Bloggers’ rights

The weblog – an online diary rather than a standard website – is a simple way to let the world know what you’re thinking. Ian Plenderleith looks for the football blogs by people with thoughts worth reading

Blessed with unlimited internet access and the feeling that the world really wants to know, a lot of football fans keep weblogs. It doesn’t cost anything, it’s less time consuming than running a website, and it provides a platform for the entire online world, if it so chooses, to read ill-considered, unedited partisan rants that are, in terms of worthwhile wisdom, barely one step removed from the tedious, repetitious abuse of the standard message board.

Yet weblogs can turn up the odd surprise, too. At All Things Footie (even though I hate the use of the word “footie” in any context), there is some effectively controlled ranting from host Jordan Harper, who thankfully sidesteps calling rival fans cunts while promising to stuff their team this Saturday etc etc., and instead opts to tackle intelligently a number of general themes, such as the recent debate over the number of home-grown players at English club sides.

“As long as foreign talent is cheaper, more easily available, more technically able and more willing to treat football like a profession rather than a pastime,” he writes, “they will continue to – and continue to deserve to – grace the stadia of the Premiership. And good luck to them. I’m sick of whinging Englishmen who refuse to accept any responsibility for the problem the nation’s footballers are facing.”

Admittedly he comes at this as an Arsenal fan, the very team who recently fielded a Franco-African-Iberian All-Star XI, or some­thing similar, but that doesn’t detract from the strength of his arguments, either on this topic or racism in general. Anyone who enjoys see­ing the boot stuck into UEFA’s track record in this area should log on to ATF and peruse the archive.

From here I linked to Round and White, which despite a promising name and logo was, after ATF, somewhat bland, with commentaries akin to what you might expect from the harmless but dull bloke you try to avoid at the bar. “So for Arsenal, the chase for the title is finally over,” reveals the blog after the recent home defeat to Man Utd. Oh yes, indeed. The writer ignores the few unwritten rules of good blogging – reporting news already known is a waste of time and failing to be funny or a little provocative might cause read­ers to rush for the “Links” column.

Which lead me to too much news and not enough musing at Blackburn blog Football Musings (“your daily source of football opinion” – if only), while Football United is less a blog than a series of unremarkable match reports from games around the world. Either the author is piling up more air miles than a FIFA functionary, or he owns a massive satellite dish. Whichever, it’s hard to imagine who might be reading.

“Could this be our year at last?” You guessed it, a Newcastle United fan’s blog, right after the Cup win over five-man Chelsea. Black & White and Read All Over is well written and very balanced, but lacks a certain punch. A better read can be found at All Quiet In The East Stand, where a Charlton fan explores unknown territory by reporting back from reserve-team games played on cold Monday nights and throwing in the odd flippant comment and anecdotal observation among the serious business of clueing readers up on Jason Euell’s performance against Tottenham sticks.

Looking abroad, Miguel Almeida’s Soccer Fever blog is worth a visit, if only to read his trenchant views on soccer-bashing in the US in a reproduced interview with Steven Wells. “Those columns [by soccer-bashing journalists] are such a waste of time, unless you have low self-esteem and want to get wound up by a crew of foreign-baiting bullies pretending they’re Joe McCarthy,” says Almeida, going on to point out that “the hysteria about soccer strikes me as fuelled by pent-up insecurity…”

Speaking of insecurity, which is what eight out of ten amateur psychologists claim all referees to suffer from underneath, another favourite from the US was Ref Blog (“Now the ref dishes it out”). “Tossed out two red cards this morn­ing…” begins the top entry cheerily, and the authorial arbitrator has the decency to admit he’s disappointed if games are too quiet as it means he’s nothing to write about. Still, there’s plenty of incident to recount, such as: “I blew the whistle for a foul and a woman says to me, ‘Yeah, a little after the fact’. My response was simple: ‘I can’t call it before the fact!’”

There’s a short lesson here for those writers with a persistent “zero replies” beneath their blog entries. Keep it shortish and witty, and try to tell the reader something they don’t already know. People go online for a little diversion from the real world, where there are, after all, enough long-winded bores already.

From WSC 218 April 2005. What was happening this month