Careering down the aisles
May 6, 2011 § 3 Comments
Ideas are funny things, and they come from the oddest of places. Today, for instance, I went shopping. Now, I hate shopping, and I really hate shopping for clothes, and I particularly hate shopping for the kind of clothes that I wouldn’t normally choose to wear on a day-to-day basis. Clothes that, even when bought, don’t feel like mine: in this instance, clothes for a wedding. So the upshot of my day is that tomorrow I will wake up, look in the mirror, and staring back at me will be a man who owns a waistcoat. Do I want to be that man? It doesn’t matter. I am now.
Bear with me. There’s football coming soon.
Before I went shopping, in a bid to delay the pain — it didn’t work; just meant I had to negotiate idiots on their lunch-break — I watched this compilation of assists (see!) from vaguely equine genius Rui Costa:
Later, I was shuffling around Oxford Street with hate in my heart, trying desperately to have some kind of opinion on shoes, and reach some kind of decision about a tie, and resist the overwhelming urge to hurl myself in front of a bus. (This being Oxford Street, the bus wouldn’t be moving for another few minutes anyway, and I’d end up merely dusty and embarrassed, but never mind.) And it struck me that one of the supporting cast in the video I’d watched, one of those whose job it was to make a pass into an assist by actually finishing the thing, was Andrei Shevchenko, then of AC Milan but latterly, and hilariously, of Chelsea.
Musing on Shevchenko while queuing at the till, I committed the cardinal sin of seeing something, thinking it looked alright, being so sick of the whole charade that I couldn’t be bothered trying it on, finding out that the price was really quite reasonable, and being outside in the sunshine with a larger bag than planned quicker than you could say “it’ll all end in tears”. That last bit is a weak pun, made weaker because it only works written down. If you were to say it, the double-meaning would lost. The ambiguity is a corollary of the inactivity, it’s a kind of quantum gag: a saying that relies on not being said. Schrödinger’s Quip, if you will.
You won’t? Fair enough. It’s not really important.
It was a mistake, anyway. And so was Shevchenko. The striker who looked all slinky and sexy and right at AC Milan suddenly seemed ill-fitting, unsightly, and a complete waste of money in the West London gloaming. Stretching this already creaking analogy as far as it can go, Abramovich looked at the designer shirt hanging on the rail, lit from above by a single spotlight. He looked at the name on the label, and nodded; he looked at the price-tag, and purred. He inclined his head slightly to the expectant shop assistant, who promptly bundled Andrei into crepe paper, popped him into a box, and added him to the tab. Then he unpacked him back at home, looked in the mirror, and saw Duane Dibley gurning back from the glass.
It’s not just Abramovich, of course; everybody’s at it. Alex Ferguson, buying Eric Djemba-Djemba, made exactly the same faux pas, but made it buying pants in Primark. Arsène Wenger’s purchase of José Antonio Reyes — he personally scouted him more than forty times — was a different beast; Wenger ran him past his personal shopper, his wife, and a passing customer, spent fully fifteen minutes in the changing rooms making sure Reyes went with a range of accessories and looked fabulous from every possible angle, and then got it home only to find that the stitching was weak and it came apart under the slightest strain. Bosko Balaban was bought sight unseen from a bloke in a pub. Graeme Souness rooted Ali Dia out of a bin.
We know why this is, at least in part; as the good and angry people of Surreal Football will tell you, football in England is directed by the thick. But in the very specific world of player purchase, it’s not just idiocy that comes into play. There’s panic (I need a striker), envy (well, they’ve got a talented French midfielder), fashion (he was bloody marvellous in the World Cup), delusion (he’s ideal for the lone striker role), and so on. Every single bad clothing purchase ever made by anybody, wise or stupid, rational or impulsive, pricey or bargainous, has an equivalent footballing fuck-up.
Because shopping isn’t pleasant, at least not for the sane. And if shopping for clothes is annoying — seriously, that window display makes me want to set fire to the mannequins, asking me if I need help while smirking at my obvious discomfort only makes me want to set fire to you, and playing the fucking Kings of fucking Leon only makes me want to set fire to myself — shopping for footballers, a business that can involve any number of agents, lawyers, parasites, criminals, lies, counter-lies, gazumping, bitchery and low, brute farce, is a nightmare of such grotesqueness that it would give Hieronymous Bosch a start. No wonder it goes wrong so often. The poor, poor fuckers. It must be worse than TK Maxx out there.
Anyway, how bad was my purchase? Let’s just say I bought Robbie Keane, and leave it at that. The waistcoat looks sharp, though, which is a plus. (Kill me now.)