EPL: The Narcissus of FootballMarch 15, 2015
Narcissus of Thespiae was by all means an attractive bloke and disdainful of all his suitors and oglers. The long and short of it is that when Echo, a Nymph of the forest invariably fell head over heels in love with him and was duly spurned and went to lick her wounds in one of the many glens in the forest, Nemesis the goddess of revenge decided to actualize the phrase, “hell hath no fury like a woman spurned” and made Narcissus thirsty and when he went to partake of the water in a pool he fell in love with his image and died by the water or committed suicide – if women are to be believed.
The old English division one wasn’t much to look at, just Paul Ince and Tony Adams clattering into people and the Heysel disaster relegating English clubs to solely local action, then the format changed and television rights deals kicked in and all of a sudden English football was flush with cash and 23 odd years later it is being hailed as the best league in the world. The most ardent of football fans naturally gravitate towards the much heralded light like moths and thus here we are at an impasse, a Mexican standoff of sorts – La Liga, Bundesliga and the Premier League ‘experts’ are all pointing guns at each other, all vilifying the other and prostrating before their various affectations. So is the Premier league the best league in the world?
What constitutes ‘the best league’?
Advertisers are the most manipulative psychologists in existence, they can spin anything to suit their purposes. I dare say that the biggest, most effective smoke screen ever put up wasn’t by the Italians like Sir Alex would have you believe, it was put up by the English. This lot has managed to convince billions of human beings that the Premier league is the best in the world. Before you tear my head off hear me out. Most European football fans are loyal to one league since their team plays in it and they therefore have firsthand information on their rivals for honors. This as a result more often than not automatically biases them towards that league, no one wants their achievements belittled by stating that their league is inferior, but to have the chutzpah to even think that they are entitled to be considered the best league in the world due to brilliant advertisement is a false premise. Though the hype generated has certainly done its job and you cannot tell an English fan different, the image has been propagated and the slogan has been appended in stone in the fan’s minds just like Narcissus.
Simple minded thinking should suggest that performance in a combined competition of various leagues should dictate how good a league is. Since a league is represented by 3 or 4 of its best teams, if those teams are being outplayed and outclassed annually then that should set alarm bells ringing. Away from layman thinking, the four English representatives are always in pot one or two thus a correlation in easier fixtures is expected and consequently an upturn in performances right? Wrong. Manchester city have been scrapping the bottom of the barrel to even qualify from their groups since they re-entered Europe, that from a squad that is at least the 5th best in the world. Arsenal purr at the very thought of drawing a European behemoth in the round of sixteen and getting kicked out – repeat, it’s like they derive an almost voyeuristic pleasure from watching other teams succeed in Europe. Chelsea according to a pre-established narrative due to Jose Mourinho’s colossus status in Europe are always termed as the best equipped English team to fly the English flag in Europe, apart from propagating racism and a master class in repetition of songs during games, they haven’t done much in Europe since kicking and screaming their way out of the doldrums and into the European elite in 2012 playing the worst brand of Rugby Union to conquer Europe. In all honesty when was the last time Jose Mourinho was really breathtaking in Europe? 2010 is the answer, he flattened Europe by strangling the life out of games and his Internazionale side set the template for how he approaches European games and pitted in a battle of wits against the very best he’s flinched first for the past five years and on Wednesday against Paris St. Germain he hid like a child behind his mother’s skirt when Chelsea needed him to stand tall and issue the cry that would see his players obliterate the Parisians. Manchester United are lucky they aren’t in Europe, they are demoralizing enough at St. James Park as it is, though dynamics might push them over the hilt and into Europe, is that the best England has to offer? What happens when United encounter a half decent side in Europe, they get pasted and the co-efficient suffers. Liverpool are Liverpool, with delusions of grandeur seeping through from a manager who thinks that he is a Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley love child and a poor and less than authoritative transfer committee it is all a farce when confronted by Europe. Oddly though it is Brendan Rodgers who seems best equipped to take on Europe due to his inventive nature, a student of football, a purist if you wish, he might be the only manager who could come up trumps in Europe.
All in all what makes a league the greatest? Is it the attendances, viewership, status quo, entertainment, technical aspect or the managers and players playing in it? The premier league is not even the best run league, that goes to the Bundesliga as the influx of foreign ownership has descended into a farce with clubs like Manchester United allowed to be saddled with debt by a foreign owner and the fans having no say in how their clubs are run and exorbitant tickets and frankly damning performances in Europe. Germany and Spain have won the last two world cups, should they not be paid more than the casual, condescending lip service currently accorded to them?
So according to me which is the best league in the world you might ask, I say none. If a team of experts of which I am not one sat down and went toe to toe with this argument it’ll be an infinite debate and the names of Socrates, Darwin and Rene Descartes will all be invoked but all in vain. Is the Premier League the second best league, no, third, no, 10th, no. where do I rank it? Anywhere but the pedestal it has been placed on. My personal best league in the world is the Serie A, shows you how much of a layman I am.
I do not consider myself a naysayer but with the image and narrative of ‘best league in the world’ firmly ensconced in the minds of billions of fans no one is noticing a slow death at the side of the pool staring at it’s own image and marveling at the sheer breath taking and ethereal beauty of a defiant and arrogant yet trapped in the European footballing dungeons super league. Meanwhile, 2015 has just been filed under Annus Horriblis in the English football calendar.
“To stare, big eyed Narcissus, into some spring is beneath all adult dignity.”