Wednesday, 17 October 2007

An altogether more unpleasant troublemaker in football

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
British journalist.
But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there's
no occasion to.
(Humbert Wolfe)

An Alisher Usmanov update for you.

This delightful fellow who I mentioned a while back, who is so keen to buy up Arsenal Football Club, has announced himself "very surprised by the hostility" he has met with in the UK and has launched a media charm offensive. Something a little tricky for a man naturally stronger on the offensive than on the charm. (Google a photo if you've never seen him... I can't bring myself to befoul my own blog with his toadlike visage.) Anyway Usmanov invited a selection of journalists from major British papers on a paid for jolly involving private jets, 5* hotels, lavish dinners, wine, and (curiously) big coffee table books on Russian art.

Luckily these upstanding gentleman of the press defended those noble British values integrity and journalistic impartiality. No? what can you mean? This case to me reveals the profound and unpleasant malaise in our societies whereby if you are rich enough, it really doesn't matter what you do, how, and to whom. Can we throw him to the enraged and slavering Napoletani, please? Happily Craig Murray's website is now back online, so at least someone is putting an alternate perspective out there.

Of coure, I am not an expert on Uzbekistan. I have read newspaper articles on the country and on Russian politics, and formed my own opinions accordingly. In my judgement, Murray's arguments have been more convincing than anything I've read on the other side. That's not to say that Murray must automatically be followed in everything he has to say; I'm not in a position to scrutinise the evidence myself. But from being an issue about football club ownership - one which I happen to think is extremely important but which I accept is not necessarily of interest to all - it has become one of freedom of speech, and openness of debate. And that matters to all of us.


Paul de Man said...

Ogden Nash, I thought.

Spangly Princess said...

apparently not, PdM, though it has been attributed to all sorts of people. Wolfe is the person most often cited on t'interweb however.

ursus arctos said...

The coffee table book gambit is not as unusual as it may seem. I will admit to having received several myself under somewhat different circumstances. The idea seems to be to convince the visitor that the giver is a person/corporation/institution of refined tastes and erudition, and one committed to using their wealth in the noble support of deserving cultural institutions.

Spangles may have encountered a vaguely similar (and to me equally disquieting) phenomenon in which well-to-do Italians seek to write off the costs of Christmas parties and the like by having a sincere appeal for funds for a suitably worthy charity made by a serious looking functionary full of tales of woe at some point in the festivities.

Personally, I find Usmanov to closely resemble Jabba the Hutt (not only in terms of physical characteristics), and therefore see him as a near perfect candidate for the chairmanship of that particular football club.

de vertalerin said...

I assumed the coffee table art books were a subtle reference to his habit of buying up and repatriating Russian art.

What is it toads? Avram Grant looks like one, too. Though actually those particular features look a hell of a lot better on toads.

I'm going to ignore Ursus' last comment.