Sunday 15 December 2019

Congrats, Yaya Toure, you deserve it

Football is a vision of excellence in this unhappy time of endless electioneering

Yaya Toure played a key role in Manchester City's title triumph
Yaya Toure played a key role in Manchester City's title triumph
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

LOOKS like they picked the wrong week to wind up the football season, with nothing but the thought of last night's Champions League final to get us through this unhappy time of incessant electioneering.

Watching those Prime Time debates, we were able to identify one of the many things that makes the old football so attractive, a simple and obvious thing perhaps, but one that is rarely mentioned – it presents us with visions of excellence.

These visions are to be found even in the more humble of Premier League games, moments when we know that we have seen something that we ourselves could never do, and thus in some small way our hearts are lifted.

The same might have been said about our politics, perhaps 70 years ago, when it was one of the few forms of entertainment available in Ireland, and its practitioners were obliged to have certain special talents such as the ability to speak in a very loud voice while standing on the back of a truck, to provide the people with some form of crude excitement before the age of television.

And we are not being unduly disparaging here. As Kingsley Amis explained, before the invention of television, and all that it can do, Thomas Hardy's Jude The Obscure might have been considered quite enjoyable. After it, not so much...

So during the last fortnight we have had to absorb the shock of withdrawal from a particularly absorbing Premier League, followed by the arrival of a form of drama in which the only truly engaging characters are the ones who are irretrievably barking mad.

It's been tough, but there has been some diversion with the announcement of Louis van Gaal as the new manager of struggling Manchester United. We know it is not possible for him to do much worse than David Moyes – indeed all our instincts tell us that he will do considerably better – and yet we wonder if any man can restore the aura of superiority created over many years by the strongman Ferguson.

The world has been laughing at United for a year now, and it could be a long way back from there. They have disgraced themselves on the ground and in the air, with fans hiring planes to "send a message" to various parties, a form of eejitry which reached impossible depths when a plane flew over Anfield to taunt Steven Gerrard about the fact that Manchester United had won the league on 20 occasions, whereas Gerrard had never won the league.

Thus their self-esteem had apparently been eroded to such an extent, they were comparing the entire history of their club with the career of one Liverpool player – bragging about it indeed.

Though weirdly, despite all the embarrassment, they are also finding it tough to say goodbye to this season, due to the unexpected pleasure they derived from Gerrard's mistake in the decisive match against Chelsea.

Indeed so special was this season, United fans would look to the Liverpool DVD for that one sweet moment, while the Liverpool fans, devastated that it got away from them in the end, would probably get the deepest satisfaction from watching the United DVD all the way through.

We can hardly hope for better in 2014/15, for the emergence of another great "character" such as Tim Sherwood at Tottenham, and yet the contribution of Yaya Toure last week seemed to suggest an almost unlimited vista.

With Manchester City still drunk on the delirium of another title, Yaya – or his agent – declared that he had been disrespected by the club, due to what he perceived as a failure to pay him all the tribute that was his due, on the occasion of his birthday.

If this had come from a star of a lesser branch of the entertainment industry, from a movie idol, for example, we would have considered it quite normal – we accept that people of great artistic talent may be profoundly sensitive, that despite their accomplishments and their massive wealth they may be plunged into despondency by what the average man might regard as a relatively slight offence.

Yet when a great footballer displays signs of "temperament" after a season of barn-storming achievement, we tend to think that he is being a tad unreasonable, and he may even be mocked – unlike, say, a Vladimir Putin or even some EU potentate who achieve nothing that is any good, yet who are constantly assured of their own magnificence by their drooling flunkies.

So rather than disrespecting Yaya Toure as others have done, personally I rejoice in the notion that some portion of my Sky subscription, however small, may be going to pay his wages of £18m a week or whatever it is – indeed my only regret is that I am not giving more. And I wish him the happiest of birthdays, from his many admirers here in Ireland.

We do indeed have to empathise with the man's grievance, because in all likelihood Yaya Toure and all the other Yayas will be keeping us going with their prodigious gifts during the World Cup and throughout the long season that follows, when everything else is about as exciting as a six-month-old election poster with a Hitler moustache on it.

We should be thanking him for putting it all in perspective.

Sunday Independent

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