Football has become a political plaything for the politicians.
By Brian Glanville in London
I well remember, after the Bayern Munich-Leeds United European Cup Final in 1975 sitting the morning after in the Crillon Hotel in central Paris talking to Artemio Franchi, then the President of UEFA, who told me that the relevant committee had given just two marks out of a possible twenty to the French referee, Kitabdjian.
Kitabdjian had refused the clearest of penalties to Leeds, when no less a personage than Franz Beckenbauer himself had blatantly fouled Allan Clarke in the box. A moment vividly pictured next morning on the front page of the newspaper L’Equipe. There was no sequel. Of course not.
None of this exonerates the despicably opportunist behaviour of a European MEP called Richard Corbett who, on the eve of the Euro elections and clearly fearing for his seat and the ludicrous privileges which go with it, has suddenly exhumed the Leeds v Milan European Cupwinners’ Cup semi-final of 1973, flagrantly bent by a Greek referee, Michas, in favour of Milan.
He wants the case reopened and seemingly has the signatures of 10,000 birdbrains to support him. True, nothing was properly done at the time, though Michas never got another European game.
And in our Euro investigations for the Sunday Times, Keith Botsford and I certainly condemned the scandal. But why didn’t the wretched Corbett similarly if uselessly, impugn UEFA for their passivity over the 1975 Euro Final? I’d have loved to see the silly opportunist lose his Labour seat and be cast off the gravy train, though no doubt it will not happen.
Speaking of pipsqueak politicians and their endeavour to prosper on the back of football, what of the ineffable so called Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham.
Scarcely had he delivered his misdirected broadside against the Premier League and got what he was obviously hoping for, but should never have got at all, front page lead in The Times. Pipsqueak Burnham, who appears to support Everton, Lord help them, wanted the Premier League’s £11 billion take to be shared out more evenly among its clubs. Oh, and he wants smaller squads and a compulsory minimum of English players in the Premiership teams. Tell the Euro Union.
Heaven knows I am no fan of Richard Scudamore and the Greed Is Good League, but they have every right to brush aside an interfering featherweight politician looking for publicity. Which he got, emphatically and gloriously, the very day after, when newspapers exposed his machinations over “expenses.”
It transpires that the exquisite little fellow “waged a month long campaign to try to claim funds for the purchase and renovation of a London flat.” Three times he was turned down, but he didn’t give up, of course not, and in the end it seemed to wear them down.
Demanding the money, saying, jokingly of course, that if he wasn’t paid he “might be in line for divorce,” he eventually pocketed after three appeals £16,500. Legitimately I am sure. But did anyone say anything about stones and glasshouses?
And Arsenal? Twice humiliated by Manchester United in the Euros. Overwhelmed at Old Trafford, where they scarcely had a kick, beaten hollow at The Emirates after that momentous early (literal) slip by the hapless Gibbs presented Park with that easy goal.
After which, the virtue simply seeped out of Arsenal, the more so when Ronaldo scored a 40 yard free kick which though remarkable, might well have been saved by Almunia, Who, to give him his due, had saved them from much heavier punishment at Old Trafford.
I don’t think Arsenal, especially when they can call, as they couldn’t in the Euros on Arshavin are as bad as all that, I don’t think United, who have a good even chance against Barca in Rome, are as good as all that.
Remember what Liverpool did to them at Old Trafford. But remember, pray, that soccer is played in the head as well as the legs. After Gibbs’ slip, with United holding a 2-0 aggregate lead, Arsenal were plainly demoralised. And yes, I concede that a Tony Adams figure might have driven them back into the game, their spine restored. There wasn’t one nor was there against Chelsea at The Emirates, where four goals were so abysmally conceded.