I’ve had enough of the English Premier League
As someone who writes mostly about sport for a living, I’m supposed to be drooling in anticipation of the English Premier league season which kicks off this weekend. I’m not. Here’s why.
1. It only just ended
There were just 81 days between last season’s final game and this season’s impending first encounter. And that’s not to mention the pre-season tours where teams played important “practice matches” (as in, flexed their brand muscles) in such football hotbeds as Bangkok and Surfers Paradise. Enough! I need some breathing space. An on-again/off-again relationship simply doesn’t work when the off is shorter than the on.
2. And even when it did end, it didn’t
The Englishmen in my workplace spent the entire off-season speculating about which player was going where, and for how much, inevitably followed by the line “can you believe this tosser earns half a million quid a week?” No, I can’t believe it. Even as the Ashes exploded to life, these guys were still gibbering on about Djibril Cisse.
3. I miss the old music
English football just hasn’t been the same in Australia since we stopped getting the Match Of The Day music, which they still get on the BBC in England. Oh yeah, tap ’dem toes. The latest Barclays Premier League theme sounds like a song written by a DJ for a bank, Which, basically, it is.
4. Only four can win it
This decade alone, our own NRL has had eight different premiers, the AFL has had seven while the A-League has had three different champs in four seasons. Top-flight English football has no salary cap. As a result, there’ve been just four champs since it rebranded as the EPL in 1992. This year, the sixth favourite is Tottenham Hotspur at 100-1. In your average Melbourne Cup, which has roughly the same number of starters as the EPL, the sixth favourite is usually around 12-1. That’s competitive sport as it should be.
5. Monoculture is bad
Remember the anti-globalisation movement, which in its own imperfect and occasionally deluded way, encouraged us to be sceptical of (if not hostile towards) global brands and the oft-evil forces behind them? Well, the EPL is nothing if not an all-conquering, all-dominating global brand. OK, so the actual product is infinitely more satisfying than a McDonald’s burger and infinitely less harmful than a running shoe made in a third world sweatshop. Doesn’t matter. It’s still a juggernaut beamed into lounge rooms and bars from Reykjavik to Rwanda. Which brings me to…
6. The more we watch it, the more the A-League suffers
Knockers will tell you the A-League is about the same standard as the Slovakian third division. So what? It’s our league, and it deserves our full attention. Or else. I want to illustrate this point with a tale about the defunct Singapore Slingers basketball team, which died an unloved death in Australia’s NBL (and for reasons other than a dodgy fuel pill sponsor). See, Singaporeans absolutely love basketball but they’ve been raised on America’s NBA, to the point where they completely neglected their own team. Don’t assume the A-League is immune to this effect.
7. Manchester United
I have a great deal of affection and admiration for evergreen United midfielder Ryan Giggs. The Welshman aside, Alex Ferguson is a purple-faced grump, Wayne Rooney does a fine impression of being a complete dope (gee, can’t wait for the next instalment in his thrilling five-part autobiography) while the club itself has that indefinable cloud of malevolence that hangs over the AFL’s Collingwood. And I’m pretty sure five billion people see it the same way. The other billion are busy snapping up overpriced red shirts in Asian shopping malls.
8. I’m an Anglophobe
I acknowledge that mighty, mighty England bequeathed the world a much-modelled parliamentary system which breeds corrupt grafters in lingerie, and a much-spoken language where the letters “ough” are pronounced 37 different ways. But I’m over the place. After late winter Ashes nights enduring the unintelligible David “Boomble” Lloyd on TV and the guffawing Henry Blofeld on radio, I want to forget England even exists. Fortunately, there are almost no Englishmen in the EPL these days, so it shouldn’t be too hard.
9. Spain has better players
Well, it does. The Spanish national team are European champs, and the Premier League’s best player of the last three years, Cristiano Ronaldo, has gone to Real Madrid. Spanish football also has Brazilian Kaka and Argentine Lionel Messi. That’s the big three in world football, enjoying tapas and sangria instead of bitter and pork pies. Meanwhile England’s most famous player (and arguably still its best) David Beckham hasn’t played in the Premier League for years.
10. Squalid squillionaires
The EPL, by one count, now has 12 mega-rich team owners. Football fans suspend moral judgement on this dirty dozen the way movie-goers cheer for The Mob in mafia films. And frankly, who’s to say some of the EPL bosses are that far removed from said shadowy characters? At least America’s wealthy team owners are amusing. Look at New York Yankees boss George Steinbrenner, who has the rare honour of having been lampooned on both Seinfeld and The Simpsons. Give me an eccentric Yank who demands his players have no facial hair over a scheming Russian oil billionaire like Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich any day.
So there you have it. No EPL for me. Except that, as mentioned at the top, there’s one reason why I will tune in occasionally…
2010 is a world cup year
Hate, hate, hate the Premier League, but love, love, love the FIFA World Cup, and have done since Maradona in ’86. So given that there are well over 200 foreigners plying their trade in the EPL, it’ll pay to keep an eye on guys who’ll bob up in the colours of their homelands in South Africa next year. The next Papa Bouba Diop is out there somewhere! In fact, I’ve just learned the real Papa Bouba Diop still plays for Portsmouth in the EPL. The presence of the hulking Senegalese is almost enough to make me support Pompey, except that one of the office Poms already does, and the next thing you’ll know, I’ll be engaged in mindless transfer talk with him for the entirety of the off-season.
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