Retirement.

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

Dear Birmingham City,

When you withdraw a number from squad use, it is probably a good idea to have a good reason. Usually that player should retire after great service, or perhaps it honours a great player for their achievements on and off the football pitch.

NBA, NFL and other franchises may like to retire numbers for other reasons. Their game, their gaff, their rules. Football in Britain may cling to tradition and hug sponsors in ways that contradict one another, but mostly, on the whole, the home nations of Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the other bits do a pretty good job of honouring their own.

“Well, I only ever cried over two people, Billy Bremner and Bob… [long pause] He was a lovely man.” – Sir John Charlton OBE DL (8th May 1935 – 10th July 2020), footballer (England/Leeds Utd.) & manager (Ireland)

Norwegian club Fredrikstad retired Dagfinn Enerly’s number 8. He had been paralysed in a game against I.K. Start. West Ham Utd. dropped the number 6 shirt several years after club legend Bobby Moore OBE passed away from cancer. This created great dialogue and gave attention to bowel and cancer charities. It opened up conversation for quiet men. It did positive and wonderful things. Chesterfield F.C. retired the number 14 to mark Jack Lester’s retirement from the game in 2013. Six years of football weren’t ideal for his spell as manager at ‘The Spireites’. His 24.3% may have made the club reconsider retiring his club squad number…

Dropping a shirt number is a big thing. That number will never ever be used again. Never. Even adding someone else’s name is insulting. We’re talking memorials and recognition of players’ loyal service mostly. Squad numbers, that replaced a more traditional model (of 1 through to 11 plus subs of higher numbers) came into fruition in the 1990s and soon after North American (it came from Mexico in the ‘80s) sports influenced squad numbers. With it the notion of retiring numbers came about. New York Cosmos in the ill-fortuned NASL retired number 10. A certain Pelé had worn that shirt for around 56 games through three years upt0 1977. At first glance, he barely featured for them, but had years of wonderful football for Santos (18 years) and Brazil. What he did off the field for N.Y. Cosmos was remarkable, with exhibition games in Lebanon and the Dominican Republic. He used his pull to make a statement. Edson Arantes do Nascimento played at full houses in the Estádio do Maracanã and lifted the FIFA World Cup three times, amongst stacks of domestic awards. Off the field he remains a fantastic humanitarian. That’s why baby club (founded 1970) deserved to retire that number.

On one hand, if you drop any number 1-31, it is risky. They may represent somebody’s date of birth. Likewise if you drop numbers 1-12, as they are symbolic to months. The time-honoured 1-11 should be avoided for the sake of always having these numbers and conventional related positions available for aspiring youth players. What would the supporters or families of Jason Mayélé, Vittorio Mero, Marc-Vivien Foé, Miklós Fehér, Ray Jones, Dylan Tombides, François Sterchele, David di Tommaso, Antonio Puerta, Besian Idrizaj, Piermario Morosini and Davide Astori feel about Birmingham City’s seemingly soft approach to retiring the number 22? Who exactly is Jude Bellingham?

Jude Victor William Bellingham is now subject to mockery. That’s who. He’s a 17-year-old lad thrust into the public eye and has in the last week signed for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Jude Victor William Bellingham has buckets of potential and had been at Birmingham City from the age of 8. Like many youth players before him, and a plethora of clubs, he dreamt of playing for his almost-hometown club (the glass-making town of Stourbridge is 16km/10 miles from Birmingham).  Born after Maine Road closed, and the City of Manchester (now Etihad) Stadium prepared to open, Bellingham has bagged 4 goals from 44 games, and a few assists during his only season of professional football. His England Under-16 and U-17 record isn’t bad too. FourFourTwo magazine amongst others describe him as “50 most exciting teenagers in English football”.

Bellingham leaves, to his rear, a Birmingham City team that narrowly avoided relegation. Like sex-symbol Fiona Butler (she was a tennis player caught scratching her bare behind) he has gone far since Stourbridge. Her posters are eveywhere. Well, not her posters, but here bottom in poster form. Good luck to Jude Bellingham at ‘The Black & Yellows’, who won’t be far behind. Pun intended.

Does Jude Bellingham deserve to join other shirt numbers that have been retired? Maybe, maybe not. Future Birmingham City players will no longer be able to wear the number 22. Still, you could be at other clubs with less choice. Good luck at C.F. Pachuca (a club founded by Cornish miners in 1901) in Mexico as they have retired shirt numbers 110, 17, 20 and 1.

#99 Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls): played 2013-2019.

#61 Gökdeniz Karadeniz (Rubin Kazan): played 2008-2018.

#55 Five-year old Joshua McCormack passed away from cancer, and his club Rochdale Rovers took note.

#50 Filbert Fox @ Leicester City F.C.

#61 Gökdeniz Karadeniz (Rubin Kazan): played 2008-2018.

#24 Hadi Norouzi (Persepolis): played 2008-2015 (died in his sleep)

#17 Former Chairman Massimo Cellino retired the number 17 at Leeds Utd due to superstitions. New chairman Andrea Radrizzani reinstated the number. Leeds have since been promoted. Wolverhampton Wanderers loan-star Hélder Costa wore 17.

#12 many clubs use this number as dedication to fans. Such as Borussia Mönchengladbach, Lech Poznan, Kerala Blasters, Beijing Guoan, Plymouth Argyle, Guadalajara and AC Omonia. The twelfth man indeed (or woman, or boy, or girl, or other)

#10 Diego Maradona (Napoli): played 1984-1991.

#8 Avi Nimni (Maccabi Tel Aviv): played in three stints, totalling around 15 years.

#7 Stanislav Vlček (Slavia Prague): played over 7 years at the club. Shirt number on pause. 7 conditions must be met to wear the shirt. Score three goals against Sparta Prague to start the list of 7…

#4 Franco Baresi (AC Milan): played 1977-1997

#3 Paolo Maldini (AC Milan): played 1984-2009 [although his offspring may wear it if they turn professional]

#3 Naoki Matsuda (Yokohama F. Marinos): played 1995-2010

For more retired numbers, have a gander here.

In memory of #23

The late great Marc-Vivien Foé (Manchester City, played 2002-2003)

John Barnes or John Terry?

The Inktober day 2 picture has nothing to do with today’s post…

 

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

We have all heard something like, “I’m not racist but…” and then the sentence ends with something about going on holiday to Benidorm (Spain) and drinking Carlsberg, from Denmark, whilst wearing boxer shorts, made in China. Oh, and driving a Lada with your Indian friend who runs a takeaway. But, that isn’t my point. The point today is racism.

I’m white or Caucasian, or whatever you want to call me. My family heritage doesn’t involve a tribal background or slavery, to my knowledge. I haven’t been persecuted for being Hispanic or had my genetics questioned. I’m not Aryan, Semitic or Hamitic, and if I was, I wouldn’t care too much. I believe that I am human and like people born in Mongolia, Manhatten or Morecambe, I will treat all the same. If they wear a Man Utd shirt, they will earn my disgust. I couldn’t care if you have a Polynesian, Maori or Australoid ethnographic background, you’re sound with me as long as you don’t wear Giggs, number 7.

We live in a very politically correct age and people nowadays are exposed to more and more social media than ever before. Things are tweeted or written and appear instantly to a near global audience. Anyone can show the likeness between Kevin De Bruyne and Tintin or the Milky Bar Kid, or can they? Can Shaquille Rashaun “Shaq” O’Neal do that? Why did I choose Shaq? Well, he is hugely influential, rescued Nike in some ways and people idolise him. But, he isn’t a friend with Kevin De Bruyne, so it would be unlikely that he would think of such a comparison.

The punishments in football for racism are weak. For a game in October 2018, Padiham were fined £165 for leaving the field. Why did they leave? The Congleton end were racially abusive. Congleton had to pay £160. Okay, it is a lower level, but it reflects UEFA and FA fines or punishments in a way. Leeds goalie Kika Casilla is accused of racially abusing Jonathan Leko, but like the John Terry versus Anton Ferdinand matter, it will be a weak outcome. Terry had a £220,000 fine and a 4 game ban. Somehow, Anton’s brother Rio tweeted that Ashley Cole was a ‘Choc Ice’ (white on the inside?) to give Rio a £45,000 fine. The recent year has seen over 30 instances presented to the F.A. There is a rise in line with crimes committed outside of football. The social problem goes on. The guy saluting Hitler in the stands against City yesterday, he definitely was racist.

Hitler mk. 2 nominee Bernardo Mota Veiga de Carvalho e Silva, has just been found guilty of an ‘aggravated breach’ of misconduct rules. This relates to a social media post that he made. Bernardo, was raised in the colonial powerhouse that is Lisbon, a place that gave football and S. L. Benfica the legendary Eusébio. Born of Portuguese Mozambique, Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, was often nicknamed the ‘Black Panther’, much like the name of a Marvek Superhero. Did Eusébio’s statue outside Benfica ever envisage that one day a famous son of the club would be embroiled in a racism scandal?

Fast forwards from Benfica, and Benardo Silva has played from Monaco and Manchester City. He shares a close relationship with his probable best friend with Benjamin Mendy. There is banter and there are jokes. Some are shared on Instagram and Twitter in the public domain. One implies Mendy is completely naked whilst being dressed in black. Now, hands up, is that observational humour, racism or just something people say to each other? I mean white guys at school said the same to me when I was dressed in white, and guys of other ethnic origins have said the same since. I didn’t feel abused – let alone racially abused. Bernardo has since used Twitter to share a chubby looking kid (Mendy) and Conguitos character with the words, “Guess who?” and two emoticons.

Are the smell yellow people (Minions), the Simpsons and other cartoons racist? Is shoehorning in a character racist because the original period of time or that story didn’t have enough ethnicity racist? The Spanish chocolate peanut brand Conguitos has been accused of racism for a long time. Conguitos means ‘Little Congans’ – a generalisation of many tribes from the Congo basin. Conguitos, have a white and chocolate version. Like Robertson’s jams and the characters that they used (golliwog, now simply golly), good education and conversation has helped eradicate such a silly character. Rather than dish out bans and fined, education and conversation should be key.

“I think he looks like a young Mendy. I don’t see what the issue is. This has got nothing to do with racism. They are friends. Regardless of whether it looks like Mendy or not, why is that offensive?” – John Barnes, former Liverpool and England footballer – and now racist sympathiser

So, how do we punish this? The FA have a 6-match ban, as a minimum for on field racism, with an education programme. Nazi-saluting Wayne Hennessy had the book thrown at him and that set a precedent. Allo, Allo never had any repeats in the Hennessy household. German team-mate Max Meyer would have corrected him rather than posting the photo, right? Anyway, with that innocent shout for a waiter from behind a group of people posing for a photo, and the arm in the air, Hennessy is desperate to learn about Nazis, according to a fellow white man. Did the actions and photograph bring the game into disrepute? Yes, but no, but, yes, but no.

“Football doesn’t have a racism problem, it has a denial of racism problem. John Barnes and Pep Guardiola’s claim that Bernardo Silva did not tweet a racist image of team-mate Benjamin Mendy is nonsense” – @BenHCarrington, Professor of Sociology & Journalism

Teammate Raheem Sterling, so often the voice against racism, and a sensible mature voice at that, defended Bernardo. Not that this makes it right, but it does kind of give a character reference from someone slated by social media abuse – and actual media abuse. With a possible ban, somehow being talked into the scene and players like De Bruyne out injured, who is to benefit? Raheem Sterling, of course! It’s all a big conspiracy. No, it isn’t! It us a huge witch hunt – and mostly for those who want to add their two pennies worth. The money and time spent on this matter is stupendous. There is actual racism out there, by fans, by groups, by clubs, leagues and nations… Don’t be complacent, be proactive – or we’ll join the global list of fascism in football time and time again.

Yids, as used by Spurs fans, and against Spurs fans is a term, I’ve heard countless time in recent years. You can buy Conguitos on Amazon as easily as seeing money leaking from the Premier League’s inclusion campaign and Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, duplicating their tasks. Xenophobia and racism are in the game, from grassroots upwards. We’re too dismissive. The game has a Black and Asian Coaches Association (BACA), in a way that is similar to the LGBTQ+ movement to eradicate homophobia in society. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is. Time to mention Millwall, because they like many (Burnley, Arsenal, West Ham and Peter Beardsley, and so on) have problems. Islamophobia and antisemitism are on the rise in society – and football is the tip of a great big white iceberg of problems. Mel Gibson and others found to hold stupid archaic messages have been outcasted. SO, as a Manchester City fan, I say this: Ban Silva for the season, if you truly believe he was racist. If there is doubt, let’s keep the endless battle against racism and bring Bernardo into the army against it. Embrace Bernardo – and make sure he never makes a mistake again and sets an example to other professionals.

Has Bernardo’s tweet brought the game into disrepute? Most certainly. Now, the overlord-like white privilege are jerking each other off over their keyboards? Real stonewall racism is being overlooked in a way that only UEFA-standard referees can overlook VAR decisions. But, here we are focusing on the fact that a professional who has followers has taken the game into an area that the game doesn’t want to be. So, that’s why the F.A. will fine and ban Bernardo Silva. By deleting the tweet, Bernardo has admitted a mistake, and like an artist with an eraser, that error should have been removed, but we live in an age of Big Brother and screen capture. Too little, too late. That’s why the right wing will argue that white people can’t say or do this or that, without fear of reprisal by laws or vilification. Bernardo, wasn’t racist, he was naïve.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā