Sport on TV: Put your shirt on Mourinho and he'll strip you of your dignity
Sunday 02 May 2010
The atmosphere inside the Nou Camp was febrile. The 91,000 Barcelona fans could not have made more noise if Montserrat Caballe and Freddie Mercury had been in the stands. As the Champions' League semi-final second leg (ITV1, Wednesday) kicked off in more ways than one, with the Catalans needing to score twice against Jose Mourinho's parsimonious Internazionale, Clive Tyldesley informed us that "after their league game here they wore T-shirts promising they would quite literally play out of their skins". We've heard of shirts versus skins, but shirts versus flesh, tendons and nerve endings – shredded ones in this case? The next thing you know, they would be literally on fire.
Mourinho must have heard about the ruse, as his enforcer Lucio almost literally tore the shirt of Zlatan Ibrahimovich's back and he had to go and get a new one. The Swede may not deserve to wear the shirt, as they say, but it was almost an immoral act, emblazoned as they are with the Unicef logo. Then again, it is an outrage in the modern era that a football club actually pays a shirt "sponsor" for the privilege of representing them. Just because they play every game as if it's a charity match doesn't mean to say they have to rub it in. Still, there's always the merchandise shops to do the necessary ripping-off.
Mourinho has never been one for humility but now he sought to humiliate Barcelona. He took exception to the Spanish press calling him "The Translator", his job for four years at the Nou Camp after Sir Bobby Robson took him there from Porto. Perhaps that's where Sir Robby Bobson's difficulties with players' names began. It was probably part of a master plan by the great tactician, as was his strategy to embarrass his former employers by resisting Barça with only 10 men and, even more outrageously, to take off one of the world's best players, Wesley Sneijder, and replace him with a former Portsmouth journeyman in Sulley Muntari.
At the end the Special One ran on to the pitch to cheer the 5,000 Inter fans who were stationed high up in the gods – and winding the other 91,000 spectators up at the same time, of course. Or perhaps he was actually celebrating with the gods themselves – he is that good, after all.
The BBC's ruse to "restage" the epic 1985 World Snooker Championship final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor may reflect how dull the sport has become these days, but it corresponds to a corporate PR stunt planned for Wimbledon when John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg are due to replay their showdown of 30 years ago. Will this catch on? Please could Michael Holding repeat "the fastest over of all time" to Geoff Boycott in Barbados in 1981? How about the penalty shoot-out against West Germany at Italia 90? Sadly, it won't change the result.
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