Culture bag column: heroes like them

It’s not easy. If you want to worship someone as an alternative to modern soccer, you’d better not look too closely.

Totti must be a good one, one for whom loyalty still counts. Long live high Photo: reuters

Is it still allowed to have fun with soccer? And if so, what exactly is still allowed to be good about this sport? It is not easy to answer such questions in these days when criticism of modern soccer is formulated even by those who are part of the modern soccer business. In this dark world of commerce, where the soul of sport has long been for sale, are there any heroes left whom it is permissible to revere without being ashamed of it?

Francesco Totti could be one of them. Countless hymns have been sung in recent days to the number ten of AS Roma. He was called either the last emperor of Rome or the eighth king of the city. His greatest merit was that he never changed clubs. Only Philipp Lahm and fans are otherwise so loyal. So Totti, who at 40 still made regular appearances in Serie A and was offended when he was only designated as a wild card, must be a good one, one for whom loyalty still counts, one of whom there were several in the old days when soccer was not yet modern.

So let’s forget about his nasty backlash against Mario Balotelli in the 2010 Italian Cup final. Let’s forget about Balotelli’s accusations, who said after the game that Totti called him a "negro"! Let’s forget Totti’s namby-pamby apology, which was not without the inevitable "But he provoked me", and celebrate. Let’s laugh at his legendary stupidity, which peaked when, when asked what he thought of the ancient Roman rule "Carpe Diem!" he is said to have replied, "What’s this nonsense, I don’t know English!" And let’s rejoice over the wonderful gossip story from Rome’s Mediterranean suburb of Ostia, where Totti’s dog Ariel is said to have once saved the life of a little girl. Totti has soccer culture. Long may he live! Really?

Fritz von Thurn und Taxis also has soccer culture. He, too, has ended his career and will no longer commentate live for Sky. The soccer community now loves this commentator even for the fact that he has no idea and does nothing to conceal it. The fact that the good man was already mocked as "Fritz von Tut und Weib Nichts" when he was still a dilettante at Bayerischer Rundfunk, bygones! Long may he live! Really?

Let us rejoice over this miracle

And then there is this great story of Huddersfield Town. True friends of soccer culture are always somehow friends of English grassroots sports and know that this club won the championship a couple of times in a row almost a hundred years ago. Now the Yorkshire club has won the playoff final for promotion to the Premier League and even those unfamiliar with the subject now know that there are other terriers in soccer than Berti Vogts. So let’s be happy about this miracle that a German coach has achieved with the help of a few German players. We’ll ignore the fact that the playoff final is also known as the Million Game because it brings the winner more than 200 million euros in TV revenue. Not that we’re happy about something that modern soccer, which we’re not supposed to like, has produced. The Terriers are cute! Long may they live! Really?

Possibly also easy to find: Benevento Calcio, which may be promoted to Serie A, because it has a witch in its club crest; Paul Lambert, the Scottish soccer coach who just lost his job at Wolverhampton Wanderers because he played for Borussia Dortmund when modern soccer had not yet taken hold there. And Eric Cantona. Him, anyway. Isn’t he?

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