Anorak | Fabio Capello was a funny foreigner who didn’t undertand the superior English

Fabio Capello was a funny foreigner who didn’t undertand the superior English

by | 9th, February 2012

DO you know why Fabio Capello resigned as England manager? Is it because when the craven FA starts picking the team, the manger is done for? No. Hugh Muir knows. In a piece for the Guardian, Muir writes beneath the headline and teaser:

Fabio Capello failed to understand why John Terry’s trial matters

England’s landscape has changed since Stephen Lawrence was killed. Allegations of racism are taken seriously here now

Stephen Lawrence…? What’s the murder of a black teenager got to do with Capello?

So there goes Fabio Capello, and maybe that’s that for our bold experiment with foreign managers.

Because above all else Capello was a foreigner.

It wasn’t such a problem that Fabio is Italian.

Not such a problem… But still a problem.

Indeed, one can look with wonder at the speed with which he became able to deal with the media in English, given his lack of fluency at the outset.

A man reared in the cauldron of Italian and Spanish football knew how to handle the press. Wow!

He seemed able to blend into the system relatively well, with few arguments about club versus country during his tenure. Maybe there will be enduring benefits from the measured style of play he sought to impose, from the coaching regime he espoused. One would hope there will be some lasting benefit. We were paying him £6m.

We? Is it “we’ against the foreigner? Who are “we”? And lasting benefits? Is Muir serious. The FA sacked his captain on the weight of an allegation. They FA only acted after the alleged racism became a criminal matter. Suspicion was not enough until the police – and what an anti-racist outfit that is – said Terry had a case to answer.

But there is something significant about the manner of departure that’s worth flagging up as he packs his bags. It’s all very well looking abroad for the best talent. Commercial companies – not least the giants of the FTSE 100 – do it all the time. But when the job has a national and social significance, or just a lot of clout, isn’t it vital that those recruited have some understanding of, and ideally some sympathy with, the cultural landscape they encounter?

Commercial companies are not socially and culturally significant? ITV? The Financial Times? Manchester United? Luis Suarez? The Guardian? Are all home-reared public figures and members of public bodies sympathetic to the prevailing cultural landscape?

We have reached a state in our social evolution which is rightly the source of some pride. When there is overt racism, or sexism or homophobia, we take it seriously.

Overt racism will not be tolerated. Overt racism is unusual. The pernicious stuff that pervades the elite institutions can stay. Did you see many black faces at the Leveson Inquiry into media standards? Many black faces on the Royal Family’s balcony? Many Jews in the SNP?

I spent quite a lot of time at the end of the Stephen Lawrence trial telling radio interviewers that there has been a step change in British attitudes over the 18 years it took to bring Stephen’s killers to justice. And my argument was that one of the most obvious manifestations of that change was that when the England football captain stood accused of a single racist comment, the will of the people – as expressed by the judicial authorities – was that he should answer to that in court.

The judicial authorities reflect the will of the people? The police reflect the will of the people? Do they? Is anyone else picking up Muir’s theme: Capello – that funny foreigner – has no idea how racially tolerant and enlightened Britain is. Those foreigners knuckle-draggers have no ruddy idea. They can try but – tsk! – they will never be like us.

We are a far-from equitable society and as recession bites one sees challenges for cohesion, but our approach to serious allegations of discrimination represents progress many other societies have yet to achieve.

What was out approach. When Emma West was filmed madly ranting about the foreigners on a Croydon tram, members of British society took to twitter and called for her to be raped and murdered. Progress?

Contrast the accounts of black footballers playing in Italy’s Serie A with those who, by and large, are able to ply their trade in the Premier League and Football League without serial indignity.

Italy is rife with racism. It’s not that football is world apart – football relfect society at large. In Italy, children born to foreigners need to ask for Italian citizenship on heir 18th birthday. They ahve to prove they have lived legally in the country for 10 years. Being born in Italy is not enough to amke you an Italian. It was only ion 2001, that Fabio Liverani became the first black footballer to play for Italy. Mario Balotelli is the curent and only black face in the Azuri. His skill chips way at racism. The black lawyer does the same. The black doctor. As every ethnic minority should tell you: the one thing you can’t do is fail.

Muir goes on:

Capello presents as a decent man, but his hissy fit over the Football Association’s contention that John Terry – facing trial – should not carry the captain’s armband into the European championships, suggests that he had not been able or willing to adapt to the cultural landscape.

Does it? Does everyone in this cultural landscape think the FA was right to strip John Terry of his job?

The FA thought the charges serious enough to preclude Terry leading out the team.

Yep. The police charges. Not the alleged offence. The FA did not sack John Terry as soon as an allegation that he racially abused QPR’s Anton Ferdinand was made.

The FA knew that the press would regard the issue as important enough to merit repeated questioning. The press would have continued to pose those questions because readers – and it should be said, many black players – would have discerned a mixed message in leaving Terry’s status intact.

They left the status intact. The police and CPS’s decison to prosecute made them think again.

Capello wanted business-as-usual. That showed a profound misunderstanding of his surroundings. There will be other issues. Of course John Terry is innocent until proven guilty. Indeed he vehemently denies the charge.

Funny foreigners may not understand that concept of innocent until proven guilty. It’s an important one. Capello adapted to the cultural landscape, and showed signs that he indeed did get it. It’s just that the FA, police and CPS are so keen to present as decent institutions, masking reality behind an anti-racism agenda that demises football and the fans who watch it. If you want to be culturally sensitive, try better understanding football…

Posted: 9th, February 2012 | In: Sports Comments (4) | TrackBack | Permalink