by TARIBO BALLON-D’OR

A relationship requires commitment. This commitment reveals desire to be not a static emotion, but a transitive movement. In the instance of committal, two parties are brought into a stark proximity – each individual motion having a doubled effect external to oneself, whilst one’s own motions feel strangely, inexorably, as though they originate elsewhere. How can Yaya Toure not immediately spring to mind in light of this idea? Is he not reflected, like the sheen from a concave surface, within the idea of commitment, within the very motion that his rivals make to try and stop him?

 

        Sympathy constitutes friendship; but in love there is a sort of antipathy, or opposing  passion. Each strives to be the other, and both together make up one whole.                       

                                                      (Coleridge)

 

I played with him for two-and-a-half seasons but for a lot of that time I was on the  bench. So I watched him, I brought my friends just to watch him. He was so good.

                        (Anouar Bou-Sfia, Toure’s teammate at Beveren, 2001–2003)

A defender [1] is required to commit himself to the tackle. Drawn to the talismanic force of the runner, the movement of his feet [2] a locus of desire, he is forced into a movement at once creative and destructive, potentially enabling and potentially dispossessing. In the moment before the tackle is completed, both of these possibilities exist in tandem [3] – the defendeur is facilitating the attacker’s onward movement, and blocking his progress at the same time. In being drawn to the runner, he is acting both of his own volition to prove a strong presence at the back, and is completely determined in his movements, fuelled by the opponent’s silent call to blindly act. Either way, the desiring action is triggered by the arrival of the other, and the threat of the other’s potential disappearance [4]. The entire timeline of a relationship is prefigured in the defendeur’s committal – the desire for it to begin, and the destruction of that passion which Coleridge implies lurks latent within an essential antipathy.

Toure is the exact kind of player who forces les defendeurs into sudden moments of ‘commitment’. In being drawn to his imposing physique, his speed and his ball control, thus freeing up the movement of the forward line to move unchallenged up the field, defendeurs are made to abandon the macro-tactics of the game itself, and focus on him and him alone. What are the implications of this erotics of defence? It seems only natural at this point to turn to Deleuze:

 

I see there an effect of repression, precisely at the frontier of the micro and the macro: sexuality, as a historically variable and determinable desiring-assemblage, with its points of deterritorialisation, flux and combination, will be reduced to a molar instance, “sex”, and even if the processes of this reduction aren’t repressive,the (non-ideological) effect is repressive, in so far as the assemblages are broken, not only in their potentialities, but in their micro-reality.  [5]

 

Deleuze sees defensive desire as a desire-machine, built by society’s mechanically repressive forces which re-enact themselves at each step. However, what the defendeur’s moment of ‘commitment’, or ‘commitment-machine’, or ‘commmachine’, or ‘coine’ does is to go one step, or ‘step’, further. Rather than mechanically traversing repressive forces at the point of desire, the defender is actively locked into repressive patterns by an agent, not a mechanical force. Toure’s brute force and skilful movement closes the field of jeu as it supervenes onto defendeur’s epistemological field. The defendeur is blinded by desire for the agent [6], to the point where his moment of commitment to a relationship kills other possibilities. The doomed lover is locked in a cell, the key thrown away [7].

 

Desiring Toure provokes even more nihilistic consequences than those proposed by Deleuze. While Deleuze postulates the idea of two agents traversed by unconscious repressive forces, Toure consciously leads the defendeur on, engaging their desire only to enact his coercive technologies of repression. Their thoughts of desire are only used within a relationship of Toure’s control. Their commitment is not repaid. Indeed, the tackle they commit to can only destroy the object of desire – either the attacking player is dispossessed, the thrill of the chase cut short and the object made undesirable, or the attacker storms past, the commitment all for nothing. The defendeur’s commitment in desiring Toure and his accompanying ball-booty only exists in a relational sense – as a promise that will always be let down, an aim that will always fail, a game always lost. But of course, the loss of the defendeur’s individual game with a figure like Toure, opens up the wider field of play, and a wider field of pleas. The jeu itself still continues, temporarily stalled by Toure’s techniques of repression that force the defendeur into a myopic perspective. In engineering this experience, the true poetics of Toure’s play are laid bare for the skilled onlooker. For in forcing the defendeur to come to terms with the inexorability of desire, with the fact that the object of desire will always be hindered, squandered, and unfulfilled within the lifespan of the jeu, Toure forces us to confront the innate pathos of the moment of ‘commitment’. The defendeur is all of us, lured in by, and forced to chase after, the impossible dreams that ultimately give our positions in life glimmers of hoped-for meaning.

 


 

[1] Henceforth referred to as ‘Le defendeur’, in accordance with Blatterian protocol

 

[2] Henceforth referred to as ‘feet’

 

[3] See ‘The Goodies’

 

[4] For a postcolonial analysis of Toure as desired by the market forces of the Western capitalist game, c.f. H. Bhabha, The Location of Klose, and other essays (Routledge, 2006)

 

[5] G. Deleuze, Desire & Pleasure, trans. Melissa McMahon (1997). For Deleuze’s analyses on the micro-realities of sexual repression in relation to football, see The Referee’s a Wanker: Micro-technologies at the Level of the Simulacrum, and Some Thoughts on Chris Waddle (1987)

 

[6] cf. F.Muniz, Agent Cody Banks (Hodder & Stoughton, 2003)

 

[7] Chaucer, The Knight’s Tale

 

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by A. LATCHLEY

“My sense of duty requires me to arrive unwelcomed”
Avital Ronell

.01. “He missed short putts because of the uproar of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows”[1]

Fernando Torres’ “transfer” from Liverpool FC to Chelsea FC was not just a transaction, it was a transition, a transportation, a non-transitory translation – indeed, it was a transformation. Avital Ronell once said that Derrida’s reading of Hermann Cohen was an exercise intended to “put the protest back in Protestantism” by means of the hypothetical imperative. Here, I mean to suggest that Torres has put the miss back in transmission. Here, I hope to make transparent the nature of the causal relationship between Fernando Torres’ “transfer” and what has been called his “reduced ability in front of goal”, exploring, in detail, the concept of miss.[2]

We must understand that, for the striker at least, to score is to succeed. The striker’s position is defined by this mission of glorified scoreboard addition – she is the always-already intended goalscorer par excellence. As such, extended periods of goallessness typically draw widespread criticism from the footballing establishment. Hansen et. al. react with rage at squandered opportunities, shots gone wide, Wilde, “deeds ill done”.[3]  But it is partly because of the disparity between Torres’ pre-Chelsea and post-Chelsea goal conversion figures (65 goals in 102 league games vs. 7 in 46, respectively), as Dennis Wise has argued, that he has been subject to a particularly brutal media onslaught.

These figures betray the extent of the transfer’s influence on Torres’ ability to convert. Conversion, from the Latin “convertere”, is, literally, to “transform”, its first syllable originating from “com”, meaning “together”. These associations are important. To convert is to metamorphosize (or, of course, to be the causally responsible initiator of metamorphosis) in the Ovidian sense, but it is also to merge together, to be together, to come together.[4]  We can conclude through careful statistical analysis that Torres’ transfer is not only a factor but very likely the key causal factor in his decreased ability to convert CoGs (or, chances on goal) to Gs (or, goals).

Can Torres, then, be likened to the Derridean utterance, the Manian allegory or the Heideggerian Dasein – that is to say, has Torres recognised his own finititude, his own inability to score the transcendental goal? What is it about this coming-apart that has left Torres unable to put-together? Why is his own transformation causally responsible for his inability to transform? Frustrated by his state of fixity, his inability to embrace malleability, utterances like “£50million flop” have become commonplace. Is Torres the Wodehousian golfer noted above, distracted by the external, overwhelmed by the elsewhere?

.02. “The Spaniard is Kafka’s Abraham, answering the non-specific call of the other with an assuredness that says: maybe he meant it”

The Ovidian approach to goal-conversion, characterised by its temporality, might suggest for its alternative (namely, goal-aversion) staticity or fixity as a typical characteristic. Yet it is here that we recognise quite how analogous the grassy matrix is to our struggles outside the field of play, off the pitch, back on the training ground. The grassy matrix, perhaps unsurprisingly, given that it is itself a man-made construct, serves to reflect, both literally and analogously, the phallogocentric, eurocentric pursuit of meaning and the associated hierarchical conditions of “play”.

Yet both “on and off the pitch”, it is true that to fail to convert is, in some sense, to avoid, and to reject conversion is to accept aversion – to enter the area where indecency beckons and dwells. And whether welcome or unwelcome, we cannot deny that such an entrance is still an entrance. It may well be the conclusion of a journey without a cause, but like the French situationists of the 1950s, whose attempts at tearing down the edifices of capitalist society through aimless Parisian dérive seem almost paradoxically teleological in their deontology, Torres’ aversion is a conversion on its own terms. Torres has found the area that Nietzsche once ushered us towards, hoping that we might embrace it, tremble with it, become it. Like the dunce in Kafka, Torres submerges himself in this wasteland. Statistically, April was the cruellest month.[5]  His transfer from Anfield was a journey towards the unknowable, a hearing of the other’s call that may or may not have been intended for him. We must not forget that this is the psychoanalytical process – the question on the tip of the psychoanalytic tongue: where does it hurt? Where do we carry our history, and how is it? Why and what are we repressing? When? Torres’ missing is a vomiting, an excretive healing process – we might even speak of Nietzsche as the vomiting philosopher (in many ways medicine and philosophy are in complicity by virtue of their mutual attempts to name “the conditions for wholesomeness”). Every bildungsprocess, or educational pedagogical narrative, is about conversion and the associated mastery of conversion; as we observe Torres, it becomes obvious that so often this serves to undermine the significance of the inhospitable domain. Yet it is so closely bound up with it that, to some, it has become indistinguishable.[6] We cannot pretend at ignorance, nor dismiss in disbelief – the limits of our own agency simply do not permit us this luxury. Lyotard calls this limitation the “mainmaise”, a grip so tight that we are not even aware that we are under its thumb, the thumb – under my thumb.[7] This is the difficulty of the situation the modern footballeur finds herself in. And yet here is Torres, missing the mark, the opportunity – indeed, missing the goal – but in missing, like the first Turks’ self-inoculation against smallpox, Torres finds the disease that cures him.

Plenty is at stake when we negotiate with the concept of Torres. Issues of scoring, assisting, mastering. Issues of welcoming, unwelcoming, spectatorship, committing. Issues of conversion, aversion, inversion. When we speak of conversion, we are speaking of, about, behind Fernando Torres . Such has been his overriding influence on utterances which refer (or defer) to modern notions of goal conversion. Ronell speaks of how every scenario evidences the incursion of the master, but here we speak of the incursion of the conversion and, indeed, the necessary incursion of the inverted aversion to conversion. Fernando Torres seeks to miss. And to miss, as we all know, is to realize. To miss is to avert rather than convert. The incursion of conversion is, through inversion, an aversion. In missing, Fernando Torres is, like Nietzsche, then, urging us towards the area of unintelligibility and indecency. Like Oskar Schindler, Torres is undermining the goals of hierarchical power structures from the inside, continually “missing” his target. Manquante est aimer.

.03: “On the evening of 9/11, W, after hours in hiding, came out to say, ‘This was a test.’”

Like the lived world of the religious, then, can the pitch be considered a glorified, aesthetically pleasing test lab? If God can be said to have a taste for anything, then it may well be in the incontrovertible necessity of the test. If God is the divine tester, then, in the arena of football, “PLATINI IS GOD” (MrPodridox 3 months ago). Kant, not long after completing his Third Critique, wondered whether we might test the faith of theology students. Is it the essence of faith to refuse the test? Is Fernando Torres failing the test, or refusing the test? Would a shot constitute an attempt at the test, or would his aiming-elsewhere excuse it of this categorisation? Can we logically fail if we do not try?

These are the questions that Fernando Torres asks of us. Like Gregory House, he prefers not to “think of this life as just a test”.[8]  And he is paid for the privilege. How could his employers adopt grim when his discount rate is so staggering that they are left stupefied? Desperate times call for extrema remedia. Torres, hands reaching, gestures to an open space. He runs into it, receives the pass, and, with outstretched fingers, he touches the face of God.

A. LATCHLEY

I always think about what I missed, and I think that was my driving force
    Thierry Henry


[1] “The Clicking of Cuthbert”, P.G. Wodehouse, Arrow (2008)

[2] (even in passing references which presuppose the assent of the     readership) – “Game-in-hand: Heidegger and The Footballing Dasein”, David Foot, Cambridge University Press (2011)

[3] Act IV, Scene II of King John, William Shakespeare

[4] “Come Together”, The Beatles

[5] http://www.premierleague.com/en-gb/players.html

[6] “Einsteinian Relativity and the Concept of Extra-Time”, William K. Redford, Oxford University Press (2010)

[7] “Under My Thumb”, The Rolling Stones

[8] Gregory House

introduced by Arthur Ben Arfa (Director of Football, Cornell)

At the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, France recorded their worst performance at a major finals, departing at the group stage with only one point, having failed to score a single goal. That year’s national side, however – known colloquially as les philosophes (‘football team’) – while disappointing on the field, won many admirers, both within France and in the Anglo-American academy, for their commitment to head coach Roger Lemerre’s postmodernist praxis.

Originally faithful to the management style of Aime Jacquet (who had won the 1998 World Cup in Paris), Lemerre had led France to victory at the UEFA Championships in 2000. Two years later however, Lemerre had radically rejected the notion of “winning” as the object of footballing exploration. Rejecting the totalising philosophy of the Dutch, les philosophes offered a deconstructive approach to the game. Here the influence was the manager’s, and while it will be old ground for those well versed in the ‘New Football’, a little detail will be required for the uninitiated.

Lemerre had come to consider that when encountering what he called a “classical footballing opposition”, one never encounters “peaceful coexistence” of the two opposing teams, but rather a “violent hierarchy”, where “one of the two terms governs the other (axiologically, logically, etc.), or has the upper hand.”[1] In order to begin the deconstruction, one must break the link between the two opposing concepts. “To deconstruct the opposition, first of all,” he maintained, “is to overturn the hierarchy at a given moment.” Second, that the teams should not be “synthesised in opposition,” but that their dissimilitude, interplay and star strikers be continually marked.[2]

After what had become a humiliating success in 2000, Lemerre’s later sides were ever-vigilant in working to ensure that all teams within (and on) the field remained separate and non-hierarchical, and it was only the stubborn intransigence of Senegal, Uruguay and Denmark on these matters in 2002 that led to France’s early exit.

Now, ten years later, we have been offered a unique personal insight into one of the most exciting schools of footballing thought of the early twenty-first century. Following the career-ending injury to winger Vincent Lazare last year (his death), his estate has made public the player’s own private diaries and correspondence spanning the period of his involvement with the national team, beginning and ending with the 2002 World Cup.

Selected by Lemerre less for his on-the-ball skills than for his perplexing, and often bizarre, sociological and linguistic insights, the Le Havre playmaker,[3] was, as these extracts demonstrate, central in 2002, both to the overall Lemerrian project and to team morale within the French camp. The Lazare diaries offer an informative and at times extremely intimate look at this remarkable period in footballing history, allowing us to explore new perspectives, both on the most intellectually promising, politically exciting, and competitively unsuccessful French team of the post-war era, and on the human relationships – and tensions – within its ranks.[4]

***

31 May 2002, France 0 – 1 Senegal

These are exciting times, and the atmosphere is thick with a sense of patriotic expectation that the manager and I have been doing our best to disperse, though air fresheners here are few. The newspapers at home predict another French “victory”, and even seem to desire such an outcome. How easily our compatriots fall back into their same old reactionary narratives…

Trailing at half-time, I find myself drawn into discussion with Dugarry, and am forced to remind him that it is not the Senegalese team in itself, but the operation of football more generally against which resistance must be directed. His pretended ignorance as to who I am betrays a recognition of his naive rationalism’s inherent limitations.

The final result, however, is encouraging, and Lemerre, though inscrutable as always, seems pleased not only with the nature of the defeat, but with the nature of defeat in general. I watch, cautiously contented, from the bench.

 

6 June 2002, France 0 – 0 Uruguay

Tensions are beginning to emerge now within the dressing room, yet Lemerre’s unwavering confidence in our project is a source of continuing inspiration.

Trezeguet persists in his refusal to refuse to take penalties, insisting that the spot-kick exists merely to obscure the fact that all football is punitive. He worries about a potential second-round clash with Paraguay, but I assure him it will not come to this.

On the other side of the dressing-room, Petit continues to frustrate many of his own teammates with his tired Hegelianism. He prattles obscurely on about the “unity of football,” and the possibility of “winning,” and against the Uruguayans is only denied by a combination of post and keeper. I keep the irony to myself, although the poignancy, I feel, does not escape Henry, whose sending-off early in the first half remains the most provocative statement of the tournament so far. What Lineker will make of it we await anxiously.

Much to the chagrin of the coach and myself, Wiltord continues to hold (with not a little support) that the number of goals scored in relation to the opposing team can be a true index of footballing achievement (and that a higher number on one’s own side is preferable!). Truly he is the defensive wall at the eighteen-yard line of the bourgeoisie. I remain, in more ways than one, an unused substitute.

 

11 June 2002, Denmark 2 – 0 France[5]

Once the most celebrated of footballers, Frank Lebœuf had, until quite recently, almost faded from view. He was already being attacked for his “blindness” about Soviet offside traps shortly after joining Laval in the 1980s, and even his remarkable distribution from the back was once ridiculed for its optimism, voluntarism and sheer energetic reach. Lebœuf’s whole career was offensive to the so-called Fédération Internationale de Football Association (whose mediocre attainments had only a fervid opposition to goal-line technology to attract any attention), and to the “post-structuralists” and “crossbar-modernists” who, with few exceptions, had lapsed into a morose formalism deeply at odds with Lebœuf’s populism and barnstorming ventures out of defence.

Yet into the nineties, Lebœuf’s brand of humanist Existentialism seemed to repel more people than it attracted. (Who can forget the cruel rejoinder of the then AS Monaco coach, Jean Tigana, ‘Je veux un footballeur, pas une Existentialiste humaniste’?) The courageous positions Lebœuf had taken against the United States and Israel (left-back and holding midfielder, respectively) were forgotten. So were his work on behalf of the oppressed, his gutsy appearance as a Maoist radical during the 1968 European Championships,[6] and not least his cultured central-defensive play and set-piece creativity. He had become a maligned ex-celebrity, except in the Anglo-American world, where he had never been taken seriously as a footballer, and was always seen during his time at Chelsea, somewhat condescendingly, as a quaint occasional centre-back, insufficiently anti-Communist, not quite as chic and compelling as (the far less talented) Desailly.

It is only in more recent years that Lebœuf has (superficially at least) begun to be accorded the status he deserves, and today’s match should forever stand as a monument to his radical footballing outlook. His resistance to authority has never been more mischievously overt. His refusal to mark Tomasson for the Danes’ second goal, for example, entailing an elaborate subversion of the notion of the panoptical back four, the defensive gaze directed anywhere but at the “offensive” player. In this respect, also, I am inclined to expect more great things of our goalkeeper.[7]

The tournament (in the ontological sense), for us, is over, yet Lebœuf gives us faith that the struggle will continue. But it is upon younger heads – the Cissés and Christanvals of this world – upon whom responsibilities must now weigh most heavily. We return to Paris tomorrow where further work awaits us all. The rest of the team left the hotel this evening with the assurance that they would “meet me at the airport,” their raucous laughter expressing a sense – if not of a job well done – at least of a project gratefully embarked upon.

A glance over the evening edition of L’Équipe verifies that not everyone in France will share our vision, and there is much talk, indeed, of “failure.” Sometimes, I will admit, when I am faced with the sum of our “experiences”, represented, albeit unrealistically, in the quasi-scientific and hierarchical structure of the tableau de la ligue [Fig. 1], it is hard not to feel that, had we scored more goals, we might have accrued more points, but I am comforted by the fact that it is irrelevant.[8]

Fig. 1

Team Pld W
D
L
GF GA GD Pts
Denmark 3 2 1 0 5 2 +3 7
Senegal 3 1 2 0 5 4 +1 5
Uruguay 3 0 2 1 4 5 -1 2
France 3 0 1 2 0 3 -3 1

[1] Lemerre, Positions, p. 11

[2] Lemerre, Of Soccerology, p. 442

[3] We speak of ‘play’ here in the Derridean sense. Lazare was never selected to play professional football.

[4] For a critical analysis of France’s 2002 campaign see Lebovits, Goal Différance: Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Footballing Sciences (2003), ch. 3, ‘A critical analysis of France’s 2002 campaign’

[5] Here Lazare, as France’s tournament draws to a close, reflects on the public career of the most senior member of the squad, his former mentor and friend, Frank Lebœuf. This was to be Lebœuf’s last World Cup with France.

[6] While Lebœuf did make a stand at the UEFA Euro 1968 tournament in Italy, France having failed to qualify, this was reacted to by many with confusion, and caused some resentment in Paris. Moreover, some have argued (Chiles, Tyldesley et al.,1997) that public perceptions of Lebœuf at the time as a ‘small child’ to a large extent obscured his radical Maoist message.

[7] See Barthez, Mythologiez (2006)

[8] Vincent Lazare: The World Cup Diaries, Vol. 1, May-June 2002 (ed. Ben Arfa, 2012) is published by Djemba & Djemba (£29.99, 606pp.)

by Thorlac St John Macclesfield, Syracuse University, NY

In the year of our Lord 923, the village of Wantage in Wessex witnessed a savage enactment of what most contemporaries would have held to be God’s justice. Wantage was the birthplace of the monarch of the day, Edward the Elder, and was particularly fervent in its adherence to the shire reeves (or ‘Sheriffs’) whom Edward had officially endorsed with a central diktat only three years earlier:

I will that each reeve have a gemot always once in four weeks, and so do that every man be worthy of folk-right; and that every suit have an end, and a term when it shall be brought forward. If that any one disregard, let him make bot as we before ordained.[1]

Sheriffs now had a backbone with which to structure their individual interpretations of justice according to England’s Roman Christian orthodoxy. Wantage was divided over the case of John Arn Rhys, a notorious, red-headed, Welsh thief who was accused of stealing baked goods from two separate families. The Sherriff in charge, Edmund St. Mark Clattenbook had a difficult task ahead in calming the incensed community, and, ‘thinking on his own two feet’, decided on an ordeal.

Ordeals are the theoretical obverse of modern retributive punishments. They were designed specifically to determine guilt or innocence. They deferred justice, in order to wait a divinely ordained sign. If, for instance, a man was ordered to carry hot coals, his innocence was not proved in his ability to stand their heat; of course, a righteous man would call upon God’s power and would overcome. However, the polymorphous momentum of the ordeal lasted for weeks after: if the man’s burns became infected and swollen at any stage, this was enough to prove his guilt. In Wantage, Clattenbook decided that Rhys was to be castrated. The deliberative process of this particular ordeal is obscure, as it is unclear what positive reaction was to be expected of Rhys if he was indeed righteous. Indeed, it was uncommon that the nuances of each ordeal were recorded in detail.

Very little has been published in soccerological research on the remarkable and suggestive historical analogy between the professionalization of the ‘English’ legal system before the Norman conquest and the trends visible since the dawn of professional football. The parallels to be drawn are numerous and the field from which may be drawn moral precepts for the benefit of the ‘modern game’ is fertile. Nothing shows the interface between the two more clearly than the case of John Arn Rhys. The second phase of Clattenbook’s ordeal was informal and coalescent: the witnesses to the ordeal seized upon Rhys’ detached testicles and began two parallel games of football. Without goals, the ‘strikers’ aimed instead to disgust the young females present, ‘whho schirken maedishely aforthh’.[2] Football and the ordeal ran smoothly and playfully into one. Rhys’ disassembled masculinity does disgust the maidens and their reactions provide rebounds to which the strikers respond with ever more daring attacks. In other words, Justice responds to a transgression by initializing a social competition, the logic of which proves or disproves guilt or innocence.

As the centuries progressed, disparate and loco-specific legal practices were soon reconciled not only by the formalization of legal practice in centralized and written (‘Common’) law, but were also formed obversely by the informalization of the law into an amorphous and ludic improvisation that arguably provides a social urtext for the game of modern football. Football, then, should not be theorized as a monolithic analogy of modern society, where crime and punishment are meted out according to a rigid, centralized legal text. The legal cruxes that are laid bare on the football pitch (a referee’s ‘howler’ or a player’s simulation of a foul) must simultaneously be considered according modern law’s primitive obverse: the Anglo-Saxon delimitation of justice through  ordeals.

This obverse in often implicit in commentary (it ‘naturally’ arises from Football’s basic reliance on Medieval justice systems) but is suppressed by the bourgeois institutionalization of ‘sportsmanship’ in public discourse on Football. A instance of this public neurotic suppression was brought to a head by the businessman and presenter of Channel 4’s Countdown¸ Nick Hewer when he appeared on Frank Skinner’s Room 101.[3] That the show was hosted by a noble socialist, justly venerated as a hero for his ‘Three Lions on the Shirt’, a highly Medieval gesture of support for English forces that recalled the Second Crusade, only made for a bitter clash. The bourgeois capitalist Hewer complained of commentators in their phraseological movement towards what he considers to be ‘bad’ sportsmanship, when they say that a player has ‘won’ a penalty. Hewer implied that a player should be given a penalty if he is victimized: in his world, being awarded a penalty is a recompense for an unjust defeat.

In this itchy middle-class footballing metalanguage that dominates public discourse, the Medieval logic of footballing justice is totally ignored. Commentators sense that a penalty has been ‘won’, because a twelve yard in itself operates exactly like an ordeal. God’s justice is seen to be (de)served by the infinite moments and divine signals in which the awarding of the penalty is only the first infinitesimal step. Like a sheriff, the referee has not determined the guilt or innocence of the alleged transgressor; he has simply opened up the texture of the contest to more readily demarcate a divine intimation that gradually directs the righteous away from the damned as the apocalyptic progression 90 minutes brings us quantifiably and incrementally closer to God’s final judgement.

This divine text is read by the guardians of the Word. Commentators, like priests, show their understanding of God’s esoteria, which is particularly legible in the building up to and aftermath of a twelve yard kick. If a player has won a penalty ‘unfairly’, and the kick misses or is blocked by the goalkeeper,  a commentator instinctively, in the manner of divine revelation,  utters the sacred words: ‘Well, that’s justice been served there, in a way’. In heathen Hewer’s bourgeois sensibility this Medieval sacrality would be entirely sacrilegious. The lack of ‘faith’ in modern  football is not, as many would hold,  a result of the decline in ‘sportsmanship’. Sportsmanship is a modern and irreligious suture to cover up a gaping spiritual wound. The oft-cited lack of ‘faith’ in modern football is a direct corollary of the endemic and general lack of ‘faith’ in God himself which has resulted in the cultural amnesia which refuses to recognise football as a Medieval instrument of God’s justice that has served English society for over a millennium.


[2] The Anglo Saxon Chronicle Manuscript D: Cotton Tiberius B.iv 923 (http://asc.jebbo.co.uk/d/d-L.html)

[3] Series 12 Episode 3

by Djibril Ponte-Veccio

Ryan Giggs (Apps: 638, Goals: 112) is the figure of the unnameable, the figure of the sublime, the overloading supplement that exceeds all referents. He exists both within the public sphere – his sexual exploits laid bare for all to see, there they are, there! Look there![1] – and permanently outside-the-law. His superinjunction, tweeted, retweeted, circumscribed by the indefinite, jagged hashtags of the blogosphere (or blog-elipse?), until drained of all secrecy, becomes a supra-injunction, underneath the law, behind the decrees of a monomaniacal phallogocentric culture.

Giggs exists both along and beyond this legal tightrope, through his initial inability to control the yearning demands of the phallus. Through the superinjunction, Giggs denames himself to apologise for, and evade the actions of his phallus – the exceeding phallus, in the wife of a brother, which enacts an incestuous inversion and dissolution of the footballing culture founded on so many spurting misnomers, the empty signifiers of rugged machismo, that come – le petit mort! – before him. The call to unname, to de-name, to prevent de-fame, exists within the future perfect tense, much like Giggs’ own on/offfield jeu – always anticipating, always already latching onto the stray ball, beating the man before he has even arrived:

Giggs… a rather weary run from Viera… Giggs… past Viera, past Dixon, goes back on him… it’s a wonderful run from GIGGS!’[2]

Qu’est ce qu’un goal. Whereas Parsons[3] stresses the goal’s self-negating quality, the unstable on/offfield imbalance within the ball rupturing the topos of the jeu at the moment of the net’s ruffling, the futurity of the goal here precludes a world of pure potentiality rather than blunt negativity. Giggs, extending his mazy dribble beyond the letter of the law, disappears and reappears in Tyler’s analysis three times across the course of his run. He disappears into the names of his interlocutors surrounding him. “Viera” is forced to fold back on himself, repeated twice by Tyler, reduced to the level of empty pleonasm. The box-to-box Gunners talisman is revealed as the originator of the future goal – the source of the lank pass and weary trackback which disappears at the feet of the unnameable. The sublime winger pounces on the ball, turning it into an orb of sublime ridicule, an objet-petit-à. When Viera reappears a second time, he has been emptied out of himself – he exists in the ‘past’ as Giggs moves ‘past’ him. Dixon too is swept into pastness in one movement – at this point the runner, the agent himself (or herself), has disappeared. Dixon’s dispossession is precluded within Viera, it emerges out of Viera – the superinjoined winger is nowhere to be seen, he has always already moved past them. If anything, it is Viera who scores the goal. Giggs himself only reappears in the back of the net. Giggs’ arrival, Giggs’ coming (Giggs-is-coming) supervenes onto the moment of the goal, marked, grafted onto the field of jeu by Tyler’s voice cracking like so many nuts. The sublime appearance of the impossible name, Wales’ answer to the tetragrammaton, in Tyler’s scream from the back of the net, the end of the field, marks both the conclusion of Viera and Dixon’s retroanticipated goal, and the reappearance of the winger who never was.

The coming of the goal in Seaman’s net, the coming of the unnamed winger’s semen, lapped up by the press and its fame-thirsty concubines. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. But Giggs’ supra-discursive in-game swerve, away from both Tylerian linguistic structures, and the defensive quadrology of Dixon, Keown, Adams and Winterburn (Das Dixeowdamicwinterbernheit),[4] evades the norms of legal discourse required for the superinjunction to take place. The unnamed winger who disappears in-game and keeps a low profile off the field refuses existence. As the goal’s moment of rupture is Viera’s, occurring not in the back of the net but within the stray pass to nobody, to the empty space that itself is superinjoined, the act of adultery that cannot arrive without an agent requires the agent’s cancellation for the superinjunction’s erasure of the act. The muffling motion of the law is one that necessary silences itself, blocking its own legitimacy, enforcing nothing in the name of nobody. This is classic Giggs.[5]

Giggs’ endless redrawing of the law’s circumference with the uncertain foundation of his own compass-phallus forces the law to let him off the hook. And if Tyler is to be believed, it is not Giggs who committed adultery, but Viera. As the culprit speeds away with the ball at his feet, the only guilty party in sight is the figure who attempts to impede and infringe upon Giggs’ culprithood. Viera the policeman, Giggs the naughty robber – but as is so often the case (a case closed, no less) the robber unveils the inefficacy of the crimefighter. The lawgiver chases after an absent presence that enables the crime, the goalgifter chases down and tries to tackle (in both senses) the winger who must score (in both senses) because he has allowed it to be so.

And what of Seaman? His sealing of Arsenal’s exit from the tournament is a dissemination, a scattering of the seeds of defeat – not just missing the goal but enacting Arsenal’s defeat into being. Typologically, it is near-identical to Giggs’ own supra-legal sexual escapades – just as the moment of insemination seals the law’s need to make its subject unnameable, Seaman sows the seeds and spills the beans of Viera’s culpability. So within the idea of the adultery and the goal both being Viera’s,  they are both – in their being, and in their bothness – Seaman’s. Seaman is spilt, and Seaman spills it. ‘It’ – the act,(s) the perpetual marking of the unnameable – is spilt, and is a self-generative self-spilling – the will-to-spill itself. This inseparability of agency and self-generation brings us to what we knew all along – that both ‘Giggs’’ goal, and ‘Giggs’’ adultery, were always already the same thing. Viera’s backpass and  the legal decree of the superinjunction – both exceeded and circumscribed within Seaman, were and are redundant repetitions of the possibility of a decree and a goal that had to happen. However, this redundancy, the failure to defend either a tabloid smear or a leggy dribble, were essentially offensive, on the attack. They were part of the same attack conducted by the nameless winger who not only performed both acts, but disappeared and disseminated himself in the act of performance. Viera and Seaman beat themselves to win United the F.A. Cup. Giggs runs away, into the beyond. The papers would, over a decade later, enforce this beyondness in their silence, where the actions of his tackle could not be tackled – Giggs keeps running. Still Giggs, PFA player of the year, a different man to the one in the papers, nowhere to be seen. Giggs… Giggs! … Giggs!!   …


………


[1] Shakespeare, W. King Lear, V.3.325 (Arden, 1998)

[2] Tyler, M. FA Cup Semi Final Replay: Arsenal 1 Manchester United 2, (Palgrave Macmillan, 14th April 1999), 110min

[3] Parsons, A. Who, Et All-the-pies? Crowd Mentality and the Rise of Ginsters in La Liga (Routledge, 1992)

[4] Kant, I. Critique of Pure Dixon, trns. Lovenkrantz & Floyd-Hasselbaink, (Oxford, 1982)

[5] For more on Classic Giggs, c.f. Crumb, H. Metamorphosis and Dissonance in Ovid, Virgil and Giggs (Continuum, 1998)