I think it has become patently clear at this point that no matter old or ‘wise’ Jose Mourinho becomes, no matter how much experience he accumulates in the profession or even how many trophies he wins, the man will never be capable it seems, of accepting a defeat that wasn’t his fault with anything close to a shred of grace. It’s useful to realise that there exists absolutely no reason to sympathise with the Portuguese, there’s no way he doesn’t fully understand the drawbacks of his methodologies when it comes to speaking to the press and deflecting so blatantly from the performances of his team. The criticism he has, and will continue to receive for his ridiculous insinuation that the body of Premier League referees has intentionally affected the ‘title race’ this season, is well deserved and he knows it.
It’s also worth realising that criticism of Mourinho beyond the actual contents of his interviews is equally pointless. The endless waves of comments on social media deriding Mourinho for his arrogance or ‘lack of class’ are amusing within the context of their intense irony, given the majority of which are being posted by people for whom booing and screaming obscenities at referees is an integral stitch in the fabric of their social lives. They’re also kind of pathetic also, however, in their wilful naivety. Football clubs are such primitively tribal and mythologised entities, the idea that one club or fan base is demonstrably more ‘classy’ than another seems flawed to the point of total irrelevance.
And as for managers, it’s must be pretty close to a scientific fact that when you take a human working in such pressurised and emotional circumstances and force him to address the national media at least twice a week (unless his name is Carlo Ancelotti) eventually he is going to end up venting his frustrations in a less than venerable manner, and he is going to say something stupid. Even the current ‘darlings’ of the British football media, Brendan Rogers and Roberto Martinez have been fined in the past for suggesting referees have actively favoured the opposition. The only real difference I see with Mourinho and other coaches is that he not only understands, but embraces the hypocrisy and fickleness of the football viewing public – he doesn’t feel the need to hold back or portray false reticence, when regardless of whatever comments he makes, in a week’s time the worst possible scenario it that they’ll have made it onto some sport writer’s laptop in a document called ‘all the stupid things Jose has said’.
The Champions League
But, anyway, with the league title now lost, in such dismally anticlimactic circumstances, full attention may turn to the Champions League and Tuesday night’s semi-final. Which is perfect news as far as I’m concerned, given, as I’ve written before, what makes the CL so brilliant for fans and so welcome a shift of focus at this time especially, is its ability to do away with all of the pettiness and melodrama that comprises the narrative we spin around this sport. When these games kick off, everybody can forget club rivalries, and press conferences and all the desperately contrived subplots we read, as all of the usual emotions that fill up a stadium are displaced by pure and unadulterated hope.
Of course it’s a real shame now for Chelsea fans that next weekend’s game at Anfield won’t carry the implications and the consequences of an epic, title deciding contest. There will be a number of positives to look back on this season I’m sure, yet the fact it could’ve so easily ended with League success had we only managed to win our games against the smaller sides, will always be a cause for true regret. In a year where the Premier League has featured more poor sides than I can ever recall, to lose so many points to bottom half teams has been a real disappointment.
But, whilst a league title would’ve been great (and of course it would’ve been – this is not any kind of excuse), having the Champions League to focus solely upon instead is ultimately no bad thing. It is often said that league titles are the fairest measure of a side and consequently the most valuable/impressive accolade which a club can achieve. But whilst I respect the logic of this opinion, I don’t agree with it. League titles are special, but the basis of their significance subsumes ALL of the reasons why people watch football – including those which are not so noble.
If Chelsea and Liverpool had been effectively playing for the league next Sunday, Anfield would have been full of supporters not only desperate to see their team win, but also to see the opposition fail. The Vicente Calderon this Tuesday night however, will host no such malignity – instead, just two groups of people, in love with their football teams and desperate to see them succeed, for no other reason than the glory of victory and the joy it will cause, which is football precisely as it should be.
I’ve seen Chelsea storm to league titles, and I’ve seen them clinch it on the final day – both are wonderful memories and were fantastic at the time, but neither come close to the victories we’ve had in the Champions League, in terms of the emotion and the pride they elicited. The league always seemed like a long-shot this season for whatever reasons and I’m certain we’ll win it again very soon anyway. But though this weekend’s capitulation was painful, I’d consider it a small price to pay for the opportunity to reach another Champions League Final and for a potential repeat of Munich 2012.
So, chin-up comrades, the two biggest games of our season are still yet to take place. And if you’re still fed up about Saturday’s loss, or the league title slipping or Mourinho’s ridiculous comments, rest assured, on Tuesday, none of it will be relevant, and a positive result will erase the disappointment completely. These Champions League games are the true of pinnacle of Chelsea fan culture. They are what it’s all about. Enjoy the game…