Identities | FREE - Part 2

Archive for the category : Identities

December 2, 2013

No Frenchman at PSG !

Picture from, yesterday, Paris Saint-Germain started their game against Olympique Lyonnais without a single French player? And this attracted a great lot of attention. This is hardly surprising since the number of foreign players in club teams is a staple of the media. It is more surprising the topic is still attracting media & public attention, since this is hardly the first time. English club Chelsea first did it on Boxing Day 1999. In France, OM did it on 8 August 2003 & Arsenal played with an all-foreign squad (11 players who start the game plus all the potential substitutes) on Valentine Day 2005. It is also surprising, since after a few years of researching the issue for a PhD at the University of Cambridge (Trinity Hall & Centre of International Studies), it appeared very clearly to me that the presence of foreign players in a team is actually a non-issue for the supporters of the club.

To sum up quickly the results presented in my book Foreign Supporters and Football Players: The Old Firm, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain (an abridged version of my PhD published upon joining ESSCA), supporters are on the whole very happy with foreign players because:

(a) The identity of club is rarely national : it is above all local – this may come as a shocking surprise to some but a player from Manchester is as ‘foreign’ to an Arsenal supporter as a player from France or Sénégal ; & in some case it is even worse to come from the territory of a team seen as an ‘enemy’ than from abroad. Ask a PSG supporter whether they’d rather have a Marseilles-through-and-through player or a player of equal sporting value from Germany? Of course, players which have similar roots as the supporters are on the whole more supported: this why Ashley Cole’s leaving for Chelsea was seen as a betrayal for a majority of Arsenal fans. For an Arsenal, he was ‘one of us who made it, who accomplished our dream’. For that reason, there is little doubt that Mamadou Sakho or Adrien Rabiot attract more support from PSG fans than some other players with no link with PSG, Paris or its suburbs.

Post by : Dàvid RANC in the category : Governance, Identities, Memory, Public Sphere - 1 comment

October 17, 2013

They made the (Spanish) people happy

Spain, the winners of Euro 2012, by (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Believe it or not, there are people in Spain who criticise, and quite severely, our national football team. ‘It is just plain boring to watch them play, I fall asleep’, say some. ‘Del Bosque has no idea at all, he inherited a team from Luis Aragonés and he is just a lucky guy’, say others. ‘They only play their friends, it is always Xavi, Casillas and Iniesta even if they are limping’, can also be read in the social networks. Invariably, more often than not, there is a common denominator amongst these severe critics: They are young. Too young, I may add. Young enough not to remember a time when Spain was ‘the constant underachiever’, as I read many times on the BBC website for a long time.

At the risk of sounding like my late grand father, there are many now in Spain who simply did not have to suffer going out on penalties in Mexico 86. Or the simple and plain ridiculous performance in our own World Cup in 1982. Not even the referees could help Spain out of our misery. There are of course more recent examples, such as losing to South Korea in 2002 or to France in 2006. Not least watching Zubizarreta to score an own goal against Nigeria in France 1998, where Spain did not make it through the group stages.

Post by : Borja García in the category : Identities, Memory, Posts - No Comment

October 14, 2013


Mesut Özil has style, and there’s plenty of evidence on youtube for that.

In print or online: the 'Ö' seems here to stay.

But Mesut Özil also has influence on the style of others. The Guardian to start with: for decades the British quality newspaper had stipulated in its well-known ‘House Style Guide’ that capital letters should have no accents. But Özil’s arrival at Arsenal triggered change in many ways, and the two dots have made their appearance on the capital ‘O’. It’s uncertain yet what the German midfielder might actually bring to Arsenal in the long run, but he has already enriched the Guardian’s alphabet. Would they have changed it for, say, a new Turkish prime minister or President? Chances are they wouldn’t. Such people do not appear half as often in print as an Arsenal midfielder.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Identities, Posts - No Comment

September 9, 2013

Morrissey’s « We’ll Let You Know » – the greatest song on football?

Recently in an informal discussion at Manchester’s National Football Museum a very important question was asked: what is the greatest song on football ever? Of course, our answers are limited by the number of languages we speak and the national pop cultures we have access to. There are few French songs on football worthy of note. My favourite one might be: Miossec’s « Évoluer en 3e division », a vivid account of what goes through our minds when we are confronted with our mediocrity in football. In Portuguese, Chico Buarque wrote excellent songs on football too in particular « O Futebol », but I am not a connoisseur enough of Brazilian music to pick one of them.

Morrissey wearing Cantona tee shirt Picture from

Picture from

This would limit my research to the English-speaking domain. As we know, and without being biased at all of course (!), the best of British music has always come from second generation Irish migrants in Manchester – some would also Manchester’s distant suburb, Liverpool and Irishmen like the Beatles too, I guess. So the song has to be Mancunian.

After careful consideration, it appears to me that Morrissey’s « We’ll Let You Know » may be the strongest candidate for the « greatest song on football » title. There is no shortage of football references in Morrissey’s work, who was photographed wearing a Cantona tee-shirt, West Ham, Millwall or CD Chivas jerseys & wrote songs on the « Munich Air Disaster 1958 »_ that killed the Busby Babes, or the hilarious « Roy’s Keen ». Why single out « We’ll Let You Know », then?

Post by : Dàvid RANC in the category : Identities, Memory, Posts, Public Sphere - No Comment

September 4, 2013

How English can you become?

There are not many Germans who made it into the hall of fame of English football. There are not many Germans either who were made OBE (‘Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’), especially if they started their stay as POW (prisoner of war) in 1945.

In fact, there’s only one, and the name probably does not ring a bell with people under fifty. Bert Trautmann, ever heard of him?

A picture taken at the National Football Museum, Manchester

Like my father Bert Trautmann, born in 1923, had fought a war he didn’t want. Like my father he came to England as prisonecr of war once it was over. Like my father he only had good things to say about the way he was treated by the Brits.Unlike my father he did not return in 1948 but staid on, joining Manchester City as goalkeeper and playing 545 matches between 1949 and 1964. Unlike my father he became a football legend rather than a schoolmaster. And unlike my father he actually became an English ‘through and through’, as he said himself.

Trautmann was the first German to play an English FA cup final in 1955. But it is one year later that he became a legend when he played the last 17 minutes of the victorious 1956 final with a broken neck. (The original match report by the Guardian speaks of ‘suicidal dives’ and ‘concussion’, but an X-ray three days later revealed the true nature of the injury).

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Identities, Posts - No Comment

August 16, 2013

VfB : new season / old logo !

A funny coincidence: while David was musing in his recent post on the rather incoherent metamorphosis of the PSG logo, VfB Stuttgart was forced by its own supporters to move back to the club’s traditional logo before management ‘modernised’ it in 1994. At the General Assembly held on 22 July an overwhelming 79,9% of the 2,600 members present voted in favour of the motion ‘Pro Altes VfB Wappen’ submitted by the supporters club ‘Schwabensturm’. The celebration chants after the announcement of the vote are not only a touching example of the joys of grassroots democracy – after three years of active campaigning – but also an irrefutable vindication of David’s theory of the essential conservativeness of football supporters.

So what was the excitement all about? The differences between the traditional crest and the one that was used since 1994 are not really striking. The marketing people who had decided to replace the foundation year 1893 with the city’s name Stuttgart, to (kind of) modernise the old typo  and (sort of) simplify the three deer antlers that stood for the (then) Kingdom of Württemberg, had justified their move by the necessity to improve the lisibility of the crest abroad. Their talk of targeting the ‘Asian market’ was of course ridiculous rhetoric – as if the VfB had the vocation to compete with Manchester and Barcelona (or PSG, for that matter) for fans in Thailand, Singapore (or Qatar, for that matter)…

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Identities, Posts - No Comment

August 9, 2013

PSG : new season / new logo

Nearly two years after Paris Saint-Germain was bought by the Qatar Investment Authority, the new management unveiled the new  logo of the club, to be used from the beginning of the 2013-4 season. We shall not enter the debate on why the new design may be accused of looking slightly clumsy. We are not going to ponder whether the Eiffel Tower is looked on from further down below than it used to be. We are not going to comment on the perplexing use of the character (a modified version of ITC Blair ?): on the shapes of the letters that have been transformed to fit in the logo & on the curves that no longer run smoothly (look at the R in PARIS: if you tried to drive into that bend, you would most likely end up crashing outside of the road). Neither are we going to say that the accompanying text «Rêvons plus Grand » is even more puzzling, what with the modified A & V lacking the optical correction needed at the junction between the vertical and diagonal. We are not going to say that the fading of the blue on the new logo looks slightly uncertain. In short, we are not going to make an aesthetic analysis of the logo.

Post by : Dàvid RANC in the category : Identities - No Comment

July 2, 2013

Inside Taksim Square: a football revolution?

Much has been said & written  about the role played by football fans in the protests that have taken place on Taksim square in Istanbul. As I was in the city for the two days of the Sport&EU 2013 conference. I decided to go and have a first-hand look at the situation on Taksim and the FREE blog is the ideal place to report.

I was standing a few feet away from this woman (off when the picture was taken.

I was standing a few feet away from this woman (off when the picture was taken.

Saturday 29 june, 4.30pm: I arrive on Taksim square. Fascinating: I have absolutely nothing to report. There are tourists and passers by, construction work is happening on one side of the square but there is strictly no sign of any organised form of protest. Many Turks I have met since arriving in Istanbul have indeed warned me: protests have died and nothing is happening on Taksim anymore. I try to remain discreet but I start to look more closely at the few people who seem to stay in the same place (there is not much to see or admire on Taksim, so people tend to walk through it, it seems). Most of them are street sellers. There are perhaps 4 or 5 men who do not seem to be engaging on any commercial activity. Despite my best efforts to spy with my little eye, I do not remain unnoticed. A relatively young man (perhaps in his early 30s?) walks up to me and starts talking in what English people would readily call ‘foreign’. After informing the man that I do not speak Turkish, he tells me that I look Turkish & says ‘Welcome to Istanbul’. The same has happened to me already 4 times in 3 days in Istanbul… Usually the people who did that had something to sell. Instead, this time, the young man warns me that protests will start at 5.30pm and I’d better be gone because he does not want me to watch fights or get into trouble. I immediately decide I should be there at 5.30pm when the action starts.

I pretend to leave, walk around Taksim, look at the streets off the square, check where they lead and whether they would provide a good way to escape (just in case I have to). I even make mental notes of a few places where it would be easy to hide from water cannons &c. You never know!

5.30pm. I come back to Taksim after having drunk Turkish coffee & eaten quite a few oriental pastries in a nearby street café. I am ready to see the events unfold. The place looks very different. A great number of policemen (perhaps up to 2 000) are now lining up in various parts of the square & mostly preventing access to the two areas where large crowds can gather: by the pink monument on the South side; on the large flat empty space next to the garden, which access is blocked (as it was earlier in the day). Some sort of armoured vehicle with cctv and radars on top sits there too. Taksim has become more crowded too. Tourists take pictures of themselves in front of the policemen or, amusingly of the pigeons in front of the policemen. Has the revolution become a tourist attraction, I wonder? Most importantly, the number of people who are standing and staying in the same place has increased. There are not many identifiable football supporters among them. I can spot very few jerseys from Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe or Beşiktaş, and  handful from other more unlikely clubs (Celtic Glasgow, Manchester United).

Post by : Dàvid RANC in the category : Identities, Posts, Public Sphere - No Comment

June 4, 2013

An energy drink, rather than the opium of the people

It is difficult to imagine fiercer football rivalries than the ones between ‘The Big Three’ of Istanbul – Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş. The clashes between their supporters – often violent, always noisy – are legendary. Yet many of the (mainly foreign) media and eyewitnessess report that the current protests against the authoritarian turn of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government have produced an unprecedented unity among Turkish football fans of all colours.

The Big Three merge their emblems and proclaim their unity on Twitter

In his excellent blog ‘The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer’, James M. Dorsey describes the supporters of the Big Three as ‘militant, street battle-hardened soccer fans’, who contrary to many other protesters have had plenty of occasions to learn how to deal with teargas and police brutality in the past.

A whole series of websites quote the almost solemn statement issued by the Fenerbahçe supporters group ’12 Numara’ (‘Number 12′), which praised the newly found unity of football fans by alluding to the colours of the Big Threee clubs: ‘We have come to the conclusion: yellow without navy blue and red, black without white is impossible. With them, it is stronger and more beautiful’.

Another oft-repeated quote is the tweet by the songwriter Feridun Düzağaç, renowned for being a Beşiktaş fan:’The pride I had when Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe fans were shoulder-to-shoulder walking to the district shouting “Beşiktaş, you are our everything” was worth everything. I am grateful.’

In a hurried E-mail message from his phone, another die-hard Beşiktaş fan, our friend and colleage Özgehan Şenyuva related how football fans were ‘fighting arm in arm’: ‘Galatasarary and Fenerbahçe fans are also fighting their way to make it to Beşiktaş, screaming “We are coming, brothers!” Historic days in Turkey!’

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Competitions, Identities, Posts - No Comment

May 27, 2013

How Kosovo won the Champions League final

Spectators of European top-level football are not really accustomed to spot the flag of Kosovo in Champions League fixtures. This is not surprising, given the fact that the Football Federation of Kosovo has not obtained membership status with UEFA and is therefore not allowed to line up FC Prishtina, winner of the ‘Raiffeisen Superliga Kosove’ in Champions League qualifiers or a national team in any competition.

In December 2012 FIFA allowed its members in an official communiqué to ‘play international friendly games’ with Kosovo, but took care to specify –with regard to the protests from its member association Serbia – that ‘matches should not be played with national symbols (flags, national anthems, etc.) and that the authorisation was valid for youth, amateur, women and club football’.

As a result, migrant players that would be eligible for Kosovo have no choice but to join another national team. In a recent World Cup qualifier between Switzerland and Albania, a total of nine players of Kosovar origin were lined up (three and six respectively). One of them, quirky Bayern midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, born to Albanian parents from Kosovo and grown up in Basel, famously played with three little flags – Swiss, Albanian and Kosovar – sewn onto his boots. Despite his already 25 caps for Switzerland (at age 21!), he also was one of the signatories of an open letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, requesting the right to field a national team.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Competitions, Identities, Posts - No Comment

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