The half and half scarf; possibly the ultimate embodiment, the most evil and spirit sapping representation of the relentless commercialisation-cum-b***ardisation process that blights the beautiful game we hold so dear. A symbol that above any other speaks of a new breed of supporter (on reflection here, ‘fan’ would probably be a more appropriate term) for whom brand identity and the embracement of media fabricated, aspirational icons speaks louder than traditional notions of an ingrained tribal mentality.
While this season’s FA Cup at least provided a little light relief from the mind numbing awfulness of watching our “great bunch of lads’ meekly surrender league points with alarming regularity, it also brought into focus more than ever before, this sickening wool woven affront to the senses.
I still remember vividly that moment in the Pavilion, back in January; just as myself and friends were recoiling in horror at the revelation that Lucaino’s Leeds career was effectively over, having been exiled to make way for Luke Varney, two children sneaked into my peripheral vision; these were two little lads, maybe around 8 years old, both decked out in their replica shirts. But far more disturbing than the polyester putridness, personified by all things tainted with the ‘Macron Man emblem’ was what decorated their necks, scarves that spelt out, with Jacquardian clarity: “Leeds United/Tottenham”.
I can’t blame the boys, at such a tender age they’re impressionable, receptive vessels to what the media machine tells them; that the Premier League is where it’s at and if you’re not there, you and your team are a mere irrelevance; that if your passions are to count for anything, then they best be in relation to the ‘Elite 20’ as quite frankly, if they aren’t, then they just don’t justify the TV coverage or newspaper space. For children faced with such messages, it may seem perfectly natural to embrace a little bit of Premier League pizazz and claim it as their own, it’s the parents I blame.
Anybody old enough to bring children of that age to the football surely have recollections of Leeds United as a top flight club, as Champions League semi-finalists? Indeed most will hold heady memories of celebrating our coronation as the best team in England. These people know that Leeds United have danced into that discerning, media constructed ‘spotlight of relevance’ before and will do so again. Yet these people, fully grown individuals…they also seem to buy into this Sky sponsored mantra, that the club exists in a different world to those who gorge at football’s top table. That old, deep-seated rivalries count for nothing, tradition and the relative size of clubs rendered meaningless, purely on the grounds of league status.
Brainwashed, these parents seem to believe that as a lowly Championship outfit, Leeds’ ambitions should be to be Spurs, rather than to beat Spurs. That somehow it’s desirable to celebrate the mere fact that a Premier League side are lowering themselves to play our club by commemorating it with tacky memorabilia. Deep-seated dislike, even hatred suddenly crumbles in the humbling presence of media appointed footballing monoliths; cooing and respectful nods replace the booing and barracking of old, and all just because Sky have appointed those playing for the opposition as sporting Gods.
Well, I for one say: ‘**** THAT!!’ Like everyone else, I celebrated beating Spurs like a lunatic, but did I commemorate playing them? NO! The half and half scarf is a symbol of a ‘fan’ (not a supporter) who’s essentially given up on their club, who accepts it no longer has the right to mix it with the country’s elite. If that is anyone’s attitude, then I ask: why even bother going anymore?
These ‘fans’ most likely keep going because Sky tell them to…but only to these sort of games, mind; I wager the parents who instill or at least accept the adoption of these ‘values’ by their children are the same ones who make their judgements and observations from their ‘armchair thrones’ throughout the unremarkable slog of the league programme, who’ve forgotten that games are ultimately defined by the result rather than the opposition
I, like other Elland Road ‘regulars’ on the other hand go with the sole desire of seeing my side win, rather than just play and to escape the stigma of our status; the worry is though, even through success there is currently no escape in modern football, no redemption or solace to be found. A return to the top flight may bring with it a new ‘accreditation of relevance’ and kill off the hideous scarf phenomenon by repositioning clashes with the Premier League heavyweights as a resumption of old rivalries as opposed to ass licking opportunities, but what else? Doesn’t everything else the Premier League sells as aspirational, the kind of crap our lowly status currently shields us from?
Yes, we all want to see Elland Road packed out on a regular basis, but at what cost? Do we really want to see the teams to come out flanked by a guard of flag wavers, just because that kinda stuff looks good on FIFA 2013? Do we want to see the ground full of ‘football tourists’, making a pilgrimage having adopted our club on the back of blanket ‘EPL’ coverage in the booming commercial territories of Asia and the Far East? Fans who are there primarily to experience, rather than support – the sort of affluent breed that clubs love so much as they constitute a a merchandise consuming cash goldmine, but once inside the stadium are more likely to greet an opposition goal with their camera phones than with howls of derision – I’m sure I’m not alone in recalling the Japanese Manchester City ‘fans’ who stood out amongst the sea of ‘V’ signs, smiles beaming across their faces as they snapped Wayne Rooney celebrating his goal in front of them. Give me the vocal, often drunken Irish and Scandinavians any day of the week.
Do we also really want to be bombarded with reams upon reams meaningless Opta stats? Does anyone really give a s**t about how much ground Paul Green covers in 90 minutes, Lee Peltier’s pass completion rate or El Hadji Diouf’s completed dribbles? Goals, shots and possession – it’s enough.
‘Showdown Sundays’, ‘Mega Mondays’ and all that other drivel. When it concerns other clubs, it’s easy to shut out; suddenly throw in promotion and Leeds are in danger of falling under that same spotlight; rather than ignoring the hype about these key ‘relegation 6 pointers’, ‘Europa league deciders’, ‘top half finish crunch ties’ and whatnot, we’ll all suddenly be complicit in indulging in the tiresome spectacle, perversely compelled by listening to the same crap spouting pundits, rolling cliche after cliche out about games deemed so ‘critical’ that every reference and report in the build-up is accompanied by a countdown clock.
Then after the game, what will we get, win, lose or draw? More tired, bland cliches from slavishly educated, media savvy football playing autobots and comments from coaches discussing the implications of the result for their ‘project’ all while their representatives stand just out of shot, orchestrating their every comment.
Hell, with the likes of Norwich, Swansea and Wigan loitering around with the ultimate intent of just loitering around for as long as possible, the Premier League can’t even offer a safe haven from the Godforsaken goal music so common in the lower strata of the professional game…and then there’s the celebrations themselves. If anything made me sicker than the sight of Chelsea scraping such an ill-deserved European crown last May, it was that ridiculous jumping up and down on the spot, arms pumping victory dance the players lifted from the realms of the Playstation. F***ing FIFA again! Football is eating itself…
So, keep it real in the top tier of the Football League but remain irrelevant, or push back towards the promised land and embrace an airbrushed, sanitised existence, more akin to a Coca-Cola commercial than a sport based in working class tribalism, all at the behest of Sky TV and sponsored by Ford?
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Modern football is rubbish.
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Half and half scarf images courtesy of Half Scarf T***.