I am taking submissions for the best football quotes of the year for some Hoddle content next month. Feel free to share if you have any contenders!
Ramble of the Day
With a new manager comes new dietary takes; according to The Telegraph, Steven Gerrard has banned “fizzy drinks, sauces, puddings and hot chocolate” at Aston Villa. As always, ketchup is included on the list of banned items and in the headlines as a result.
I continue to find the ketchup wars very funny and truly fascinating. I find that professionals in sports, be they coaches or players, are looking for every last advantage they can find in the quest for success. They aren’t wrong to do it — little things really do add up, and it’s extremely normal for athletes to follow specific diets.
What I find fascinating about ketchup in the context of the endless search for those tiny advantages is that it is also emblematic of striking balances. Allowing players to eat ketchup, or other foods that get banned, feels like a manager giving some autonomy back to the players. Finding that particular, near friendly dynamic is something I find to generally be lower on the list of managers’ priorities. That isn’t to say a lot of managers do not afford players the ability to make decisions for themselves — I just think football managers are encouraged to be controlling and some of them run with that.
Then again, maybe giving back the ketchup is all about control. I will let the Guardian’s Jonathan Liew take it from here, because he wrote a cool piece about the push-and-pull dynamic of ketchup in English football. Here’s an excerpt:
Because here is the thing about ketchup: it is banned, but only so it can later be reinstated, and vice versa. Moyes bans ketchup; Louis van Gaal reinstates it. Ketchup is outlawed at Tottenham under Juande Ramos and returns under Harry Redknapp. When Kevin Ball took over as caretaker manager from Di Canio at Sunderland, ketchup became an indelible symbol of the liberation: the sauce equivalent of Mussolini’s hanging body in the Piazzale Loreto. “If they choose to have it, that’s OK,” Ball said, before adding: “I’m not saying ‘Ha’way lads, get yourself a bucketload of tomato sauce’.”
This is not really about ketchup qua ketchup. In many ways, ketchup is really a proxy for a far deeper cultural divide within football: whether it is a game of suffering and sacrifice and self-edification, or a game of expression and pleasure and the pursuit of good feelings. It’s telling, for example, that both Conte and Gerrard express their ban on ketchup in terms of mentality: the implication being that the real sin is not ketchup but the desire for it, the want, the temptation itself.
I think he provides some food for thought.
tl;dr: More thoughts on the ketchup wars, with Steven Gerrard becoming the latest to join Team No Ketchup.
Stay informed, read this: Henry Bushnell on the red flags raised by the International Olympic Committee president’s video call with tennis player Peng Shuai, as concerns over her safety continue weeks after accusing a former Chinese government official of sexual assault for Yahoo! Sports
Links of the Day
A person received a six month suspended jail sentence and a five year stadium ban for throwing a water bottle at Dimitri Payet’s head before Lyon-Marseille was abandoned.
Qatar reportedly hired an ex-CIA official to spy on football officials before winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
Norwich unveiled the club’s new crest.
A longer read: Peter Pattisson on the exploitation and abuse suffered by hotel workers in Qatar as the country prepares for the 2022 World Cup for the Guardian