In defence of Mesut Özil

Being an emblem of his team does not make him responsible for its failures

It is remarkable how many of the words written and screamed about Mesut Özil are critical. The go-to hit on him is that he is lightweight and lazy, ill-suited to the physical rigours of English football. Barney Ronay is here to tell you that’s not quite right. His column points out how the media narrative about the German being lazy on the pitch is lazy and posits an alternative theory: Özil is lazy off the pitch.

It’s understandable that Özil, along with Alexis Sanchez, attracts much of the Arsenal coverage not focussed on Arsene Wenger, the club’s much maligned manager. They are the club’s two best players, a fact which only heightens the significance of both having expiring contracts, making it likely they depart next summer if not before. This emigration of talent – to Europe, or to Manchester – will decimate a squad already struggling to keep up with the Premier League heavyweights. Last weekend’s ponderous display in defeat at Watford in which neither started was a glimpse of a grim future without them.

Continue reading

Hamilton’s decision: will he kneel for the anthem at the US Grand Prix?

Lewis Hamilton has a decision to make

Will he kneel for the anthem before the United States Grand Prix?

“Stick to sports” is stupid, has always been stupid and will always be stupid. It’s not possible to restrict politics to one building in the capital, one part of the newspaper or one part of your mind. Sport is political in the narrow sense that it has rules and rulers and in the broad sense that it’s an essential element of our social fabric, a defining aspect of local and global cultures. Like it or not, escapism is futile.

Formula 1 is as nakedly political in the narrow sense as any sport. Its vast array of rules and regulations are constantly evolving through combative negotiations between teams, manufacturers, sponsors, broadcasters, multiple governing bodies with murky jurisdiction and – in case you weren’t sure about how political all this really is – national governments with money to spend and points to prove. Unfortunately, none of this politicking will have prepared the sport for going off the deep end into America’s Great Culture War.

Continue reading