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Long-form soccer essay

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by verbalkint, Mar 14, 2008.

  1. verbalkint

    verbalkint Member

    Hello all.

    Figured I've done some editing here, and it's about time I open myself up to the same.

    This is my latest essay for my blog. Longest and hardest thing I've written by some measure. At the moment I really like it, although invariably I'll read it a week from now and say, "What the hell was that?"

    When I like my work, it scares me, because if people don't like it, than not only can't I write, I have bad taste. To avoid an eyesore situation, I've posted the prologue and Part I of the three-part piece. (At the bottom I'll link to my blog if anyone feels like going deeper.)

    Without further ado.

    Arsenal FC – The United Nations of Football

    Prologue – Come gather ‘round people

    If you looked for the center of the world between 1500 and 2000 A.D., you could’ve done worse than North London.

    On the first day of October, 1884, it was made official. The 25 countries doing the most international business created the Prime Meridian. Though sailors had already followed it for some time, from that day forward modern man would tell time and his place in the world by where he was in relation to an imaginary line that ran through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. (For the purposes of this essay, you’ll do well to remember that France abstained from the vote and did not play along until 1911.)

    But the times, they are a’ changin’. Literally. The earth tilts on its axis and swings in its orbit, always losing a battle to gravity and slowing down. We use atomic time now, far more precise, and we add leap seconds when needed. The Royal Observatory and its imaginary line are quaint symbols of a bygone era.

    I’ve got a map on my wall. A big, flat thing, a few feet across. In the center floats the Queen’s island. And there, in its southeast corner, where the Thames drains toward Europe, sits London.

    We know the earth is not flat, not when seen from a distance. But it’s hard to imagine. Up close, from here on the ground, you can’t see the curve. And to you it seems like the center of the world is where you’re born, where you are or whereever it is you're going next.

    How many of us can look at a big flat map and see it all at once? How many of us can look at a flat horizon and imagine something beyond it?


    Part I – The young cartographers of North London

    The curve

    If you were looking for the center of the football world, still today, you could do worse than North London.

    There’s dispute over which building exactly, but you could hazard a guess at the pub where a group of competitive men held meetings in the fall of 1863. Over some number of pints, they wrote most of the rules to the modern game of football. (The rougher of them split off to form rugby, and their misshapen ears would never forgive them.)

    If you stood outside that same pub today you could, with a bit of luck and the wind at your back, kick a ball and watch it roll and carom into the neighboring borough of Islington, to the district of Holloway, and up to the gates of Emirates Stadium. That’s where they are. You might consider them just a team, and him no more than a manager. And if, at the end of this writing, you remain convinced that they are and he is, so be it.

    But I believe Arsenal Football Club and its French coach, Arsene Wenger, are something more. I struggle to find an apt label for them. I don’t know how large a force they have been, or can be. All of that is left for history.

    I believe, though, that they perform some act beyond football. And that they are actors beyond players and coach, and that their field of play extends beyond North London, and, indeed, beyond the field of play. It’s a bit abstract. And yet I have faith.

    After all, I can’t see the curve of the earth. But I believe it’s there.

    This is a story about a revolution.


    From bad to tragic

    Sometime during the 16th century, we started to get a pretty good idea of what the earth looked like. Couple oblong landmasses running east to west, each stretching south where — through Panama in the West and Egypt in the South — they connected to oblong landmasses that ran north to south. Sprinkle a couple hundred islands, including a couple just off France’s west coast, and that’s pretty much everything that’s floating out there.

    I’m in awe of the ancient cartographers, whose endless series of perilous explorations, precise measurements and long-hand calculations produced drawings that hardly anyone believed. More awesome, though, is their accuracy. When we finally got far enough away from earth to get a good look, it turns out that some of them were pretty close.

    But the cartography that took place in the last 200 years has been less impressive. Since we figured out what the landmasses looked like, we began to divide them with imaginary lines. We called them countries, colonies, protectorates. Just as post-Columbus mapmaking succeeded, post-Napoleon mapmaking failed.

    How stunned the Pamlico Native Americans would have been to learn that not only had they been living in the colony of North Carolina, but they’d all be dead before it got statehood. Think of the reaction of an enormous chunk of West Africa, occupied by speakers of 450 different languages, at an announcement made with a British accent in 1914.

    “From this day forward, you are Nigerians.” (Clears throat.) “Yes, all of you.”

    Israel. Iraq. Serbia, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Liberia, not to mention the rest of Africa.

    Perhaps no one carved up and labeled more land than the Brits, who thought themselves a benevolent force. Though their hearts were usually in the right place, their lines were not, and the results have ranged from bad to tragic. As it turns out it’s hard to draw an imaginary line, and harder still to see it.


    Fish and guests

    To tell the story of Arsenal’s team is to tell the story of different places.

    Consider Francesc Fabregas. The lynchpin midfielder, only 20, is by some measure the most exciting thing to come out of the sleepy Spanish village of Arenys del Mar. Were he not able, and willing, to complete a pass to any player at any time, Fabregas would likely work at the docks of this tiny fishing outpost.

    Consider Robin Van Persie. The mercurial striker, 24, hails from Arenys del Mar’s antonym, the massive port city of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Again, it’s likely he’d be loading or unloading boats if he didn’t have a vicious left foot.

    It’s an interesting dichotomy. But some places demand closer inspection.

    Emmanuel Adebayor, 23, is a lanky striker from Lome, Togo. After curing his longstanding case of the goalmouth yips, Adebayor has used this season to produce a carbon copy of the fantastic season Didier Drogba had last year, 25 yard volleys and all.

    Togo is a doomed little strip of land wedged between Benin and Ghana. Only 31 miles wide and 100 miles long, a determined American tourist family could cover the whole of Togo in one day. But why would they?

    A former German colony, it went to the French under the Treaty of Versailles. After France relinquished control in 1960 Togo elected its first president, the Brazilian-born Sylvanus Olympio. The president sought a friendship with the young American, John F. Kennedy.

    Eleven months before Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas, Olympio was hunted down and killed outside the American Embassy in Lome. His assassination marked Africa’s first post-independence military coup.

    Olympio’s brother-in-law Nicolas Grunitzky, who played no part in the coup, took over. But when Grunitzky allowed multi-party democratic actions to resume, he was deposed by the same group that had killed Olympio. (Grunitzky opted to avoid the bullet, and the coup was bloodless.)

    In Grunitzky’s wake, power fell to a single man: Gnassingbe Eyadema, one of Olympio’s assassins. Sadly, Eyadema was kind of an asshole.

    He took power in 1967. In a move that would have drawn admiration from his American counterpart, Dick Nixon, Eydema sufficiently disbanded all political opposition by the time another election was held in 1972. As the only name on the ballot, Eyadema got 90 per cent of the vote, and all tyrannical hell broke loose.

    Since ’72 there has been much Togolege fear and loathing of Eyadema, mostly because his thugs left hundreds of bodies on the campaign trail.

    Sylvanus Olympio’s son, Gilchrist, rose to prominence as an opposition candidate before the 1993 election. In a terrifying episode of de ja vu, Eyadema’s son, Ernest Gnassinbe, led a group of men as they made an attempt on Gilchrist’s life, effectively scaring the young Olympio off to France.

    Eyadema went on the win the 1993 election, with a post-election analysis finding that ballot boxes had been stuffed with the names of dead voters. (Campaign slogan: “Vote Eyadema, or else you’re dead, and then you’ll be dead and still vote Eyadema!”)

    Eyadema won every election he ever ran, right up until his death in February of 2005.

    His death brought on another Togolese tweak on democracy, when the army bypassed the constitution and installed — you guessed it — one of his sons, Faure Gnassinbe. When Gnaissnbe’s appointment was contested he threw together a quicky election, to be held only a couple months later. (Comparatively, Ponce de Leon landed in Florida 487 years before its chads were hung.)

    Amid echoes of his father’s tactics, Gnassinbe won that election thanks to hundreds of thousands of votes — in a country of only five million — from people who do not exist.

    During his 38 years in power Eyadema allowed his country to be significantly isolated and sanctioned toward its economic death. By the mid-90s Togo’s economy was almost entirely based on fishing and farming. (Apparently they missed out on the dotcom boom.)

    We can romanticize fishing as much as we want, but I hope no one holds any illusions about the reality of plantation work. By the way, in the deep waters off Lome, fisherman pull up a good number of white fish, shrimp and, for a while, the corpses of Eyadema’s political enemies. Two other wrenches thrown into Togo’s economic future: 1.) its education system’s not too big on teaching womenfolk to read, and 2.) Togo’s HIV-AIDs strategy seems to be quiet denial.

    And I would never have accused Eyadema of arms trafficking and trading in blood diamonds. No, no. Not while he was still alive. And I wouldn’t worry about what his kids will do with the country’s newfound oil wealth. Not at all.

    Back to young Mr. Adebayor. The son of Nigerian immigrants, it’s likely that Adebayor’s father — an educated man who wanted his son to be a doctor — lived through his own country’s horrific internal strife in the late 60’s, only to find himself in the middle of Togo’s.

    After the 2005 elections, young protestors flooded the streets of Lome. Togolese security forces opened fire on the country’s youth in some cases, and in others executed dissidents with machetes or spiked clubs. We are not in Kansas anymore, Togo.

    Adebayor would have been 21 at the time of the protests.

    Given his charisma and reputation as an outspoken young man, unwilling to do as he’s told. . .where would Adebayor have been during that election year without his talent? Make your own judgments. But all the other indignant young men of his country? Togo’s next generation of free thinkers and revolutionaries? They’re all dead.

    From one of the most oppressive capitol cities on earth to one of the least: Tomas Rosicky, 28, was born in that European lighthouse of rebellion, Prague. While under German occupation during the Second World War, Prague was the site of two outrageous acts of revolt. First, the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, a chief Holocaust architect tipped as Hitler’s successor, by a pair of Czech dissidents.

    And then, in early May of 1945, the people of Prague heard that the Allies were slowly liberating Europe. Encouraged by the news, the Czechs would have known that any day Russian tanks would roll in and send the Germans running. But Prague decided not to wait, and over a period of days, liberated itself.

    These events were not out of Prague’s character. It seems to be a city of perpetual revolution. Liberal-minded writers and politicians of the 60’s sewed the seeds that would end Soviet rule, and the Czechs made good on those ideas in 1989 when half a million protesters filled the streets of Prague in the Velvet Revolution.

    Now, the Czech Republic finds itself in a renewed tug-of-Cold War between Russia and the United States. As Russia rearms itself on a grand scale and George W. Bush seeks to install a missile defense system in the Czech Republic, Prague is thumbing both of the traditional powers in the eye. While largely ignoring Putin’s Russia, the Czechs fought Bush’s radar plan for as long as they could. They’ll put it in, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some days they forget to turn it on.

    Recently, the Czechs became part of a growing European block that doesn’t even check for passports at the border.

    Aleksander Hleb, 27, was born in Minsk, Belarus, or, as I like to think of it, Little Moscow. Hleb is Rosicky’s midfield counterpart and absolute mirror in footballing terms: lithe, highly skilled, offensive minded, a smart distributor and hard worker who occasionally snaps off a goalbound shot. But while Hleb is left-footed, and Rosicky is right-footed, the politics of their respective countries are reversed. Rosicky’s Czech Republic trends toward the far left, while Hleb’s Belarus is leaning so far right it’s in danger of falling over.

    Belarus, decimated under German occupation during World War II, was liberated by the Russians in 1944 and never allowed to forget it. This substantial block of land was chipped off the Soviet Union in 1991, but when they pulled back the Iron Curtain, they found an aluminum one. Belarus remains under the Kremlin’s thumb to this day.

    The country has been handled, at least in theory, by Alexander Lukashenko since 1994. Lukashenko is not a tyrant, but he’s well on his way.

    He should have faced re-election in 1999, but decided to push the election back to 2001. He won reelection in the Putin-esque manner of limiting any serious opposition. Then, in 2004, he again meddled with the constitution, this time to allow himself to run for a third term. He won an election that was as transparent as the Berlin Wall.

    My brother-in-law is Polish, and he spent much of his youth driving a small car at high speed to different spots in central Europe. So I was stunned to learn that despite his proximity, he’d never once set foot in Minsk.

    “I would never go to that country and give my money to that government,” he said.

    And, indeed, the government is where the money goes. Lukashenko is systematically acquiring Belarussian businesses and covering his tracks by cracking down on the press. He’s also limiting political opponents as he builds toward absolute power.

    How bad is it? In my country, we’ve decided that the worst we’ll do is frown when an American burns his own flag. In Belarus, you can’t even wave the flag of the Belarusian People’s Republic, the short-lived democracy of 1918 that emerged during World War I. The Russians toppled that government and installed their own, and now you face a penalty if you so much as wave one of their flags in Minsk.

    By the way, some of the leaders of the Belarusian People’s Republic escaped capture and formed a government in exile. It still exists today, right where they formed it all those years ago, in Prague.

    . . .

    War and peace

    Phillipe Senderos, 23, was born in Geneva, Switzerland. Senderos is an enormous defender, only slightly smaller and bulkier than the Alps.

    Ah, the Swiss. Nice to get away from all that revolution and war, right? Here you can be taken in by the charm of fine watches, diplomacy and skiing.

    Switzerland gained its independence from the Romans in 1499, and for the last 500 years has basically asked the rest of Europe to leave it the hell alone. But, it’s offered itself as a mediator and a gracious host. The League of Nations was based in Geneva, as is its offspring, the United Nations, and a handful of well-meaning non-governmental organizations.

    You’ll be surprised to learn that military service is mandatory for the Swiss. At age 19, each male must enlist and serve for at least 260 days. I assume those 260 days are spent learning how to ski very fast.

    Nicklas Bendtnder, 20, hails from Copenhagen, Denmark. Copenhagen, a city of just a million people, can claim two of the smarter humans in the last couple hundred years. Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th century philosopher, and one of his fans, Niels Bohr, 20th century physicist.

    Kierkegaard was an advocate for the separation of church and state. He went beyond that by some degree when he argued that the church itself, even filled with parishioners, was a vacant institution. It says something for the Danish that Kierkegaard died of natural causes.

    Kierkegaard’s collected writings allowed him to have a postmortem conversation with the German Fredrich Nitzche. Bohr, the physicist, was able to have a real, live conversation with a German heavyweight: Albert Einstein. Einstein was known to be personable, but Bohr would have been one of the few people he’d ever met with whom he could really lock eyes and feel understood.

    How brilliant was Bohr? Not only did he win a Nobel Prize for physics, his son did. (What have you and your dad done?)

    Other than these intellectual giants, that’s about it for Denmark. Like Switzerland it has compulsory military service for males and like Switzerland it doesn’t make war. It’s been a long time since there was something rotten in the state of Denmark.

    In polls that rank the most livable cities in the world, Geneva and Copenhagen consistently rank in the top five.

    From two of the most peaceful cities in the world, let’s go to two of the least.

    If you don’t know the Ivory Coast’s history, here’s the short version: take Togo, change the name of the military dictator, and add a large, well-armed opposition in the country’s North, and shake well.

    Habib Kolo Toure, 27, and Emmanuel Eboue, 23, are among the litany of West African players who stopped off Belgium to tryout for professional teams, before eventually being routed throughout Europe to prestigious clubs. Eboue and Toure left Cote d’Ivoire — though I prefer the term “escaped” — in 2002, just when the country’s civil war was “ended” for about the fifth unsuccessful time. Its embers are still flickering.

    Here’s where we pivot into the surreal. Eboue, a Christian, was born in Abidjan, the capitol city a, an expanding metropolis, home to the country’s administration, three million of its people, and a growing number of armed street gangs.

    Toure, a Muslim, was born in Bouake, the stronghold and de facto capitol of the Rebel North. Yes, that’s right. For large chunks of his time at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has started, in tandem, two centerbacks who represent opposing sides of Cote d’Ivoire’s Civil War.

    And if you’re wondering about the Ivory Coast’s policy for military conscription, it goes like this: if you can hold it, you can shoot it.

    How bad is it in Cote d’Ivoire? Toure and Eboue impressed at their tryouts in Belgium, but others who were not so prodigious simply refused to go back home when they were dismissed. Many of them ended up working as prostitutes.

    Wenger has also founded his success on a number of French players. He has an affinity for those who’ve passed through the Clairfontaine, which is sort of like saying you like to buy your art at the Lourve.

    But Wenger’s brightest, fastest shooting star today is teenage phenom Theo Walcott, born about 15 tube stops away from Emirates Stadium in Northwest London.

    Arsenal FC are a collection of 35 men from 18 countries. To spell their names you’ll need seven accent marks, an umlaut, an L with a stroke and an A with a ring. They hail from seven capitol cities, one rebel capitol and the capitol of a government in exile. They’ve come from the Gulf of Guinea, the Bight of Benin, the Baltic, the Mediterranean, both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of a Civil War. From the wildly integrative Paris and Prague to the line-in-the-sand divided Ivory Coast.

    We know how they got to North London; their skills carried them. But who brought them there? And why?

    . . .

    The roots of tolerance

    Consider Arsene Wenger, 58, born in Stasbourg, four years after liberation, three years into the Fourth Republic and nine years before the birth of the Fifth. Wenger saw rapid changes in his country. Most notably France renounced its colonial role in Africa and was on the leading edge of the African independence movement.

    But this came only after a bloody battle for Algerian independence. The Algerian War was a bad war, fought badly, and it taught France what America did not learn from Vietnam: war is hell, and should be avoided. Since that time, France has made limited military moves: protecting Kuwait in the first Gulf War, hunting terrorists in Afghanistan, and a vital peacekeeping role in the Ivory Coast.

    After decolonization, France made significant steps to the left politically, though not without a bit of poking from its youth. In 1968, when Wenger was 19, France was a thunderhead of rebellion. In May of that year, one month after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination touched off nationwide riots in America, French student and worker protests called for civil rights, fair treatment of workers and the ouster of Le General, Charles de Gaulle.

    Though they failed in overthrowing de Gaulle, he stepped down a year later.

    By 1977, when Wenger was a 28-year-old professional benchwarmer in Strasbourg, France had pulled up all of its flags save for the one in Paris and a handful of peaceful, near-autonomous colonies. Today France is so far removed from its colonial past that it doesn’t take an ethnic count in its census.

    But even if Wenger had embraced civil rights and rejected racism, there are further explanations to why he might embrace a multinational football team.

    France’s greatest player of the 1980’s was the decidedly unFrench-sounding Michel Platini, a curly-haired midfielder whose parents were Italian. Its greatest talent in the 1990’s was the even-less-French-sounding Zinedine Zidane, a Muslim, the son of Algerian immigrants. Its greatest player in the new millennium is forward Thierry Henry, whose parents emigrated from two of the remaining French colonies, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

    Though he’s flourishing at Barcelona, Henry’s finest years came as the conductor of Wenger’s symphony in North London. But for all his wizardry, his best move came off the field. He’s the head of Stand Up Speak Up, Nike’s anti-racism foundation. (Let’s be clear: Henry did not just lend his name to Stand Up Speak Up. It was his idea, and will define his post-career life.)

    As players of foreign ancestry, Henry and Zidane are not the exception on the French national team. Since it was integrated in 1931, the team has progressively grown more accepting of foreign players. The 2006 squad which reached the World Cup Final was largely built on men of African and Carribean descent, along with the Algerian Zidane and Vikhash Dhorassoo, whose ancestors were Indian. And among the white players of French ancestry was Franck Ribery, a converted Muslim. (It is believed that France’s population could soon be 15 per cent Muslim, but who’s counting?)

    And it may turn out that another convert is Wenger’s greatest achievement, as a coach or as a man. While at Monaco, Wenger signed an unknown young forward, one who bore a most unfortunate label: African Muslim.

    George Weah, then 22, had torched Liberian and Cameroonian defenses in his young career. But, given the dearth of top drawer African players, it was unclear how his skill would translate in Europe.

    Well, 55 goals at Monaco, 53 more at Paris St. Germain, 58 more, and a World Player of the Year Trophy at AC Milan. . . translation? Se magnifique.

    Weah’s success gave him great opportunity. At one point, when Liberia was a shitstorm of bullets and its government in shambles, Weah was funding the national team out of his own pocket. Weah’s generosity, as a wealthy man in a country — hell, a region — of little wealth, is legendary. I can offer a personal anecdote.

    My girlfriend’s brother teaches at the same school as a Liberian who is close friends with Weah. Some years back, Weah bought this friend a car. When it broke down, he did it again. And again.

    Weah can also be held up as a symbol for religious unity. (Which trails only education, food, malaria nets, and anti-retrovirals on Africa’s wish list.) As an adult, Weah converted from Islamic faith to Christianity, though without bitterness.

    “It’s not good for Muslims and Christians to fight each other,” Weah said. “We are one people.”

    Though they parted ways with George’s move to Paris, the Liberian player and his French coach remain close to this day.

    “Wenger made me not just the player I am today, but the man I am,” Weah said.

    If the roots of intolerance are easily traced — a violent episode, a stirring speech of vitriolic undertones, or even overtones — than the roots of tolerance are much subtler, and nearly invisible. The thread of acceptance is sewn with a fine needle.

    Is it a decision? Or is it the lack of a decision? “When did you begin not to hate?”

    . . .

    Thanks for reading, and edits are welcome. Parts II and III can be found at http://mikemullensblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/arsenal-fc-united-nations-of-football.html
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I don't want to sound mean, but I couldn't get past the third 'graf. No reader in their right mind would stay and read the whole piece. You get little from it except your opinion.

    Plus, the fact that you use expletives in some postings shows you have work to do if you want to be taken seriously.
  3. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Verbal --

    Thanks, as always, for posting. Sorry it took me so long to get here.

    First, let me applaud a mighty effort. There's a lot to admire here - bright language and vivid imagery and deep research and thoughtful observation. It's smart work, and ambitious, and makes a clear case for the talent of the writer behind it.

    So, in no particular order this morning, my thoughts:

    - To get the most from your work, you need to find yourself a really excellent editor. An honest reader. In the absence of another person to critique your writing, that editor, that honest reader, has to be you.

    - This piece would be twice as good at 2/3rds or even 1/2 this length. Knowing what to take out is arguably a tougher skill to master than getting it all down in the first place. This is an amazing first draft of a piece that needs significant tightening.

    - Can you tell me in one sentence what the central point of the piece is?

    - "This is a story about a revolution.", doesn't tell me enough to keep me reading.

    - Your nut graf - and yes, even a 10000-word piece has one - is 3300 words into the essay.

    "Arsenal FC are a collection of 35 men from 18 countries. To spell their names you’ll need seven accent marks, an umlaut, an L with a stroke and an A with a ring. They hail from seven capitol cities, one rebel capitol and the capitol of a government in exile. They’ve come from the Gulf of Guinea, the Bight of Benin, the Baltic, the Mediterranean, both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of a Civil War. From the wildly integrative Paris and Prague to the line-in-the-sand divided Ivory Coast."

    And even at that, I'm still not sure what our occasion for story is. "Diversity is good?" "Diversity is better than Homogeneity"? "Diversity has Revolutionized European Football"? "European Football has Revolutionized Diversity"?

    - Go through the piece and excise half the wisecracks. Right now you're crowding your main themes out with asides and punchlines.

    - One of the reasons I suspect Stitch is seeing only opinion here is that you really don't start bringing in any evidence until well down in the piece. A couple of scenes and quotes up near the top - even if what you're writing is an encyclopedic history of Arsenal football - would go a long way toward giving the piece a density and authority it currently lacks.

    - The metaphor you launch at the top, the cartography, is lost on me entirely if we don't somehow return to it. Even at that, it's far too long an excursion to force on the reader. Longform narrative already asks a lot of the reader - you can't afford to lose them by misdirection or simple exhaustion.

    - Even though the internet page is essentially bottomless, how would you cut this piece if I were your editor and told you we only had room for 5,000 words?

    Those are my initial notes. I'd be tickled if others chimed in their thoughts.

    I think this piece deserves our best attentions here, but I suspect its length will thwart a lot of folks. Still, I'll do my best to get us some more comments. And I'm happy to answer as best I can whatever questions you may have.

    In the meantime, my sincere compliments on a really outstanding effort. Thanks again for letting us see it.
  4. NoOneLikesUs

    NoOneLikesUs Active Member

    No mention of Highbury?

    Or maybe you could spice it up a little by providing a little info on former vice chairman David Dein and his ruthless attempts to crush European domestic top-flight football.

    Or perhaps the history of underhanded dealings this club has?
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