Ever since Yaya Touré stepped in to disembroil one of modern football’s most serious cake-centred imbroglios – emphatically confirming that only he speaks for himself, not his spokesperson, who had earlier for some mystifying reason spoken for him, but who does in fact also speak for him and don’t worry because everything he said is true – a most ungenerous narrative has taken hold. It is one that dares to suggest the Ivorian birthday boy’s disgruntlement may not principally be about birthday cake at all.
That’s not fair. If Yaya, via his agent, who he not in the least bit strangely calls “Dad”, was in fact seeking to send a message to his dishdashed Abu Dhabian overlords, what message had they, through the complex medium of cake, been looking to send to him?
Look beneath the sugar-dusted surface, and the politics of cake are dark indeed.
Yaya, the great pâtissier who delivered the league title on a pedestalled plate, was handed a tawdry little Manchester City-themed sponge, the sort any self-respecting spoilt seven-year-old birthday boy would throw his jelly at the wall over. Then, hours later in Abu Dhabi, he was forced to watch as the jubilant sheikhs carved up a near full-size fondant football pitch, complete with marzipan trophy tall enough to warrant speculation as to how many Nepalese migrant labourers’ deaths were hushed up during its construction, gleefully celebrating the championship he had delivered.
The meaning is clear. If the somehow-made-public footage from the Man City players’ Abu Dhabi-bound flight tells us anything, as the Ivorian abjectly refuses to remove his headphones or look away from his screen or even in any way acknowledge the air stewardesses bringing him his crap little cake and singing “Happy Birthday” to him, it’s that Yaya enjoys an in-flight movie. He will know all too well, then, the famous scene in The Godfather Part II where the feuding mafiosi gather on the Havana balcony of that terminally ill Jewish crime boss who cuts up and hands out his birthday cake as a metaphor for the business empire he is dividing between them.
Biiiiiig cake for the sheikhs. Little cake for Yaya.
“Touré wants to have his cake and eat it” ran the imaginative headlines all round the world, perpetuating the misunderstanding of that confusing but clever phrase, and ignoring the fact made unignorable by Samir Nasri’s embarrassed gurning in the seat next door, that an obviously underwhelmed Yaya quite clearly wanted neither to have his cake nor eat it. And he didn’t even know then the cake shame that was to await him in the desert.
Perhaps he’d been hoping for a three-tiered monstrosity large enough for Sheikh Mansour himself to leap from in a flurry of grateful fawning, but you don’t need to have seen Under Siege with Steven Seagal – as Yaya obviously has – to know such security risks simply can’t be taken, even if you are on the family airline.
The problem with eating one’s cake, as the phrase testifies, is that once it is gone its owner can no longer claim it as an asset, and therein may lie the more prescient conundrum.
It’s possible that Mr Touré, probably the Premier League’s finest player, has acquainted himself with this week’s Sporting Rich List, which reveals that such lesser and younger footballing luminaries as Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres have got a lot more lemon to drizzle than he has.
And so it may in fact be that the great football-consuming public are again serving their usual role, that of the gullible satellite off which players and their agents bounce their barely coded signals in the vain hope they might pick up a little diffraction on the way. Except, of course, they don’t, because anyone who’s ever heard of Yaya Touré is sufficiently football bullshit-literate to see directly through it all.
Whether Yaya will have seen the frankly rather poor film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda is less certain, but whoever does Etihad Airways’ in-flight movie selection might want to load it up next time he plonks himself down in the fully reclining seats. Remember poor Bruce Bogtrotter? The greedy little boy forced to gorge down an entire chocolate cake until he’s sick in front of the whole school? There’s a lesson there.
England will so miss Bullard and Bentley
Be it gambling, Gazza’s hyperactivity or a spiritual healer’s wandering hands, it’s rare the same problem afflicts the England camp at major tournaments more than once. But don’t be surprised if boredom strikes again in Brazil as it did in South Africa. The group will again lack the side-splitting antics of those international stalwarts Jimmy Bullard and David Bentley, as revealed in the serialisation of the former’s memoirs.
What a pity to learn how the who-can-sing-the-Postman-Pat-theme-tune-the-loudest-in-front-of-Capello? game came to a premature end when Mr Bentley bellowed it at full volume “right in the gaffer’s face” and went above and beyond the game’s requirements by lobbing in the “and his black-and-white cat!” line too.
How odd that the man whose managerial talents coaxed such cultured greatness from right-wingers of the ilk of Donadoni and Lentini never could find the same genius lurking beneath the Bentley mohawk.
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