Controversy is the life blood of football, from the shenanigans of the governing bodies FIFA and UEFA who are no strangers to dubious practices, which are nonetheless seen as acceptable by half the world, and as reprehensible by the other half, as well as the all powerful clique of clubs and the cabal of managers noted for their self serving behaviour, often to the detriment of the fans, and then the football tribalism of the same passionate and committed fans warring among themselves.
As passionate, knowledgeable Gooners we would not find it at all strange or contentious to wholeheartedly agree with the question posed in the Post headline because, with certain reservations about the transfer policy of the manager and the Board, or the exorbitant cost of seat tickets, and similar concerns raised by one faction, or the other, we do believe that Arsenal are indeed the best club in the world, and that is why we support them, and many have done so for the whole of their sentient lives, and will continue to do so until the grim reaper taps them on the shoulder.
It does rather beg the question though as to why the supporters of rival clubs will vehemently disagree, if told by Gooners that Arsenal are the best club in the world, and will enthusiastically, if rudely, respond that their own club is the best in the world.
Why is this? Can’t they see they are wrong? :-)
Perhaps it is the human condition of tribalism that is at play here, and the urge or need to conform to community norms albeit in the differing environs of North London, the Midlands or Oop North to share a ‘belonging’ with those we have grown up with or, in footballing terms, the sense of belonging to the community of fans who support a particular club. Not that this necessarily speaks to the many fans throughout the world who are equally supportive of their chosen club.
It would be futile in a short article to try and look at this issue at every level, so in addressing only what makes fans tick, let’s have a look at some current-ish issues that have cropped up recently.
There has been a big hoo-hah over the very public admonishment and shameful questioning of the Chelsea club doctor’s professional competence which Mourinho lamely tried to disguise as a footballing knowledge requirement on when to run on the field of play to help an injured football player — in other words when Dr Maureen says so. Pissht.
Many fans, including most of us Gooners, thought this was a shabby display of dictatorial and sexist behaviour on the part of the manager even though he had in fact belatedly included a male employee in his tirade.
But that was not the view of the vast majority of the Chav fans, who were supportive of Maureen and gleefully told themselves this was an example of the manager’s winning mentality – even though they did not win that game – or the one against Man Citeh, where two Chelsea players went down simultaneously and the replacement Chelsea doctor had to be helped out by the Citeh medical team running on. Did they respect your medical/football knowledge wishes too, José?
This not a refection on the Chelsea fans who saw nothing wrong with Mourhino’s stance, because it is unquestionably the case that if this scenario had been played out at Old Trafford, instead of Chelsea, the ManUre fans, who for years were well versed in supporting Old Red Nose in some of his wildest rants, would have supported their manager in the same way – and conversely the Chav fans would then have joined the rest of us in pillorying the ridiculous attitude of the Manure manager in this hypothetical instance.
Was it the case that, in these instances, the outcome was the result of the tribal instinct to which, as fans, we are all prone?
Well, it has been said on here, and elsewhere, that the support Maureen got was borne out of misplaced loyalty, and that the Chav fans really did know he was in the wrong, but were more than happy to indulge in a little bit of cant and hypocrisy as part of the ‘defence’ of the Chelsea community and a manager who has been successful for them.
In human beings there is a complex and powerful desire to conform to the group mood or ethos, and those fans supporting their manager are not knowingly intending to lie or pretend. This human condition actually makes our brains rationalise the facts and to change the way they are perceived, which is different to how others see them.
Take the rationalising of penalty incidents, for example. This inevitably results in opposing sets of fans seeing the same incidents in very different and opposing ways too. “He deliberately chopped our player!” “No, he is a diving cheat!” and so on, and on.
The same incident, if reversed, would have the same fans crying out the opposite views, if it were the other team’s player involved.
There is a phenomenon that occurs on all blogs, and it is something that we are all aware of and it relates to the fact that we can quickly become aware of other people’s biases, whether it is towards certain players, or the behaviour of the managers, or the ethos of other teams, or, dare I say it – other bloggers – and yet at the same time we are completely detached or impervious to our own biases, which are obvious to others.
There is a formulaic phrase that is becoming common, and which some see as essential to protect good relations between bloggers with opposing views, after it has become all too obvious that further discussion has descended into being a pointless dialogue of the blind, and that is “we will have to agree to disagree” which is immensely useful when it becomes clear that no purpose is fulfilled by further debate.
So, Arsenal are the best club in the world, right? Umm – Yes —and no — it depends on who is being asked. :D
Written by RA