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The Captain: Culture?
So the Football Association has revelead its cunning plan to force players and fans to behave better by 'addressing issues and incidents of discrimination in English football and encouraging greater inclusion across the game.'
But unlike the musings of Blackadder character Baldrick, this plan doesn’t involve a turnip, which is a shame because a turnip might do a better job of solving some of the game's biggest problems than either FIFA or the FA have.
Silly as that may sound, the FA has proved in the past that it is powerless to tackle any of the real issues that blight our most sacred sport, so why not hand the reigns over to Tony Robinson dressed as a vagrant wielding a root vegetable?
I’m talking about the news that, as of next season, foreign players landing on our fair shores will be subjected to a rigorous training program that will seem completely alien to anyone already living here: they will be forced to take ‘Culture Lessons.’
So the next French international signed by Monsieur Wenger will be encouraged to forget about Proust, Monet, existentialism, and Eric Cantona.
No, you must empty your mind of these things if you want to play in the Football League.
Who knows, it might even be a good idea. A player touching down in the rain at Heathrow seeking all the fame and fortune the Premier League offers will no doubt feel a little overwhelmed by the prospect of turning out in front of some of the most passionate fans in world football. A little background knowledge could make all the difference.
So in the spirit of the FA's plans, get out your exercise books and have your pens at the ready, because the following is my interpretation of what these so-called ‘Culture Lessons’ should include.
Firstly, forget your tapas and petit fours and dispense with moderate measures of wine and cognac. Any wannabe darling of the national sport will need to start developing an almost frightening thirst for beer, or at the very least the ability to consume huge amounts of some other form of high-powered alcohol (perhaps turps if they've already learned to 'do a Terry' and blown all their cash down the bookies).
Always remember, drinking dangerous quantities of cheap booze then eating a kebab is what makes Saturday nights out in the UK so unique.
If you can get yourself photographed falling out of a taxi, arguing with a bouncer, or picking a fight with someone half your size because they 'looked at your pint' or said your first touch was rubbish, then so much the better. No publicity is bad publicity, after all.
And while opposition supporters may hurl abuse (and the odd bottle) at you, the worse you behave the more your own supporters will love you. He's a rascal, they'll say, a cheeky chappie, a Jack the lad.
In fact, as a footballer you can get away with just about anything - even racially abusing someone live on TV in front of millions of people - just as long as you're not spotted chucking a bag of puppies into a canal. We're a nation of animal-lovers after all.
Oh what's the point? Let's face it, you don't really need culture lessons. All you need do is take a look at Joey Barton, now plying his trade across the Channel.
Joey perfectly encapsulates what it means to be British, and thanks to an extended spell in France he's probably succeeded in preventing any French club from ever signing another English player, just in case they too sport a Hitler-esque tash, a dodgy accent, and feel the need to lecture the world about how hard it is to be a multi-millionaire footballer with a penchant for using teenagers as ashtrays.
There are also examples out there of how not to act.
Upon arriving in England, ex-Manchester United midfield dynamo Ji Sung Park commented on the bizarre nature of our eating habits. Unable to fully acclimatise to what was a shattering culture-shock, the South Korean publicly declared baked beans to be the least edible foodstuff he had ever come across.
His remarks caused outrage, not least of all at the Heinz plant in Wigan, where crude effigies of Park were daubed with rancid bean juice and burned at the stake to chants of 'BEANS MEANS HEINZ, BEANS MEANS HEINZ.'
OK, so that didn't actually happen, but maybe he was on the right track.
We're becoming a nation of foul-mouthed beer-swilling fatties, stuffing our ungrateful faces with potato smilies and chicken nuggets while the rest of Europe looks in horror.
So instead of forcing foreign imports to eat like us, drink like us and think like us, we might be better off sorting ourselves out before we start lecturing the rest of the world.
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