Libyan tyrants and Evertonian try-hards

In this month’s ‘heroes and zeroes’, Tim Black disses Mustapha Abdel Jalil and defends David Moyes.

Zero: Mustapha Abdel Jalil

This month’s zero, Mustapha Abdel Jalil, is the leader of the National Transitional Council, the group Western leaders decided should rule Libya after Gaddafi’s Jackie Stallone tribute act had finally played its last. And what, as Mrs Merton might have said, has the former minister of justice under the impeccably just Gaddafi done to deserve such an accolade? Well for one thing, he’s proving that his ex-boss’s despotic legacy lives on.

Consider Jalil’s recent response to the news that the eastern region of Libya, Cyrenaica, has voted to become semi-autonomous: ‘We are not prepared to divide Libya. [Cyrenaica] should know that there are infiltrators and remnants of Gaddafi’s regime’, said the most successful remnant of Gaddafi’s regime, ‘trying to exploit [it] now and we are ready to deter them, even with force’.

If that sounds familiar, so it should do. Back in February last year, Gaddafi responded to the uprising in Cyrenaica’s biggest city, Benghazi, with sentiments, if not language, that Jalil would no doubt recognise. He promised to ‘cleanse’ Libya ‘house by house’ and ‘exterminate’ all ‘the greasy rats’. Widely interpreted as the act of one intent on massacring his own people, Gaddafi’s speech provided the pretext for NATO to indulge in a bit of regime change, and provided Obama, Sarkozy, Cameron and pals with a stage on which to posture as the world’s good guys.

It’s a grisly turnaround. The guy drafted in to replace the guy who was threatening to use military force against his own people is now threatening to use military force against his own people. Not that Jalil’s violent estrangement from the Libyan people should be a surprise. He is an expression not of the popular will, but of the unpopular will, a cherrypicked front for the West’s intervening impulse. And this is the real reason why Jalil has shown himself to be such a zero: he consistently sought legitimacy not from the Libyan people themselves, but from their so-called liberators in the West.

Hero: David Moyes

Ten years ago this week, a young, fiery ginger nut called David Moyes walked out on to the pitch at Goodison Park to oversee his first game in charge of one of English football’s grand old clubs, Everton. Over 450 matches later, he is still there, less ginger maybe, but just as fiery and just as self-willed.

It has not always been an easy 10 years. At one point in the 2003/4 season it even looked like he could be about to take Everton, Wayne Rooney included, down a division for the first time since the 1950s. That didn’t happen. And by and large, Moyes has delivered moderate success: a few skirmishes with the ‘top four’, an FA cup final defeat, and a couple of near misses in the Europa league.

You wouldn’t know this, however, given the praise and plaudits that have been coming his way recently. In fact, listening to pundits falling over themselves to say what a wonderful job he has been doing, you could be forgiven for thinking that Moyes had been tremendously successful over the past 10 years. You could even be fooled into thinking that he had actually won something in his time at Everton. It’s a trick of the condescending. Because what is actually being praised is simply Moyes’ durability, the fact that he hasn’t been sacked.

And what makes Moyes a hero is that he knows this. He knows he is being patronised. He knows that longevity is not an achievement in itself. ‘I am quite embarrassed about the whole 10 years thing’, he said recently. ‘I don’t have a couple of trophies and a few medals to show people.’ And what’s more, he remains determined to be a winner proper. That doesn’t mean simply signing up to another team backed by a billionaire. It means recognising that club football is not a career ladder, or a carved-in-stone hierarchy, but a competition, an opportunity – and that no matter how unlikely it seems, real sporting achievement in football is still possible.

‘I’d like to think that football wasn’t always about spending money and that there could still be a bit of romance’, said Moyes recently. So here’s to somebody who just might still be able to knock a few of the Big Clubs off their perches. That really would be something to celebrate.

Tim Black is senior writer at spiked.


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