In 1989 Chimurenga music guru Thomas Mapfumo gave the Nation of Zimbabwe one of his best offerings. He titled it “Varombo Kuva Rombo.” It was a hard hitting song which captured the economic disparities which were becoming more and more evident with each passing year in the young Nation’s life. Nine years after gaining a hard earned independence which came at the cost of thousands of lives, the yawning gap between the poor and the rich remained glaring and kept widening.
As a social commentator, Mapfumo had a moral obligation to remind the leaders of their pre independence promises, promises of a more equitable society where the aspirations of all were met . ” Varombo kuVarombo, Vapfumi KuvaPfumi, ndivo magariro atisangade…..The poor to the poor , the rich to the rich, this is not the kind of society we want!” he sang. The song captured the hearts and minds of many for indeed it spoke truth to power.
The past three days have been dramatic in the world of football and the events reminded me of the title of Mapfumo Song. What the Super 12 clubs who are now being labelled the ” Dirty Dozen ” sought to do was to create the kind of society which Mapfumo sang against. Yes it is a football world but the principle is the same, ” Varombo kuvarombo, Vapfumi Kuvapfumi , The Poor stay with the poor, the rich stay with the rich !” Led by the aristocrats of European football, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs, Manchester City, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan desired an exclusive league which would fill their deep pockets with rich pickings . This league was to be extended later to fifteen clubs and was to be known as the European Super League.
A look at the mouth watering figures reveals what was at stake and why the clubs were so determined to break away from the Uefa sanctioned Champions League and form this new Super league. The founding members were supposed to share £3 billion pounds . Apparently their was another pot of £2,66 billion prize money at the end of the season. According to reliable sources, these clubs would emerge from this arrangement have earned between £130 and £213 million. By any stretch of the imagination, this money would make a difference to these clubs. Clubs like Barcelona are said to be on the verge of bankruptcy, and as they say , every little helps.
The move was however roundly condemned by UEFA, FIFA and more so by the Football Association of England. UEFA President Aleksender Cefrin called it a “Spit in the face!” and branded the Juventus Chairman who made the announcement Andrea Agnelli , “a snake in the grass and a liar “. He threatened to ban the clubs and to stop the players from participating in the European competitions and the FIFA World Cup.
Gary Neville who is now a Sky Pundit came out with all guns blazing. He condemned the owners of clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal as ” a greedy lot, they are bottle merchants!” In his view , the new owners whom he called ” imposters !”, did not understand the traditional values of these clubs and were simply making cold business decisions which were stealing the soul of football. ” There are 100 odd years of football in this country with fans, they need protection, the fans need protecting !” he seethed.
The fans came on board. Having been wiped into a frenzy by the media and the powerful institutions like the FA and Uefa, they turned against their clubs. Belatedly , they all unanimously started questioning the very ownership of their clubs. They held banners proclaiming ” Fans before Cash !” ” Football Belongs to the US not to U!”
I find this interesting because when owners such as Roman Abramovich came into the league, the fans welcomed them . Many fans up and down the country suddenly wanted a rich owner who could invest millions into their club and bring in the best players. They forgot that no one comes into football for charity, they also want to make money even with these pet projects. And yes , very few fans questioned how the likes of Roman made their money, how they took advantage of a crumbling Soviet system and the introduction of glasnot and prestroika bought assets at a song and made billions . These owners are not philanthropists , they are hard nosed business people and any opportunity which arises to make more money will be grabbed. The European Super League was one such opportunity.
Fair enough, Roman Abramovich has been good to Chelsea but he is not running a charity. At one point he will want to recoup his huge investment into the club and while the ESL has been put on the back burner, one cannot rule out future forays in to the world of football global capitalism.
In the end the fans spoke with one voice. The clubs bit a hasty retreat and Andrea Agnelli who had earlier announced the new league said the project would not proceed though he still believed in the ” beauty of the project”. The Chief Executive of AC Milan said, “The voices and the concerns of fans around the world have been clearly been expressed!” The owner of Liverpool Football club John Henry apologised for , “chaos which i have caused in the past 48 hours ”
The project failed because it was built on sand . The rock which could have made it a success , the trust of the fans was lacking. The fans opposition was too much for the clubs to bear. The Voice of the people is the voice of God! The owners have listened. A victory for democracy, yes maybe, but for how long?
As long as the owners of the clubs have a majority share holding in these clubs, then maybe this is just a temporary victory!