Jul 22, 2012, 1:15 PM EDT
A small, obvious, but still brilliant part of soccer’s information age has been the acknowledgement of fan knowledge: the general acceptance supporters know more about their team than most media, particularly media on regional or national beats. This seems so obvious to us now that it’s hard to believe there was a time when this wasn’t a given. Of course people who live and bleed their teams are likely to know more than somebody synthesizing a league’s worth of data. Just because that knowledge wasn’t punched through a typewriter, put through a press and offered on a street corner didn’t mean it failed to exist.
Having knowledge, however, is not the same as using it wisely. People who’ve built reputations in the soccer information business use more than mere knowledge. They are the best filters of that information. They take the data and describe with a completeness – an even-handedness – that’s rarely seen in fan forums. When that description requires them to step onto one side of a debate, they made sure they’ve covered all relevant angles, assuring their depictions can transcend any reasonable accusations of partisanship.
Fanaticism is inherently partisan. You can’t cover yourself in a team’s colors and pretend they don’t obscure your view. At a minimum, it becomes a call you don’t get to make. If you’re conveying information about the Columbus Crew under a yellow and black banner, you’re forcing the reader to pause and consider motive.
In a vast majority of instances, issues are so cut-and-dry that partisanship has no effect on how information is processed. After all, 5-0 loss is bad no matter how much you support the Portland Timbers. How poorly the team played is a little more open to interpretation, though when you throw out the extreme voices on a given message board/comment thread, most fans people see the world through a similar prism.
But there are rare occasions where that prism screws everything up, usually on issues that hit at club identity. We saw this last year with Liverpool when many fans blindly followed Kenny Dalglish’s defense of Luis Suarez. For most fans, opposing Dalglish’s stance on Suarez was tantamount to turning their back on the club. Such was Kenny Dalglish’s stature at Liverpool. Such is the nature of being a supporter.
We also saw this late last season in Genoa, when fans lept onto the field to demand players remove their shirts. It was a powerful measure, one that brought about emotional responses from the team, but it was also completely inappropriate. An emotional response turned dangerous, with fans turning to violence in defense of the identity they’d ascribed to the club.
A similar identity crisis is developing in Milan, and as with the cases in Liverpool and Genoa, fans are letting their passion supersede their judgment. AC Milan ultras are protesting summer transfer window business that’s seen seven prominent players leave the club. A class action lawsuit on the part of season ticket holders alleges false advertising. The club’s started reimbursements. President Silvio Berlusconi is considering making a video addressing the uprising, while supporters recently held a funeral in front of club headquarters commemorating the team’s death.
It’s a harsh stance, one that looks downright foolish when you look at the seven transfers. For most of the season it was assumed many of Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso, Pippo Inzaghi and Mark Van Bommel go. Was it shocking to see them all leave together? Of course, especially the first four names, but the five-some averaged 35.8 years old and 11.2 starts. Milan could have been sentimental and kept a couple of them, but the club’s decision to move on is justifiable. It certainly shouldn’t spur a mass uprising.
Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are another story, but consistent with the history of international soccer, every player has a price. Juventus had theirs for Zinedine Zidane. Manchester United had theirs for Cristiano Ronaldo. Just three years ago, Milan had theirs for Kaká, a more clearly motivated by money. The same reasoning applies to the Silva-Ibrahimovic sale. As James Horncastle noted on Twitter, the wages saved combined with the transfer fees mean Milan nets €170 million.
Deconstructed, Milan’s summer business seems to be seven individually justifiable player moves, none of which were done capriciously. Had Paris Saint-Germain not backed an armored truck up to Via Turati, Milan would have probably held on to Silva and Ibrahimovic, and the club certainly could have moved on from their veterans sooner (Inzaghi was 38 and only make seven league appearances last year). Fans, scared the moves signal a new, less competitive era for Milan, are left protesting good business, demonstrations reminiscent of an infant rebelling against a parent’s “No.”
You won’t find many with distance from Milan (emotional or physical) questioning the Rossoneri’s moves. They were tough decisions, but they were probably good ones. At a minimum, they’re decisions fans should understand, even if they don’t agree with them. There’s no need for funerals, law suits, or the kind of self-defeating view that would keep Milan a loyal-if-old team that could never balance their books for fear of ultra reaction to their taking advantage of a seller’s market.
Then there is that small, obvious irony belying the entire story. None of these assessments – be they about aging players or the sale of Milan’s stars – are news to Rossoneri supporters. They know more about Milan than any of us. They know the team was old. They know the club could use money. They know the recent past has seen the high-priced sale of Kaká and the painful departure of Andrea Pirlo. And they know that over the last two seasons, Milan’s had the best team. Still, they protest. They hold their funerals. They file suits.
Understandably, emotion has gotten the best of them. One year removed from winning Serie A, fans have seen a vision of a vastly less-competitive Milan, but with the Rossoneri rumored to be in for Montpelier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (arguably the best young defender in Ligue 1), it seems unlikely Berlusconi will merely pocket the money. The club still has Alexandre Pato, Robinho, and Alessandro Cassano. They still have Antonio Nocerino, Maximo Ambrosini and Kevin Prince-Boateng. They’ve added Ricardo Montolivo and will bring back the likes of Ignazio Abate, Philippe Mexes, Mathieu Flamini and Sulley Muntari. They should still be a very good team. If they spend some of PSG’s money, they could be a title-contending one.
Not that any this needs to be told to any Milanistas. They know their club is still decent. They know Berlusconi has consistently funded competitive, trophy-winning teams. They just need this moment. Milan ultras need this moment to vent, to act on the emotion spawn from seeing so many favorites go.
But once that emotion is gone, hopefully they can have a good laugh at themselves. A funeral for the Rossoneri? It’s all so dramatic.
May 19, 2013, 10:00 PM EDT
Sporting K.C. manager Peter Vermes and defender Ike Opera didn’t appreciate the pivotal offsides call that disallowed a possible winning goal against D.C. United, and they made that very obvious.
May 19, 2013, 8:58 PM EDT
Paolo Di Canio and Andre Villas-Boas took to the media following their teams’ Premier League finale to voice displeasure with how their final fixture played out.
May 19, 2013, 7:51 PM EDT
A dull, scoreless first half picked up in the second term as D.C. United grabbed a point against the league’s second-best team and ended their club-record losing streak at 7 matches.
May 19, 2013, 5:50 PM EDT
With his eye on the imminent vacancy at Real Madrid left by Jose Mourinho’s almost certain departure, Paris Saint-Germain’s mastermind Carlo Ancelotti may now have a large hurdle to get past if he is to land his ideal job in Spain’s capital.
May 19, 2013, 5:34 PM EDT
Fernando Torres broke his Premier League scoring drought by banging home the game-winner to secure Chelsea a third place finish.
May 19, 2013, 5:22 PM EDT
Heartbreak in Serie A this year belongs to Fiorentina. Mario Balotelli converted a penalty in the 84th minute to draw level and two minutes later Philippe Mexes slotted home a cross to secure Europe’s top competition for AC Milan.
May 19, 2013, 5:01 PM EDT
Rare as they are, we’ve seen more than our share of “Olimpico” goals in MLS over the last pair of seasons, including one last night:
May 19, 2013, 4:47 PM EDT
With Arsenal and Tottenham the only teams battling for any meaningful positioning in the Premier League table, the final day still had implications for many teams in the form of placement prize money.
May 19, 2013, 4:28 PM EDT
Sir Alex Ferguson managed the final match of his career away from Old Trafford, and it looked set to complete on a high note, until the opposition had other ideas late.
May 19, 2013, 4:25 PM EDT
Another game-winning strike from Gareth Bale wasn’t enough to save Tottenham from more Champions League heartache.
May 19, 2013, 3:50 PM EDT
New York took all the points from the L.A. Galaxy on Tim Cahill’s late goal. So let’s talk about that goal.
May 19, 2013, 3:17 PM EDT
This Landon Donovan debate regarding his place on the national team is not going anywhere. So, did Sunday’s performance move the needle either way?
May 19, 2013, 2:42 PM EDT
Arsenal secured its 16th consecutive spot on the Champions League with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Newcastle at St. James’ Park on Sunday.
May 19, 2013, 1:43 PM EDT
Sensational news for fans around BMO Field:
May 19, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT
With David Beckham-esque tears streaming down my cheeks, we’re finally here: The final day of the 2012-13 Barclay’s Premier League.
May 19, 2013, 10:19 AM EDT
Newcastle have nothing to play for and have been a disaster at home of late, losing their last two matches at St. James’ Park by a combined 9-0.
May 19, 2013, 10:13 AM EDT
The timing on this thing in two words: pretty bad:
May 19, 2013, 9:32 AM EDT
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves on the 20-year-old goal-scoring sensation … :
May 19, 2013, 12:48 AM EDT
The Sounders exploit Dallas’ young back line in a meeting of two Western Conference teams in top form. Final score: 4-2 for the Sounders:
May 18, 2013, 11:41 PM EDT
Juan Agudelo makes his New England debut as Jay Heaps posts one of the best wins of his young coaching career:
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