Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Athens Fall Out (cont.)

At least one of the local blogs has begun to give the lie to the more self-justifying & brazen defence of what happened outside the stadium in Athens last week.
The Liverpool Times (http://www.liverpooltimes.net/ ) is trenchant in its verdict on events. It asserts, "Despite the talk about 'thieving Scousers' being one which most of us hate, some fans (or people who bought a Liverpool shirt) are out there handing headlines to the gutter press. The thieves were seen openly snatching tickets off their own fans. The lads going over to rob these days are not your 'likeable scally' [sic]. Many are prepared to use mob violence here in the streets of Liverpool & they will export this violence & general lack of manners abroad if given half a chance."
Meanwhile, it's worth repeating Rick Parry's now embarrasing words:
"We have told Uefa there will be 40,000 Liverpool fans in the ground by hook or by crook [my italics]. So wouldn't it be better to give us the tickets & let us distribute them fairly without fans having to go to extreme methods? Our pleas fell on deaf ears."
Viewed in retrospect, Parry's words come across less as a plea for reason & more as the sort of thing Tony Soprano might muster when trying to be subtle.

Another interesting local blog to note:
"Gossip Mongers" (http://subculturegossip.blogspot.com/ ). Its strap line declares with relish that it contains "All the stuff that is just not fit to print in the Echo".

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Athens Aftermath

It wasn't until Thursday morning that solid details began to emerge about the chaotic scenes outside Athens' Olympic Stadium the previous evening. I'd been oblivious to it all as I nursed a sore head & a sense of disappointment at the result. However, late Thursday morning changed all that & the initial reports gave a flavour of what had transpired:

http://football.guardian.co.uk/championsleague200607/story/0,,2087123,00.html .

By Friday the Liverpool Echo was eagerly running with the story. Its take on events was predictably partisan:

http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/0500liverpoolfc/0100news/tm_headline=your-final-warning% .

However, the piece did quote Dr Rogan Taylor, a leading light in the Football Supporters Association after Hillsborough, & now a director of the football industry group at Liverpool University. Taylor was commendably even-handed in his analysis:

"Clubs have pressed too hard to squeeze the maximum amount of money from the sponsors. They have to instruct Uefa to do sponsorship deals which bring in less money & reduce the number of tickets to corporate businesses.

Fans must also recognise that if you get in without a ticket by being smart, it maybe deprives a dad & a daughter with tickets of their own."

Friday also saw the serious press sinking their teeth into an irresistible story. The Guardian sports weblog carried a piece by Gregg Roughley, a Liverpool fan who witnessed the scenes outside the stadium:

http://blogs.football.guardian.co.uk/sport/2007/05/25/uefa_needs_to_buck_its_ideas_u.html .

Roughley was eager to dissociate himself from the antics of those idiots who had tried to gain access, in Rick Parry's now unfortunate phrase, by hook or by crook.

Roughley asserted: "The behaviour of some Liverpool fans was certainly not beyond reproach, but they were given the opportunity by the inept Greek authorities & woefully ill-equipped stadium facilities deemed suitable by Uefa."

He pointed out that the so-called fanzone showed "no sign of fan-themed events taking place: no music, no drink (alcoholic or soft) & nothing remotely fun."

"In the ground, about 300 seats behind the goal where Liverpool supporters were housed remained empty for the entire match. Of those fans who did show up to take their seats in the second half, many were suffering sickness after being sprayed with tear gas, while others sat discosolately with their heads in their hands after being beaten by Greek police officers."

Roughley also noted: "Many ticketless Liverpool fans travelled to Cardiff for last year's FA Cup final after tickets had been stolen prior to the match, but the high standard of planning & organisation by police & stewards ensured that the day passed over without any major problems."

The Sun "newspaper" jumped on the issue with this opportunistic piece:

http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2007240105,00.html .

Yes, the rag that gave us "The Truth" pathetically tried to boost its pygmy circulation figures on Merseyside. [Before Hillsborough Murdoch's rag was selling 57,000 copies a day on Merseyside. After its infamous edition which accused Liverpool supporters of looting dead bodies & urinating on first aid staff, that figure slumped to 12,000. It has not risen significantly since.]

However, blame is clearly apportioned by Paul Wilson in today's Observer:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/sport/story/0,,2089019.00.html .

Wilson's piece begins: "Call me hard-hearted, if you like, but I found my initial sympathy for all the ticket-holding Liverpool fans tear-gassed & clobbered by Athens police evaporating at the airport the following day, on encountering scally after scally bragging about getting into the European Cup final for nothing."

Quite why Wilson should lump in the genuine ticket-holding fans with the feckless scum isn't explained in the piece.

Later in the article Wilson asserts: "Liverpool followers need no history lessons on why all-seater stadiums came about in the first place, & now they are here it does not take a genius to work out that the seats occupied by people without tickets must be at the expense of people who paid for them."

Augmenting this trend of thought is Patrick Barclay in today's Sunday Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2007/05/27/sfnpb127.xml .

Barclay draws attention to an interview with "a pair of middle-aged drunken nitwits" on Greek TV. Asked why they had turned up in Athens without tickets, one of them replied:"'We're going to wait until the game's about to start, & then we're going to storm the stadium.'"

Barclay continues: "My stomach turned, as would that of anyone who experienced (even from a merciful distance) the horrific events of the crush at Hillsborough 18 years ago. But this turned out to be more than just a bad joke. In grotesque retrospect, indeed, it can be seen as a statement of intent."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Post pending

I've been collating observations & eye-witness accounts of the events outside the Olympic Stadium in Athens on Wednesday evening. More to come.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

With Hope In Their Hearts

Text messages have been exchanged with those in Athens. None of the texts contain what might be called information. Rather, they're replete with truisms & cliches. They're simply delighted to be there, ticket or no ticket.

However, the allocation issue is to the fore with the mainstream media:

So far, there's been only one reported instance of matters descending into stupidity:

This final isn't just a local football isue, it's become a civic issue. As with all the previous European finals, those who profess no interest in football (a rather select group, it must be said) & (some) of those who support Everton will be watching on TV.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thumbing Through The Dictionary

I found myself at work today (a swap with a colleague on the other shift so I can view Wednesday's final in the pub) & saw the word "pusillanimous" on the board. I asked why it had been written & was told it was just one of those "look up a word for the week" exercises. Immediately, however, I had the word association & mental image fixed.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hellenic Happenings

Travel arrangements for Greece have been organised by those fortunate enough to go. As for the rest of us, TV will have to suffice. Time was when the big question was, "Have you got a ticket to spare?"

This time around, it's taken for granted that at least three-quarters of those going will be ticketless. If they can't get tickets when they arrive in Greece, they'll be happy to watch the match on the huge TV screens that have been erected in the centre of Athens. Some friends of mine have managed to get tickets, & they'll also be using the trip as an excuse for a week's holiday some 200 miles from the Greek capital. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

A lot has been written & said about the ticket allocation. Yes, it is unfair, insufficient & arbitrary (one of my friends got his ticket from a contact who works for one of UEFA's sponsors), but it has always been the case with major football finals. I know from personal experience when I was part of the great scramble for the treasured items during the 70s & 80s.

It's something of a cliche to mock judges as remote, aloof & out-of-touch figures, but they don't do themselves any favours with their occasional questions. One judge in the 1960s was quoted as asking in all ignorance, "Who are the Beatles?". Here's the latest in the long line of memorable questions:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article1805663.ece .