of almost limitless access to other people’s lives, it was inevitable that footballers would eventually jump on board the Twitter bus; especially since, for years, the media have been attempting to infiltrate the guarded community they inhabit. Mini-blogging has offered the more famous amongst us an opportunity to relay personal news on their own terms. Stories can be ignited or dampened with instantaneous personal-press releases, which in a world of kiss and tells and tabloid rumour mongering is becoming a necessity rather than an optional extra.

Welcoming fans into their lives – with open arms and the kids doing some strange So Long, Farewell rendition – has helped fans to empathise with their idols on a more inter-personal level. Now, unlike before, fans can see the mundanity of a life they thought otherworldly: Rio Ferdinand, for instance, does not spend his days using fifty pound notes as toilet paper, but instead looks after his kids and goes to Nandos. Ah, the life of semi-retirement. And Wilshere, England’s latest wunderkid-to-ruin-with-expectation, instead of cavorting with pop-heiresses, spends much of his time requesting coffee from his mum or watching football. It’s not that departed an existence from many nineteen year olds, only Wilshere plays for Arsenal and not for a Sunday League side.

By breaking down the barrier, Twitter has opened the floodgates to torrents of abuse that could otherwise be escaped until they walked out into the public sphere on a Saturday afternoon (or Sunday, or maybe Monday, possibly even Tuesday). By existing in the public realm twenty four hours a day, footballers – specifically Robbie Savage, who is only loosely termed as being a football player – are only an @ away from having vitriol poured in their direction. Conversation is a two way street, though, and just as readily as abuse can be directed towards Savage, he can retort with a retweet or a reply to the aggressor, as he summons his followers to attack this latent-fool for criticising his flowing blonde locks or that snazzy Armani tattoo.

Even taking into account the possible negative repercussions, it is pleasing to see those in the economic epoch of the Premier League discoursing with fans, albeit in a virtual forum. However, after years of division, at last there is a platform where you can indulge your voyeuristic tendencies and, perhaps, engage in some one-hundred-and-forty-word-limited repartee.

The brilliance of ФК Динамо Київ [FC Dynamo Kyiv]

Kyiv’s uber-team of 1998/1999 who forayed through the Champions League, only to be knocked out by FC Bayern in the semi-final.

Having watched Liverpool’s one millionth and twenty-first sterile, inanimate performance, a one-nil defeat against Braga in the Europa League, I went home drained of all hope and optimism for life, in a Jay Spearing, sideways-pass induced coma, to watch Dynamo Kyiv vs. Manchester City.

The Europa League has a habit of exposing me to the same feeling of emptiness that would accompany turning up to a blind date, only to find Bognor Regis’s annual Dirk Kuyt alike hunched over the dinner table. In it’s dismal aura, the Euro Vase is often guilty of churning out performances of such gut-wrenching mediocrity – not helped by a proliferation of English and Italian teams treating it as a glorified reserve league – that it employed Colin Murray to provide an Irish-cheeky-chap, banter o’clock, half-time lad-fest to maintain viewers interest. Thankfully, he’s left; but the drudgery remains.

Expecting another anti-classic, which seems to be Mancini’s Plan A for success, I sat down with the faint hope of a nostalgia-induced Kyiv performance lying tattered, in the plummeting atmosphere of the Valeriy Lobanovskiy stadium before the match had even kicked off.

The best that could be expected, I thought, would be brief glimpses of a pre-Chelsea Shevchenko; consigned to an ammonia-drenched residential home named Shady Acres or Heavenly View by many, for whom the Premiership is an unerring barometer of success and/or ability. Better still, if I was lucky; now back in the sub-zero climate of his youth, a brief resurrection of the Shevchenko-Rebrov partnership might be in order, only this time with the bearded Milevsky, appearing as if he had just arrived back from a lumberjack convention, in support of the ageing number seven.

Ninety minutes later, though, I was enraptured by what I’d just witnessed, despite its transient nature. Manchester’s trophy-less, gold-leafed-millionaires were undone, in magnificent style, by a quick-breaking Dynamo side, whose performance echoed that of the last great Kyiv side of the late nineties. Victory, though, was tinged with a foretaste of mourning; commonly referred to as nostalgia.

For some, nostalgia is a black and white photo that makes every relative appear to be Hollywood material, with that ghostly, porcelain glaze they emit. For others it’s the return of Northern supremacy in the FA Cup, as four teams from the region meet in the semi-final for the first time since top hats and curly moustaches were compulsory to attend games. Seeing former powerhouses of the European game, though, for me, exceeds all other nostalgic forms.

Watching Shevchenko poach the first whisked me back to a time when baggy football shirts were commonplace – only Inzaghi is keeping the tradition alive – and the Champions League still sprung a surprise or two. Meanwhile, Gusev, steaming down Kyiv’s left wing and cutting in, classic-inverted-winger-style, had me reminiscing of the way in which Lobanovsky deployed Kosovskyi, to such great effect during his last great tenure in charge.

By contrast, it was an endearing delight to see City go back to their roots, for once, and indulge in a below-par performance that many of the great-relegated City teams of bygone eras would have been proud of. Terry Phelan and Keith Curle no doubt sat at home with great, big grins on their faces as they thought: “this is exactly how we used to do it, and we had Kinkladze!”

Sadly, the recurrent theme of nostalgia is its fleeting nature. As soon as Kyiv had won, I was trawling through Youtube to see more classic-Dynamo videos, desperate to maintain my bittersweet longing for simpler times. For the brilliance of that Kyiv side coincided – in the context of my own life – with a period of great expectation, as I looked forward to the enduring possibilities that high school would deliver.

Today, though, I fear that modernity will ruefully draw me back to reality, like an über-quicksand, when Kyiv travel to the state of the art, soulless-plastic-bowl stadium where City now reside in the shadow of Mancunian heirs to the Mad-For-It thrown. And, despite displaying such vigour and bedazzlement last week in Ukraine, they will ultimately loose, leaving me with nothing but another dose – this one may be fatal – of nostalgia to indulge in.

Gareth Bale vs Inter Milan: Animation

Bale, having shelved his rabbit foot and thrown away his Lucky Charms – angered that they were, in fact, not a box of lucky paraphernalia – seemed destined to follow Welsh International colleague, Christ Gunter, back to the doldrums of the Championship.

Tottenham, harbingers of young-talent, seemed to have ravaged his technique and quashed his confidence as they so often do, just ask one of Bostock, Taarabt or Naughton.

Yet, in just over a season, Bale went from wasted talent to flying winger, dismantling Inter Milan’s Maicon with a display of vigour, directness and precision.

Paying homage to his display, in an animated-Lowry Esq. sequence, is Richard Swarbrick, whose depiction of Bale’s forays down the touchlines of the San Siro is quite goddamn superb. Not since Free Willy was made into a cartoon have I seen such majesty.

#Twitter Announcement @TheseAreUtopias.

Lobanovsky was a great man who did many things better than me. He drank more than I can, he devised tactical patterns I can’t even fathom and he mastered that stony, iron- jawed communist look, which I struggle to. In summery, he top-trumped me in a lot of areas.

He didn’t, though, join a social-network where people are not people but tweeps and where ornithological terminology is used more than anywhere else outside the nature reserve.

In this instance, Lobanovsky, I am #winning. These are utopias who never happen is now able to tweet, to tweeps, on twitter. So, please follow, re-tweet and continue to read my conjecture on a sporadic basis @TheseAreUtopias. Danke schön.

Rooney’s Immunity














Rooney – as he views himself – reveling in his assault on McCarthy’s ear

England’s premier go to guy for geriatric prostitutes, Rooney, has again side-stepped and feigned his bulky, ogre-like torso away from the pedestrian FA, who felt his people’s elbow esq. blow to wee James McCarthy did not warrant further action. How and what-the-blithering-hell?

The best player to come out of England since Michael Ricketts – No, Wait. Paul Gascoigne – continues to pour expletives from his potty-mouth, tearing around the pitches of Britain like a two year old on skittles, tackling rashly and dangerously without any comeuppance.

Ferguson, from his lofty epoch, seems to think his punishment will be handed out via capital punishment – which, to my knowledge, has been outlawed since 1969 – by the unruly British press, who, he believes, want his head mounted. Perhaps the Tower of London could accommodate this as part of a southern conspiracy to overthrow Sir Alex and his Red Devils. Quite rightly mythologized in propaganda as coming south to rape and pillage, as well as win matches and hearts.

Sir, of course, will defend the indefensible – pulling Rooney tight into his warm, loving bosom – like a mother who seeks to explain away her son’s bad behaviour on peer pressure or a ‘bad crowd’.

Rooney, by contrast to other scouser’s – Barton and Taylor, in particular – tends to escape the stigmatisation as a dirty player, when the obligatory not-that-sort-of-player discussions take place. His aggression is termed as ‘passion’, rather than ‘nastiness’; when he lunges into tackles it is termed as ‘‘a bit over-enthusiastic’ rather than a ‘horrendous leg-breaker’.

The former wunderkid’s most fervent worshippers, the British press, who have dolled themselves up with their sisters lipstick and a top their dad would kill them for wearing, cannot drop the demi-god status afforded to Wayne at the drop of a hat. Sir Roon, in their eyes, can do no wrong. Even when he labelled English football fans as a non-entity group of boo merchants, the repercussions were frail in comparison to what the new Ronaldo received for a wink only a few years earlier.

Maybe his pumice-like, street-footballer exterior scares the FA, who remain fearful that if they punish him he won’t perform with aplomb for the national team…oh, wait. Or, they may face the wrath of Sir Alex, which in the business is known as the hair dryer treatment. If they annoy Alex too much, they may find several Manchester United players conveniently pulling out of England squads. He’s a powerful man.

Famed investigative journalist, RobbieSavage8, thinks the key to the FA handing out a punishment is linked to the actions of Jimmy Mc, post-being elbowed in the head. He cites the example of Ben Thatcher – trained in the bear pits of Millwall – who received a revised eight-match ban for attempting to decapitate Pedro Mendes with his elbow in a match vs. Portsmouth.

Mendes, understandably, lays prostate after the assault – indicating the semiotics of a man pained – whereas McCarthy remains standing with his hand pressed to his ear. What is the lesson here? Hit the deck. The Premier League thrives on drama and the failure to provide an Oscar worthy rendition of Rivaldo’s the-ball-hit-my-knee-argh-my-face, is met with blank faces and blank faces are not inclined to ban star attractions.

On the other hand, as Paul Wilson points out in the Guardian, Clattenburg may well have felt the situation was dealt with correctly at the time. Hence, his refusal to fudge the report – chastising Wazza – should be applauded rather than criticised. After all, his refusal to be swayed by outside interferences displays a staunch conviction in his ability to officiate, which, as Wilson points out, is pleasing to see amidst a field of refereeing automatons.

Conversely, Clattenburg could well be labelled as an ardent anti-ginger fanatic, seeking to eradicate the ginger-army from the Premiership through an unrelenting attack of flying-elbows. Wait, I hear you cry. Isn’t Rooney ginger? Perhaps, in some lights, but he’s probably best discerned as orban or plain old brown. This, however, seems about as likely as my other reasons for the issue not being noted in the post-match report; such as Clattenburg wanting McCarthy elbowed for refusing his hand in marriage.

Either way, the case is now seemingly closed. I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from Rooney’s captain, Rio Ferdinand. ‘The referee + FA have made their decision tweeps…its gone now, you can’t change it’. A fine summary if ever there was one.

The Trequesta, the Coffeehouse, the Pub and the Limited Defender

Public houses have long been a strong hold for patriarchy, a place where the working class can convene to discuss the dynamics of everyday existence. My local is called the Village Inn. The word Inn conjures notions of rustic-chic décor; of horse-brasses, oak beams and roaring fires. Banish these. The walls of this particular pub are adorned with a variety of ephemera relating to the two local clubs; one side with Liverpool clutter and the other with Everton tit-tat. Amongst the discussions flitting in and out of earshot, the talk is resolutely of football, tits or a combination of the two.  Conversations rarely err to socio-politics.

My friends and I like to consider ourselves fairly learned – we are, you could say, a quasi-intellectual group. However, in the pub, repartee rarely strays beyond the exchange of idle local gossip. Were we to attempt a meeting of our book club in our local – currently up for discussion is atmospheric Seventies-set self-slaughter-fest The Virgin Suicides – conversation would, no doubt, follow this curve:

‘What did you think of the book?’

‘It was good, yeah. Which of the Lisbon’s do you reckon is the hottest?’

‘Erm, probably Lux…speaking of Lisbon, Everton have just signed a lad from their academy, Eric Dier.’

By contrast, the coffeehouses of early 20th century Vienna, though, resonated with the nattering of intelligentsia, pouring, no doubt, over the latest highbrow topics and social theorems of the day. Vienna’s coffeehouse culture poster boy, however, was no member of the bourgeois, nor was he one amongst the throngs of bespectacled, bearded intellectuals. Matthias Sindelar was, instead, star of FK Austria Vienna and fulcrum of the Austrian Wunderteam.

For a culture so enraptured by the trifolium of politics, bohemia and bourgeois rhetoric, Der Papierene is about a peculiar choice for a poster boy as Rooney would be for a pro-fidelity campaign. In pre-Anschluss Vienna though, very much the Shoreditch or Williamsburg of its time, his style of football was comparable only to the beauty of great art. He was more than a mere working-class ball-kicker; he was an artist, a poet, a director, a figure of overwhelming cultural capital in a city flooded with intellectuals only too pleased to wax lyrical about his prowess.

Sindelar was revered. His on-pitch performance was not simply football, but as the theatre critic Alfred Polgar put it, was a perfect symphony. When he scored it wasn’t just a goal, it was a punch-line, it was “the ending that made it possible to understand and appreciate the perfect composition of the story, the crowning of which it represented.” In football’s modern incarnation it is rare to find a player who so wholly encompasses a singular culture, like the coffeehouse, with players increasingly being seen to represent a much broader socio-political-economic context.

Monsieurs Rooney and Messi, for instance, are often allegorised as representing the last strain of the street footballer – an unreconstructed prole who plays football with the unbridled joy of a child, without the exponential pressures of modernity inflicting damage upon their pure style of play. Meanwhile in Brazil, each sublimely skilled footballer churned off the conveyor belt – in what used to  exist in the common imagination used  as a magical land of samba dancers with a fantastic sea view – is placed in a cardboard box marked ‘made in the favela’, such is the social and cultural influence of the country’s slums.

A coffeehouse player though, must be of poise and intellect. He must pass, move, pass – see the move before it has even entered the brain of his opponents, perhaps even team mates. He’s best discerned as a classic number 10 – the creative hub of the team. Sindelar was all this and more (it possibly helped that the man owned his own coffeehouse). He also looked intelligent, with his slicked-back hair and blade-sharp cheekbones. Throw in a typewriter and a folded zeitung and you would not discern him from the gaggles of intelligentsia flitting about the city.

If environment were a pre cursor for style, then, what Frankenstein’s monster would the pub give birth to? A slovenly beast; his arse-crack perpetually hanging out of his jeans, a rueful expression on his face as he laps up the last watery dregs of that Carling Black Label? Maybe. But this, of course, undersells the poor creatures. If the coffeehouse is intellect, then the pub is industry, graft and hard work. If Sindelar is the last brush stroke of a Klimt, the pub player is the last oily smudge of a Lowry.

If the coffeehouse is the playmaker, the pub is the dogged defender, or the workmanlike midfielder – all grit and no guile. He not only doesn’t see the intricate through ball, he decimates it, hoofing the ball as far as is humanely possible away from himself, like a stick of cartoon dynamite.  Emancipated from his working class roots, he desperately seeks to appease those who say he’s changed; the money has gone to his head. He does this through masculine gestures – tough tackles and a plethora of Tarzan-esq chest thumps and yodels.

And of course the pub-player will perform this way – if he does not he is the subject of aspirations. Not against his skill, but against his own patriotic pride. ‘You don’t get anywhere without passion’ is the mantra of British punditry, every time the continental skill-conquistadors trample over the English (we invented the game! How dare they!) it was the fault of pub-player X. He was lacking in patriotism; the three lions were on his shirt but never in his heart. Where is their pride, the commentator’s cry, the bulldog-like tenacity necessary to pull off a victory against a bunch of pirouetting foreigners. Stevie Gerrard is a common target for this sort criticism – captain fantastic for Liverpool but a deadweight in the national squad. Must be a lack of passion, they growl.

Seeking to rally his team mates out of their post-Ray Wilkins slumber, a player like John Terry enacts the character of a pub-player almost weekly. Chelsea should just ‘man up’ or ‘play hard’, he insists, using argot befitting of the bar room, to overcome their poor run of form. Where a coffeehouse player may study theorems or tactical analysis, the pub player sees elevated masculinity as the solution to all what ails.

For all the eulogies, awards and bedpost notches, Terry is still a brick-wall, blood-on-shirt, Terry Butcher-style of defender. Perhaps he sees himself as a reincarnation of Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, who he’d no doubt refer to as a ‘proper defender’, rather than the hatchet man he was. It is precisely this worshiping of the working-class-hero, aligned with his own enactment of it that endows Terry with the title of pub player supreme. He might sip Costa lattes with his girlfriend (among others) but JT is as pub as a hairy pork scratching floating in the bottom of a pint glass.

With thanks to Matthew ‘Ginso’ Hull