Multiple choice examination.  Tick one answer only. Only one answer is correct. (Answers now in bold – apart from Number 2, in case she sets her lawyers on me. But you know the answer, m’lud.)

  • Q1:
  1. Gary Lineker is a left-wing snowflake
  2. Gary Lineker is responding correctly to an important ethical issue.
  3. Gary Lineker is not a patriot.

What did Lineker ever do for his country?

  • Q2
  1. Suella Braverman is a deluded fascist
  2. Suella Braverman is a delusional fascist
  3. Suella Braverman is a patriot
  4. All of the above.

  • Q3:
  1. The Tories are justifiably aghast at Lineker suggesting that the Tories are like the Nazis
  2. Some Tories have Jewish backgrounds and are therefore correct to criticise Lineker’s referencing and label it ‘offensive’.
  3. Lineker is not comparing the Tories to the Nazis but is suggesting that Braverman and Sunak’s discourse is similar to that used at the onset of Nazi fascism.  The message is therefore an important one.
  4. Suella Braverman’s discourse is not, and has never been, remotely offensive.

New mug for BBC employees

  • Q4
  1. The right-leaning reaction to Lineker is correct because he has broken an impartiality clause with the BBC.
  2. The BBC impartiality clause is a convenient way for the Tories to avoid discussing the actual ethical issues surrounding the proposed law.
  3. Lineker is an ex-footballer and therefore unqualified to talk about issues of importance.

  • Q5:
  1. The Tories are not ex-footballers and are therefore qualified to determine the fate of people experiencing persecution and war.
  2. The Tories are genuinely concerned about these people, and that is why they want them to go to Rwanda – a stable democracy.
  3. The UK is not a stable democracy.

Democracy – this way

  • Q6:
  1. Lineker cannot express his views publicly because he is an employee of the BBC and his salary is paid for by the British tax-payer.
  2. Tory MPs cannot express their views publicly because their salaries are paid for by the British tax-payer.
  3. Lineker doesn’t give a fuck about (a) above because he is so outraged by the issue that he has decided to use his platform to speak out.
  • Q7
  1. The Tories are a party of moral probity and exemplary ethical behaviour.
  2. Marcus Rashford and Gary Lineker have achieved far more for the country than the Tories.
  3. Tories, and the media who float their boat, admire people like Rashford and Lineker and would never try to discredit them.
  4. The Nazis never tried to discredit anyone unfairly.

Here’s a wee clue to Number 4 above.

  • Q8:
  1. Lineker has taken in refugees and looked after them, but has not made a song and dance about it.
  2. Rishi Sunak would also take in refugees if he had the time.
  3. Suella Braverman would also do this if she had the time.
  • Q9:
  1. Right-leaning people favour freedom of expression.
  2. Right-leaning people favour freedom of expression until it contradicts their views.
  3. The left-leaning tofu-eating wokerati do not favour freedom of expression.
  • Q10
  1. Ian Hislop, editor and contributor to Private Eye, has been expressing his views politically on the BBC’s ‘Have I Got News for you?’ for years.
  2. Karren Brady works on a flagship BBC show but also sits in the House of Lords.
  3. Richard Sharp, chairperson of the BBC, is a Tory donor.
  4. Gary Lineker is not a Tory donor.
  5. All of the above are true.  

Impartial buddies

(Tick three only). Having successfully completed this examination, you now realise: (answers now in bold)

  1. That the fuss is not about the BBC and impartiality but rather about populist criticism of (Tory) government policy – which rarely occurs in mainstream media.
  2. Gary Lineker is wrong, on all counts.
  3. The BBC is left-wing.
  4. Impartiality clauses were invented before the age of social media.  They are therefore ineffectual and should probably be scrapped/re-worded.
  5. Suella Braverman is a first-rate intellectual.
  6. Match of the Day might be better without fucking pundits anyway.  

Phil Ball, March 11, 2023 (amended March 1th)

Wot – no beer?  Give us a break.

If instincts do actually plead, then mine are pleading with me not to write this piece, but bollox to that.  It’s been 9 years in the silent making, and on the eve of the World Cup in Doha that I allegedly kissed ass for in an (in)famous article for ESPN back in 2013, I thought I’d re-visit this dangerous ground – more aware now, of course, of the bilious nature of social media than I was back then.  Better writers than me are still being lynched for attempting to say anything positive about the event, so I’d better mind my proverbials, but anyway….whether or not silence is more golden, here’s my little cliff-leap contribution. 

Continue reading “Wot – no beer?  Give us a break.”

A curious communion. 

Grimsby v Solihull, June 2022

When anyone asks me which team I support, I always flinch slightly at the verb. I don’t ‘support’ Grimsby Town. The word suggests a pastime, a hobby, a magnanimous gesture.  My relationship with this team is something entirely different, as if they were an inexorable part of me, and me of them. They’re not an appendage, because that suggests something physical, but rather a part of my personality.  I’d prefer this not to sound too holistic or spiritual, but for those who worship at altars outside of the church of football, it’s a notion that cannot easily be understood. 

Continue reading “A curious communion. “

It’s The Balls! 2021-2022 LaLiga round-up.

It’s The Balls! 2021-2022 LaLiga round-up.

 Never mind the bullocks – it’s The Balls

Omicron arrived on a free transfer, the crowds came back, masks were breathed into and sarnies smuggled whilst Real Madrid, and not their noisy neighbours Atlético, won the title with an ease that was not on the cards in pre-season.  Strange and unexpected things also took place – Vinicius suddenly decided to be a world-class player, Luis Súarez finally looked just a little too tubby and Xavi Hernandez returned from the desert to claw back his beloved Messi-less Barça from the brink of implosion to the runners-up spot.  Several teams with Euro-competition squads were rubbish, for example Valencia and Celta, with Villarreal the unlikely heroes of the Champions League but failing to make an impact in the league. 

Continue reading “It’s The Balls! 2021-2022 LaLiga round-up.”

No Karim no party?

Real Madrid’s decision to wear black for the clásico at home – unprecedented if you ignore the time they once wore pink – gave the headline writers some cheap and instant metaphors for their weekend round-ups.  The obvious one being that they’d dressed up for their 120 year anniversary with a kit designed for the occasion, but ended the game in funeral colours.  Madrid remain nine points clear of Sevilla who could only draw at home to Real Sociedad, but the 0-4 result says a lot about this season’s rather curious dynamic.

Continue reading “No Karim no party?”

Good day Barça sunshine

If Real Madrid win their visit to Mallorca on Monday night – or if by the time you’re reading this they already have – you might be tempted to conclude that the race for the title, if thus it can be called, is over.  In truth it hasn’t really been a race, and Sevilla don’t really look as though they can sustain any meaningful challenge now, with ten games to go. If Mallorca were to surprise us all, then hope might spring eternal, but it would still be a long shot.  Even a bad result in next Sunday’s clásico for the leaders – entirely possible given Barcelona’s current form but equally improbable given their visit to Turkey on Thursday – would not cripple Madrid’s pretensions. 

Continue reading “Good day Barça sunshine”

Of cows’ arses and banjos

Funny old thing, isn’t it – the way that certain teams become a byword for a certain approach, or a certain ability – and then they suddenly forget how to do it, for no apparent reason?  But football’s a funny old game, and that’s why we love it so.  I refer principally to the rather splendid game at the Wanda on Saturday which saw Atlético Madrid, desperate for a tranquil victory as in their duller but effective days of yore, win 4-3 at the death with ten men on the pitch.  Suddenly they can’t defend, but they can score. As the Spanish say, ‘Mundo al revés’ (It’s a topsy-turvy world).    They’ve now shipped eleven in the last four games, and ice-man Oblak has suddenly turned all fallible, as if it had been a sham all along. 

Continue reading “Of cows’ arses and banjos”

Oh Dani Boy

Oh what a lovely weekend, with lots of interesting games and results to keep LaLiga lovers happy – where the sun finally broke through the clouds at Barcelona, shining on the Catalan paupers as they fielded their glossy new collection of Premier League rejects.  Only Griezmann was missing from the party, but Luis Suarez did manage to score against his old mates, even apologising as he ran back to the centre-circle…….but nobody seemed particularly interested.

Continue reading “Oh Dani Boy”

Paco Gento and a bookshop in Leeds

Quite a compelling weekend’s action in Spain, with some knife-edge encounters but also the death of Paco Gento, mourned at the beginning of the Elche match in the Bernabéu.  One of Spain’s most iconic players, his fame and influence bestrode two eras – from the post-war crackling radio generation to the emergence of a television public – from the black and white recordings of Real Madrid’s European dominance to the era of colour, or more precisely, from the 1956 European Cup final in Paris to the 1971 Cup Winners Cup final against Chelsea. When his teammate  Alfredo di Stéfano died in 2014 it felt as though something had ended – that tangible mix of pipe-smoke and maleness that characterised the game in general, or the sense, more specifically, that there could never be players like him again, players who stood apart from systems or who refused to conform to them. But Gento was still standing. There was still something left.

Continue reading “Paco Gento and a bookshop in Leeds”