Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Speaking whatever to power

Concepts belong to nobody; everyone gets to have a say, everyone gets to contribute to define what that concept means. So, get involved in a concept. The more the merrier - meaning, the more useful. Don't be seen off (although, obviously, self-protection is the priority).

What is potentially problematic is getting involved in organisations. Organisations, the bastardised end-points of concepts, because humanity apparently can't deal if there isn't admin.

(See also organised religion)

The problem comes with people having a narrow view of the concept and assuming that their way is the only way, and that their narrow way defines the concept to the exclusion of other ways.

"Nobody likes women's football"

Erm. < nervously raises hand >

The default set approach to concepts has been discussed here before; football is set apart from women's football, African football, youth football, non-league football...

The default set is the most powerful, is the subset of the concept that needs no adjective. Well done, default set. You win. In organisational terms. In financial terms. In structural terms. But not actually in conceptual terms. Those other footballs? They exist. You can't erase them, only sideline them - and that, well, you're very good at that. But then huffing and puffing about your subset of the concept, seeking to dismiss the other elements of it, just makes you look foolish. You may think the concept belongs to your organisation, but it doesn't. It may be assumed to do so, by you (your organisation), by the media (another organisation), but... it doesn't. You can only own an organisation - and you do - but not the concept.

And the fact that your subset is the most powerful, organisationally, structurally, financially... doesn't actually mean you're the biggest. In pure numbers. Just something to remember.

For football, read feminism.

Concepts have more in common than you might initially think. And default sets and marginalised interests, likewise. And bigness.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UEFA from the Maddening Crowd

So, after CSKA Moscow were punished for racism by fans with a 'behind closed doors' game against Manchester City, which included some doors that were slightly ajar, if not actually open, given that there were a couple of hundred CSKA-supporting guests, mascots, parents, what-have-you, inside the stadium, a new idea from UEFA President Michel Platini.

Hold onto your hats, everybody. This could be a doozy. 

An extract: 
UEFA chief of press Pedro Pinto told Press Association Sport: "The president has suggested an idea where instead of having empty stadiums only women and children are allowed into the match". 


The thinking here seems to be that UEFA considers discrimination based on race to be a bad thing (with them so far) and that this would be best stressed with an approach that basically says that all racists are men, and that all women and children are harmless little flowers who will bring only sweetness and light to a stadium and can safely be allowed in as they aren't any danger to anything.

Which sounds nice, maybe, on first hearing and before thinking about it too hard, but ... yeah. Not so much.  

Apart from anything else, have you met any children recently? Anyway.

There's so many questions in this one. What's the cut-off age for boys? Is some UEFA suit (and it will be a suit) going to say, "well, up to the age of x they clearly don't count as members of a particular gender but above that age they are all potential racists and a threat to the fabric of society"? Are they expecting chants along the lines of "slugs and snails and puppydog tails, that's what referees are made of"? Is the implication, "you're being punished - women and children being present is part of the punishment"? Elaborate mosaic tifos in the form of flowers, and kittens, and My Little Pony? 

< heavy sigh >

Look, I'm all for football matches being more welcoming of all people. At Mosson that might involve putting a steward on the door of the women's toilets so young girls (as well as the rest of us) don't open a cubicle door and find themselves looking at a bloke zipping himself up. To be fair, other women fans often play that role, but on a more ad hoc (and sweary) basis. I've had a great time when MHSC's women's team get to play in the main stadium and there's little girls running around in Lattaf shirts. When I went to a football match in England for the first time (Emirates Cup) I could see a rainbow flag from Gay Gooners up in the stands. It's nice. I feel welcome. Why shouldn't I?

But this 'idea' puts a significant group of fans in a 'safe' category purely by virtue of age and/or sex. And another in the 'dangerous' category, ditto. That's no help to anybody. 

If UEFA really wants to punish racism, they can do. Of course they can, if FIFA can change national tax and criminal law if they see fit. Not this way. 
"This is just an idea at this stage"
Please, please, please - keep it that way. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Macho Macho Men...

Fifa are beserk, obviously, we all know that. The tax thing, the political interference thing, the commercial protection thing, the, y'know, deaths. We know.

And Sepp Blatter has a bit of a reputation for being particularly beserk / berkish. And yet has strangely suggested that a slightly more egalitarian approach to football admin is warranted. Good round-up here.

Of course, he still referred to women as 'ladies', which mainly makes me want to pour myself a glass of dray wate wain, but hell, the corrupt old lizard may just have a point.

Now, there's 36 comments on that Guardian article at the time of writing, and pleasingly nobody has yet come out with the old "nobody watches women's football" line, with which we are all so familiar (although there's a couple of near misses and somebody referring to 'females'). But - and this is partly connected to Corinne Diacre having just managed her first game in men's professional football (away at Brest - that's either a hell of a coincidence or someone at the LFP scheduling office has #banter in his Twitter bio) and also to this wonderful article by Carrie Dunn - we know it's coming, and here's how to be prepared.

You know what's coming.

"Nobody watches women's football"

Factually incorrect.

I watch.

When I can - I mean, maybe the viewing figures are low because it is VERY RARELY ON THE TV. What am I supposed to do, employ a medium and plug them into a USB port? Employ a flock of midfield-diamond-familiar carrier pigeons? Pff. This is actually the same argument that impacts on a lot of football outside 'the top leagues' (I'd say 'TM' but there's so much commercial inequality between and within leagues re TV money that whatever) such that we talk also about 'football' and non-league football, African football, South American football, etc.  If it's not on TV nobody can watch it; if nobody watches it, it doesn't get on TV. That's fairly simple, if annoying, circular logic.

Anyway. There's a bunch of people who bang on about 'women' not being as fast or as strong or, I don't know, as tattooed or as arrested as the menfolk. This means they feel comfortable is sticking to the default set approach to football - that 'football' actually means men's football in a specific set of leagues, relegating those other footballs as, well, 'other'. Again, whatever. David Silva is 5'8, Wendie Renard is 6'1; Abou Diaby falls apart in a mild breeze, Chrissie Sinclair is nails - if you're going to use averages, be aware of their limitations. The average man has about as much to do with the average footballer as he has with the average racehorse.

The default set approach seems slightly more pronounced in football than other sports. After all, I can confidently refer to Serena Williams as 'a tennis player' and Paula Radcliffe as 'a marathon runner'. Somehow, I am expected to give Marta an adjective - which would be fine if that adjective was 'awesome'.

So, moving on - "Nobody Likes Women's Football".

Factually incorrect.

I do.

I like it. I love football. I love that shortly after some berk wrote that article about women's teams needing a man in goal (srsly, not even bothering to google that article, he doesn't deserve the hits), Nadine Angerer put in such a performance at the Euros that she won FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, the first goalkeeper to do so. I love that Pia Sundhage looks like she could equally be managing an infant school trip to an art gallery but is one of the most successful coaches around. I love that USWNT captain Abbie Wambach married one of her own midfielders while you lads are still working out if being gay is OK. I love that Fara Williams and Therese Sjögran are the most capped players ever for England and Sweden, that Birgit Prinz and Wambach are the top international scorers for Germany and the USA. I love that the newsflash "goal : Zidane; assist : Marta" has appeared on a stream I'm watching. I love Marie-Laure Delie's unbelievable goal against PSG in the 2012/13 season. I love Canada 3 - 4 USA in the semi-finals of the 2012 Olympics. I love that if you go see a women's football match at Mosson there are gaggles of little girls in football boots and shirts saying 'Lattaf'. I love that Corinne Franco went back to wearing 'Petit' on her shirt in January. I love Wolfsburg 4 - 3 Tyreso in the WCL last season. I love that Diacre was «quand même satisfaite» after Clermont's opening match. I love that Linda Bresonik makes Andrea Pirlo look rushed. I love that the Brazil national team features Barbara, Maurine and Daiane, and so sounds rather like my mother's table-tennis club. I love Silvia Neid and Sandrine Soubeyrand, Caroline Seger, Célia Okoyino da Mbabi and Verónica Boquete. I love that the U20 World Cup kicks off tonight and ooh Group B looks tricky.

So. Sepp Blatter may want more women in admin, and I'm a bit ambivalent about that because FIFA admin has a body count. But women are playing and managing and watching and writing about football. And that, I love.