The year is 1986....and I am ten years old.
Cable television has landed in Great Britain for the first time, swelling the tv channel choice from our paltry 4 to about 50..albeit that 20 of these are in French, Italian or Spanish. Not much use to a young English lad from a council estate.
What it did do though was feed my obsession with "The Game"
For the first time we got to see live Serie A games. I became seduced by Juve, as I disliked Maradona at the time (Hand of God blah blah blah) and as a result wanted Napoli to lose. I saw parallels with the Turin club to that of my own. I cannot say i supported them..for i only support one team! But it was more like a school boy crush.
Through out the 1980s one thing was missing in English football...it was just TOO English. Crap stadiums and violent crowds detracted any sophistication away from the sport. We were an island nation behind a sheet of glass...looking outward. What we saw was great football, interesting punchlines to well written footy scripts. Dazzling skills. 30 yards screamers. Trophies galore. Of course, Heysel robbed us of European competition for 5 years (a necessary sentence at the time) and we all felt a bit hard done by. Our league was dominated by a boring nemesis of "1-0" Liverpool with the odd title from flair driven Everton, and "nearly as boring as Liverpool" Arsenal. The offside trap was about as tactical as it got!
It was hard times and hard watching.
With the advent of the Premiership we saw our first real influx of foreigners. Many bemoaned that they were here "to make a quick buck at the end of their careers" as most of them were in their 30s. And in many ways they were partly right. But what it gave us was an inlet. A route through the sheet of glass surrounding us. A sporting Channel Tunnel as such. Europe realised that we didn't all eat fish and chips daily (just on Fridays!) and that the shops in London were "quite good". That not all English players were alcoholic beer monsters, mainly because Tony Adams and Paul Merson had drank the country dry on their own. And that our fans were reformed, amazingly due to the fact that we were forced to sit on our bums to watch our game rather than stand. It was an eye opener, and our Britpop country was considered cool.
I am writing this article and little history lesson because I am genuinely worried about the future plans in place for the game, considering the "restriction of foreigners" rulings. I do not sit in the camp that believes that foreign players have destroyed our national game by not allowing inferior English "talent" to show that they are actually rubbish (See Wiki for "Jody Morris") I think they have enriched us...everyone of them. Even Thomas Brolin when he signed for Leeds United & Crystal Palace, only for him to discover crisps and Fanta rather than score goals. It is also a restriction of freedom of movement and trade, but it seems that UEFA cares not about Democracy (mainly because they are entrenched in a more Imperialist time place)
But lets not get political! Because it clouds the issue.
Whatever the rule may be (7+4, 6+5, 10+whatever..), any restriction I feel will detract from quality. Luckily, my club would have less problems than others. We all know that Arsenal are more French than The Eiffel Tower. But I hate the idea that someone, somewhere will go "You cant sign him 'cos you've got that Serbian", or "Oh we will have to get that average English lad in, cos we cant sign that great Brazilian" Maybe its just because i support Manchester United. But I actually think we would suffer less than the Bolton Wanderers and Portsmouths of this world. So it is the game that loses out, not my team.
I understand some of the logistics of the proposed rules. But I remember sitting watching Serie A in 1986....ENVIOUS. I do not want that envy back. When Italy had all the great foreigners nobody cared..maybe now it's a Platini conspiracy to stop England's dominance of the Champions League last 4? How would he have felt to be told he could not play for Juve just because he was born on the wrong side of a border?
It is like all those that say "it was so much better when we only had the BBC rather than all these channels and Internet"
They will be forever wrong.
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