Sunday, March 23, 2008

Selective Truth

Romanian football might not be everyone’s starting point for a quick look at Henry VI (part 3) – but there are parallels.

(I suppose, for cultural clarity, I should, at this point make clear I am talking about the game for men with balls that are not an odd shape.)

Soccer in Romania is dominated by baronets – rich men who ‘own’ clubs. There are 4 or 5 of them and they are very ‘public’ in their ownership: Never a day goes by without one of them appearing on the television; usually it is more than one.

Partisan is an understatement – ‘rude ignorant pigs’ still a bit too subtle.

They interfere in their own teams to the distraction of the managers – buy players who are not needed and sell others without replacing them with anyone to ‘fill the gap’ the exiting player leaves. They complain publicly about the managers performance, undermine their authority continually, and begrudge them the bonus payments when they win. It is strongly suspected that one baron even bribes individuals of his own team to loose matches so he doesn’t have to pay out larger sums to the whole team if they win. Of course, he then goes on television and says the manager is not doing his job properly.

More worryingly they are regularly accused (and even more regularly accuse each other) of corrupting match officials and rigging matches through other nefarious practices.

These are not the mighty magnates of English football – truly rich men who stay quiet publicly, dig deep into their pockets and let the teams get on with the job. These are petty men – pale shadows of the greats they attempt to imitate.

And here is the first link to Shakespeare’s play – gone are the great men of the earlier instalments (apart from York – who exits in Act 1) - to be replaced by much smaller men – men whose vision is not broad enough, token representatives and partisan upholders of faith in themselves.

“Mink coat and no knickers” (as my father used to say).

They ‘ape’ their predecessors but do not seem to understand what it is they copy.

They exist for the moment – there is no real continuity: Strategy is short term only. And so too is their perception of the world they live in.

In Shakespeare’s play, the past becomes a thing for selective quotation – a truth for being economical with. Partial truths about the past are used to justify present actions – and are publicly invoked in that justification.

In exactly such a partial way the truth has been used in an incident between two teams here in Romania.

Straight away, one petty owner leapt in front of the nearest television camera and started screaming about ‘the rules’ the past, the way it was done …

He was quick to add blame for the official (who had just been hit on the head by a flying object – premeditated, according to the all seeing owner).

Dangerous stuff – especially as public disorder, already abroad, was provoked, and awaits a next encounter.

Such are the things of civil war.

What I am left with is the sense of small mindedness, of a gap left which needs filling with truth, with authority based on right, … a worthy King.

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