In need of a Ruud awakening

The Champions League will founder because the teams don't hate each other enough.

Patrick West
Columnist

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Topics Politics
  • In need of a Ruud awakening

People tend to hate Manchester United for insincere reasons. They say that the club is flash and conceited, its supporters arrogant – and not from Manchester anyway. Well, for flash, let’s talk Chelsea. For arrogant fans, I give you Arsenal. And despite the fact that the club has many followers from all around England and the world, most people in Manchester do actually follow United. Even in the playground across the road from Maine Road you will see children sporting those red colours.

There really is no need for such dishonesty from the anti-Man U camp. Fifteen years ago we all hated Liverpool because they were the best team. There’s nothing shameful in admitting this. It’s called envy. In the world of football, which is not real life – more an avenue in which childish emotions can and should be channelled – it is perfectly acceptable.

So I thought United’s humbling at the hands of Real Madrid last week particularly amusing. I wish their speedy exit from the competition in the replay. Not so much because I can’t stand the Red Devils – but because the Champions League is a far more loathsome and foolish institution, and the sooner United are saved from it, the better.

Years ago, the European Cup was a simple set-up in which champions of respective domestic leagues played each other in a knock-out competition. Since the 1990s, it has metamorphosed into this bloated ‘Champions League’, in which many teams from respective countries can now compete. UEFA’s thinking is that we in Europe are all coming closer together, and that as a consequence, a pan-national league competition will supplant the likes of Serie A and the Premiership.

Is this really what football fans want? Rivalry is football’s main ingredient. If opposing fans can’t taunt each other, or if you can’t rib your pals on Monday morning following a result – or put laxatives in his coffee, or slash the tyres of his car – there is little joy to be had from a game. United fans are never going to build up heated rivalries with the likes of Real Madrid, Ajax or Olympiakos. After a couple of seasons, they will they come back crying from the Champions League, wishing to get stuck back in to those passionate encounters with Liverpool and Leeds.

Earlier this week, Michael Platini said he would abolish the competition’s league format, returning it to a knock-out system, if he became president of UEFA. He needn’t be in any hurry. If the European Union (EU) is going to fall apart because we don’t like each other enough, the Champions League will founder because we don’t hate each other enough. They will both collapse because we don’t all speak the same language. It is thus imperative that United get a ‘Ruud’ awakening for the replay.

  • The Right to kill

Conservatives traditionally pride themselves in upholding the sacrosanctity of the individual; that he or she is not to be seen as a cog in a machine called society. Conversely, the liberal left is more prone to argue that the needs of the commonwealth are paramount, that in the case of, say, tax redistribution or racial quotas on public bodies, the public good overrides the concerns of the mere citizen.

How odd then to see how polarities have switched during the Iraq war. Now we have the likes of UK development secretary Clare Short saying ‘I do not think that the death of any human being is a price worth paying’, a sentiment echoed by countless anti-war protestors. With pictures of bloodied Iraqi civilians in mind, they tell us that this liberation can never be legitimised, because people have been maimed and killed. Yet the sentiment on the right is that these deaths were a necessary evil. The amount of casualties in this conflict, they say, is offset by the greater amount of lives that ‘would have been lost’ had Saddam been left in place.

When it comes to state-sanctioned killing, it seems that the left becomes individualist and the right adopts utilitarianism. It’s not as strange a turnaround as one might think. Capital punishment has in recent years always been favoured by the right and frowned upon by the left – but for opposite reasons. Conservatives use the individualist argument: people must take responsibility for their crimes. The liberal left largely resorts to utilitarianism: capital punishment is not a deterrent.

Does this mean that conservatives are simply more bloodthirsty people, who will employ any philosophy to achieve their ends? Are lefties anti-killing per se?

It’s an irrelevant dichotomy. While the greatest mass murderers of the twentieth century were divided as to whether they believed in Communist collectivisation or Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer, more tellingly, they were united in their belief that there is no such thing as the individual.

  • Fishy dogma

In the fantasy world of animal rights activism, we see a heady stew of both these political philosophies. This week, Volkert van der Graaf was sent to jail for the murder of the Dutch populist Pim Fortuyn. Graaf’s sole motive, according to the prosecution, was his concern that Fortuyn would lift a ban on breeding animals for fur.

It’s a fitting indictment of the animal rights movement, which in a strange reversal of historical perceptions, and not to mention scientific reality, regards animals as mini-individuals and human beings as unthinking wretches. Their view of animals is anthropomorphic; their perception of humans is zoomorphic. They shove in our faces photos of sad little doggies with electrodes stuck to their heads, or leaflets on how poor Mr Fish doesn’t like having a hook through his gills. At the same time, they regard scientists, meat-eaters or anyone vaguely unafflicted by their daft Disneyfied view of the world as stupid, unthinking sadists.

In their minds, we are sheep. At worst, we are lambs to be slaughtered.

Patrick West is the author of Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes it Really is Cruel to be Kind, Civitas, 2004. Buy this book from Amazon (UK).

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