Letter from the Arts Editor: The Great Character Actors of Football


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The Independent Online


Football fans will know that the long Easter weekend is the start of the climax of the season. Football fans will need no encouragement from me to be enthralled by the final act in the drama of this extraordinary season. But it is that word drama that is the reason why non-fans should be taking an interest too. For, you only have to read the reports on today’s sports pages to recognise that football at the moment contains wonderful stagecraft.

It’s not just the normal clichéd histrionics and theatrical dives. It’s not even the deeply touching recent sight of Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard crying recently at the end of a key victory that coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster – though that was poignant enough.

It is more the performances, this weekend just gone and many others, of the real actors in these dramas – the managers. Could there have been a more mesmerising performance than that of actor manqué Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manager, after his side’s home defeat by Sunderland? He praised and congratulated the referee knowing that the  audience would know that the words “I congratulate” were a euphemism for “I deplore.”

And he is just one of so many great character actors. Take the Manchester United boss David Moyes, unsmiling, always seeming on the verge of an explosion, the perfect portrayal of the dour Scot you would not want to cross. Or the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, erudite and eloquent, playing up to his nickname “The Professor”, his studied performances persuading audiences over more than a decade that he has always just failed to see when his side makes a foul.

The technical areas which the managers prowl, their kingdoms like Lear’s blasted heath, adds to this sense of theatre. You don’t have to be a football fan to want to see some of the best theatre around.