The media tail wagging the dog – Fearful times for football

How many of you have been to Ryazan? Nope? No worries, apart from the ice cream and beer it’s now a small, inconsequential Russian city. The city of half a million is famous for being the first Russian city sacked in 1237 by the Mongols and as the birthplace of Ivan Pavlov. The Mongol shock to the Russian system is felt almost 800 years later and shapes Russian mentality/psychology, some academics propose. However the work of the Nobel prize-winning Ivan are very appropriate for these fearful times for football.

Dog days of viral panic

The “conditioned reflex” is a concept developed by Pavlov and his partner (Tolochinov) through experimenting on dogs. A buzzer would sound at feeding time and the dog would salivate. The link between the sound and presentation of food was advanced so that the dog would begin to salivate at the sound of the buzzer (knowing that food was on the way).

“Pavlovian” and “Pavlov’s dog” are words used often without understanding that this is a go to method of describing how we humans are little more than dogs when those in control of media and narrative want us to behave.

Forget Cheltenham, that was a clusterfrig of the highest order. Irish horseracing chose to continue, despite any intelligent person considering this tantamount to treason. Iconic photos from the Dundalk card on Friday 20th are lovely, but do the buffoons who were involved not have any care for their nation or even own community? Of course bookmakers are delighted, there’s only so many casino and novelty games their slaves can endure before some real action is needed.

What’s not to love. Good Spring weather, sports, gambling, Dundalk. We won’t hold our breaths in hoping that when the new Minister of Finance takes charge he/she won’t be as vulgar in awarding an obscene amount of money to an industry that has shown callous regard for the greater good of the nation.

From 67.2million euros last year, Pascal O’Donoghue or his successor should be dragged from their office and dumped into the Liffey if even a 1/10th of that amount is spaffed on this crowd. Buzz – tell the punters there’s live racing, they start salivating like one of Pavlov’s mutts. Conditioned reflex.

Fear for football

There are damn good freelancers being laid off in sports. If I were to mention self-employed people from other industries it would be an endless essay of misery. So I’ll stay on point. While some quality writers and broadcasters will go without for a while, there are others, sitting on contracts as “Senior Writers” who have spent years crapping on about “the game”, yet none had the cojones to call out the bad guys and cheats in any consistent or even intelligent form.

As readers of Back Page Football know well, the English football team employed the disgraced “Forgetful” Dr. Rob Chakraverty. The man we exposed here and hours before he quit with a hefty payout and 15 year Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA), we brought up his place in English football here.

From being shushed by the English football hack pack, to sent away with a wedge of hush money, Dr Rob has done well from football. Yet the scare tactics continue from the football media.

Not surprising it was the Daily Fail which was one of the loudest voices. The paper who were used to cover up British doping links with Rodchenkov. Just like the Dr Rob story, it was sent out into the ether with eye on toes, hoping it’d slip by the masses. These doyens of football writing were fearful for football, if they told the truth, the illusion would be shattered and they’d be out of work. So they cheated on us all.

Now we’re treated to “football will collapse” stories alongside Chelsea’s Willian unsure of being allowed back into the UK should he go to his family in Brazil. They ring the fear buzzer for us to react, needing to get football back, while keeping us in the dark with actual news that might make us question the deep seated corruption in the sport. Buzz – we are their obedient mutts.

9/11 all over again

I’ve stayed in touch with a former team mate from Medina, Saudi Arabia. He’s now living in Germany with his wife and three daughters. We met a few weeks ago in Bonn. He’s Saudi-born but holds Greek citizenship thanks to being born and spending his first 12 years of life there.

He was our reserve keeper in 2001-2 and also helped me with our youth section. Hamed lived near to me in Jeddah and until I got a car, he used to drive us up and down for training. Sitting drinking a morning coffee near Primark in Bonn he was worried about coronavirus, I was a little more easy going.

He reminded me of a time when Saudi police stopped us on the way back from a game in Medina, taking my BMW apart looking for something. We arrived home four hours later than expected and the next morning I was wrecked in work. He thought it was funny as throughout the ordeal he nervously smoked Lucky Strikes while I chatted with the police captain. He said that I’d not been brain battered into believing the worst.

I arrived in Jeddah five days before 9/11 happened. Working with Bin Ladens, living in a Bin Laden compound and by April 2003, I didn’t know what to believe. I was in the epicentre of evil, yet an information deficit and reluctance to sit in a compound surrounded by chatterbots, meant I was outside in oblivion.

In America it was far different. Buzz – “Go spend and be happy.” Buzz – “Be afraid, terrorists hate us.” Buzz – “Go on holiday and have fun.” Buzz – “Take care, death is around every corner.” Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 opened with this.

The dithering and stupidity shown by leagues, federations and clubs highlight the lack of respect or care towards football supporters. Anyone with a functioning braincell would have quickly seen that holding matches, even behind closed doors, would only exacerbate problems with virus spreading. We had self-aggrandising idiots chanting outside stadia, we’d bars opening to facilitate fans, we’d media continuing to push and promote matches.

Sky Sports pushing matches and talking heads complaining about matches being cancelled and “experts” spreading doom about clubs closing. Flick onto Sky News and you’ve bodies piling up in Italy, fear spread by experts and politician playing fast and loose with the truth. We end up not knowing what to believe.

We’re now told that we’re going to war with coronavirus. That we need to stand strong and be brave. We have our new external enemy. A couple of months ago Russia was the bogeyman, now it’s an invisible little terrorist from a Chinese market. Panic and terror sweep through the masses, but no worries, football will be back soon and sure, in the meantime, we have horseracing.

Replace the Pavlov buzzer with a referee’ whistle and we are very much the obedient, salivating canines the football business needs us to be.

The Author

Alan Moore

Russian based sports journalist, commentator and consultant, working with major clubs including Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. Current host of Capital Sports 3.0, former international boxer and semi-professional footballer and commentated at the FIFA World Cup 2018 and 2019 Rugby World Cup.

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