Can’t count. Knows fuck all about football…

Even with everything else that’s gone during the course of the World Cup, one still has to ask one final question…

…Is Martin Jacques a miserable bastard, or what?

While everyone else has been watching the football, it seems Martin has been agonising over the ethnic profile of the tournament in order to come up with stunning observations, like this one…

Unlike virtually every other human activity – from politics and economics to universities and the military – football has managed to give a growing place in the sun to those who are normally marginalised and unrepresented. The growing importance of Africa and Asia in football are testimony to this.

But, alas, not in this World Cup. In the last sixteen there was only one African side and no Asian.

And that’s because, of the African and Asian teams, only Ghana managed to qualify from the group stages – the rest weren’t good enough to go through – that’s football.

In the last eight, there were six European and two Latin American:

Hang on, I thought you were worrying about the lack of African and Asian teams – now we’re on to Latin America? Oh, should mention, Ghana lost their last 16 game and didn’t qualify, which explains that…

the last four was a European monopoly.

Well that’s because the two Latin American teams lost their quarter finals – this is a fucking football tournament after all, which means that kind of thing happens. Teams lose games in the knock-out stage and get knocked out of the tournament – that’s why its called the fucking knock-out stage. D’oh!

(Compare this with the last World Cup, where there were only three European sides in the last eight and just one in the semi-finals.)

What proves what, exactly? That last time round only one European team played well enough to make the semi-finals… so what?

Mind you it gets better…

With the next World Cup being held in South Africa, we must hope for a much greater representation of African sides. Without doubt, Ghana and the Ivory Coast were two of the best sides in this World Cup, but they fell well before they should have done, while Nigeria and Cameroon, the traditionally strongest African sides, never made it to Germany. Fifa needs to find a way of increasing the number of African sides in the last 32 – hopefully at the expense of Europe.

‘Scuse me, Martin – can you fucking count?

In the 2002 World Cup Finals there 15 finalists who qualified via the European group stages, including Turkey who qualified via Europe.

In this year’s tournament, there were 14 European teams, including the host nation, Germany, who didn’t have to play in the qualifying rounds – that’s one less than in 2002, where the numbers were also skewed by having joint hosts, South Korea and Japan, who took up two automatic places in the final stages.

Meanwhile… there were four African qualifiers in 2002 and five this year, while the Asian contingent remained unchanged at four teams in both tournaments.

Neither Cameroon or Nigeria made the finals, true, but that’s because they failed to qualify from the African qualifying rounds and were knocked out by Angola and the Ivory Coast – you might notice that both these teams have one thing in common – they’re both from Africa.

Martin’s already dug himself nicely into a hole, but why stop there when you can starting filling it in over your head..

But this feeling of regression is not just related to the over-representation of European sides – linked no doubt to the fact that it was held in Germany – during these championships. It is also about the question of colour. We are now familiar with the incidence of black and brown players in European sides. This traditionally, however, has only been a characteristic of the French, English and Dutch sides. I haven’t tried to make any precise statistical analysis of the European sides this time around but it feels that here again there has been a retreat.

So you haven’t tried to make any precise statistical analysis of the European sides this time round? Probably just as well given that can’t even count the number of fucking teams in the tournament and get it right.

For the record, basically Germany had one, generally introduced as a substitute; Italy none; Spain (managed by that well-known http://football.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1353008,00.html Aragones) one; Portugal one; and so on. More seriously, the Netherlands had hardly any: yet this is a country which more or less ever since Gullit and Rikaard has had a core of black and brown players. Why? Is it a dearth of talent or is it related to the racist atmosphere now gripping the country? Even the English team took a step backwards, with only two black players normally in the starting line-up, compared with five in the match against Brazil in the 2002 World Cup.The glorious exception is France, with a majority of non-white players. This is why the French national side has become such a powerful emblem in the fight against racism there – both in 1998 and in 2006.

What a load of bollocks. Germany actually had a black player, which is one more than for most of its history, but that kind of thing obviously doesn’t count because he was only a substitute, Italy had none. Spain is managed by an alleged racist, although Martin can’t actually say that (lawyered, I guess) so he can only put in a link to a relevant story in Graun, which he still managed to screw up. Holland don’t have as many as they used to, nor do England, which is a ‘step backwards’, despite that fact that if we’re to play quotas here then Black players were actually solidly over represented in the Englan team/squad compared to population…

…but the French are still as wonderful as ever.

Why?

Well I’m going to throw Martin a bit of bone here – what England, France and Holland have in common, which lacking in the case of Germany, Italy and Spain is pretty strong and pretty recent links with their former overseas colonies, which is not really something that Germany, Italy and Spain have in abundance. You might, therefore, want to take a bit of look at the changing patterns of immigration in recent years to get a bit of picture as to part of the explanation for this.

None of this hides the fact that, for the most part, Martin is talking a load of bollocks – his only substantive point is the one about the lack of black managers in the game, but that’s something that will probably being to change over time. Football, being the game it is, many of its managers come into the role having played the game prefessionally, which means that even now, we’re only really a couple of footballing generations, three at most, into having a decent number of black players in the English game and still, therefore, pretty limited in the pool from which a few of them could come through into management.

In other words, its too early to judge, just yet, how the impact of black footballers will develop on into the management and administrative side of the game, although I will put in a word here for a former Baggie, Brendan Batson, who took exactly that route when his playing days came to an end and with some considerable success.

2 thoughts on “Can’t count. Knows fuck all about football…

  1. Actually, I think the boy Jaques has got a really sound point here. I’m currently writing an in-depth article for Living Marxism or The Sunday Times Colour Supplement about the lack of South American Teams in the Cricket World Cup. If you bump into anyone who wants to have exclusive rights to the thesis, let me know. At least while the prat is writing this rubbish he is leaving the rest of us alone.

  2. Yes, Jacques’ article got a right old kicking from everyone at Comment is Free. Pity was that his basic argument – racism in football – was obscured by a specious exercise in number-crunching.

    Unity: Germany actually had a black player, which is one more than for most of its history, but that kind of thing obviously doesn

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