Keep it real

HAD Albert Camus been around today, it’s safe to say his life would have taken a very different path. Tuberculosis wouldn’t have put an end to his goalkeeping career, meaning his best-known novel, L’Étranger, would probably have explored the difficulties of adjusting to life after a big money move abroad. Almost certainly, it would have been the wreckage of his luxury motor, and not his publisher’s, from which their bodies would eventually be pulled.

albertcamusInstead, amongst the many things he leaves behind is as succinct an expression of what makes football tick – real football, not what the likes of Garry Cook and Richard Scudamore talk about – as you’ll find: “All I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football”

To lovers of a game now so pervasive that to follow it – to watch, to consume, even to accept it – requires faith bordering on nihilism, Camus’ expressions of life’s absurdities are a breath of fresh air.

He was big on co-operation, solidarity and effort, was our Albert. He advocated persevering in the face of pain, sticking up for your mates and what you believe in, even if to say so’s fucking boring and there’s no point.

To followers of three-times league champions Austria Salzburg, when the morality of their club was compromised by a hostile takeover from Red Bull, their obligations were obvious. Offered no choice but to go it alone to preserve their club’s name and colours, they embody Camus’ assertion that in life, the pursuit of meaning is the meaning.

svas065Back-to-back promotions mean that those who, almost 15 years ago, wore their violet and white colours to a two-legged UEFA Cup Final against Inter Milan, now don them with comparable pride in Austria’s fifth division, the 2. Landesliga.

Just three weeks after celebrating their latest title with a Spanish holiday, coach Miro Bojceski’s new-look line up opened the season in front of the most magnificent support in non-league football with their first draw in almost two years.

Not the anticipated start, but the recruits quickly gelled; Bosnia-Herzegovinian forward Mersudin Jukic scoring the first in a four-goal win at St Georgen, then setting up each goal in the 5-1 defeat of Golling.

Last season’s top-scorer Mario Schleindl then chipped in with a hat-trick in a 7-1 rout of Plainfeld before Jukic got back in on the act. He scored in consecutive 3-1 wins, over Thalgau and Berndorf, before grabbing four in the 5-1 away drubbing of Oberhofen which saw Austria Salzburg share top spot with Kuchl, who were the next visitors to Maxglan.

svas066svas0671,600 turned up for the top-of-the-table clash and to celebrate Austria Salzburg’s 75th birthday in the only way they know. Fittingly, it was another birthday boy, Nico Meyer, who pierced the tension with both strikes in a 2-0 win which earmarked Kuchl as the biggest threat to violet dominance.

So, eight games in and three points clear, the script of Austria Salzburg’s ascent at the first time of asking looks, this time, like it might take us to the final curtain. But this is football – real football – not theatre. When pushed on which he preferred, Albert Camus spoke for us all when he replied: ‘Football, without hesitation.’

Home truths

Red Bull’s head of corporate sales, Danny Bahar, caused a stir in the autumn when he spoke about the realities of the firm’s involvement with football. 

His rather explicit words on the subject of tradition re-opened old wounds in Salzburg and set alarm bells ringing in New York:

“We don’t play football just for fun. It’s a marketing policy.

“Tradition doesn’t play a role. There’s no tradition in the U.S. You can start from fresh and you have the franchise model, so teams can move where they want.”

Thankfully, this would never happen over here, for nobody in a position of any real clout would be caught talking about the English game in such a crude manner.

Not even Chairman of the FA Premier League, Chairman of The Football Foundation, FA Board Director and vice-chairman of The FA’s International committee, Sir Dave Richards:

daverichards“Fan is just a terminology.

“There’s no difference between Marks and Spencer’s PLC and Manchester United PLC, Arsenal, Newcastle and Liverpool. It’s pure perception.

“We talk about customer service in football right now. We don’t talk about fan service. We talk about how we can deliver better things for the customer. We call them fans, but they buy our brands.”