Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Scarfers Unite.

For somebody who professes his support of grassroots football, I don't half love my Champions League. I love the theme tune, I love the glamour, and I even enjoy the sheer unabridged commercialism of the big world-wide sponsorship deals.

This week has given me the opportunity to watch the teams that I consider to be the three greatest clubs in Europe, which in my blinkered football horizons, means the World.

Celtic , Liverpool, and Barcelona. The very mention of their names conjures up all that is good about football. Celtic are helped in their reputation by the astonishing acheivement of eleven Glasgow boys who first won the Cup in 1967.

But you only had to look at their fans before yesterday's game v Milan to see what could be possible if we all had their attitude. The singing of "You'll never walk alone" was stupendous, aided by the classy decision to switch off the louspeakers for the chorus. The song boomed out, and was aided immeasurably by the sort of scarf waving that was last seen at Anfield in 1979. I wish that my club could follow suit, but we seem doomed to be cursed forever with our labels and lairiness. Newcastle's scarf giveaway has helped the atmosphere at St James'. Maybe that is an idea we could follow.

When Cesc Fabregas recently questioned whether Mark Hughes the manager could ever really have been Mark Hughes the Barcelona player, he had a point. Sparky's current personality belongs to someone who hates football, someone who places self-interest, and a 0-0 draw above the good of the game. He is not alone in that, but Fabregas is a footballer and always will be. Barcelona are a delight to watch, whatever the result. And, most importantly, they have the best kit in the world.

I have a 1974 Scorcher annual on my bookshelf. On page 47 is the scrawled graffiti of a 7 year old. "Liverpool are Magic, Cardiff are Tragic". How precocious, how prescient. Admittedly, I didn't know the true meaning of tragic at the time, and in hindsight it is a word far more accurately attached to the Scouse club.

But Liverpool are a great club. Their fans make a good claim to be the best in the world, as my 1973 album of "The Kop Choir" will testify. And there they are at the Camp Nou as I type. Smiling, laughing, bedecked in scarves bearing the names of both clubs on the field. And therein lies the rub. The fans of all three of these footballing monuments favour the scarf as a declaration of support. We could all learn something. Scarfers unite for the glory of the game.

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