All the recent rumours and snippets of news about the takeover of Birmingham City make dangerous reading for a pessimist like me. I tend to believe the-sky-is-falling-we-are-doomed interpretations of events rather than the-cavalry-are-coming-to-save-us ones. So all news seems like bad news, even if it isn’t. I can’t resist reading some of the takeover stuff but I can resist writing about it, which would be pointless anyhow because I’m not in the know. So for the time being I’m going to try to make my blog like The Inside Left1 site whose strapline proclaims, “Proudly bringing you none of the latest news, gossip and scores.”
I’m going to write about something, or rather someone, completely different: Eric Cantona. I recently read an interesting article2 about him and the film he’s made about Brazilian football and politics. It quotes him as saying that all the best football players grew up in poor areas and played footballs in the streets every day. “You need to be angry, because it is not only about abilities. Abilities is 50% and 50% is mentally. And mentally is where you learn how to fight … it is in the street.” Cantona is well known for his anger and I had a very negative opinion of him after he kicked a Crystal Palace fan in 1995.3
Quite illogically I started to like him more after seeing his performance in the film Looking for Eric, one of my favourite football films. I know he was acting a part and not even acting himself but acting a drug-induced hallucination of himself. But I liked him in the film and that made a difference to the way I felt about him in real life. The incident this year, when he punched a photographer, hasn’t made me like him less; I just dislike the Mail more. (And, no, I’m not going to provide a link to its article.) I don’t think footballers should go round attacking people but I can understand why some do. They have to be combative and aggressive when they play and that spills out into their lives off the pitch. They are flawed human beings and I’m not perfect either so I hesitate before throwing the first stone.
I don’t know whether Cantona has got the percentages right, 50% physical and 50% psychological, but I believe in the importance of the mental aspect of the game. It’s one of the reasons why teams can be so inconsistent. It’s also a reason why crowds can make a difference and help players to keep going right to the end of the match. As I wrote in a previous post about the Bolton game4 “it felt as though the crowd was transfusing its energy and desire into the players”. You can’t do that when you’re sitting on a sofa watching TV. That’s why I’ll be going to Birmingham City games next season, whoever the owners are.