19:45 GMT Wednesday October 19th
There were a couple of decent looking ties on Tuesday night but Wednesday can lay claim to the cream of the crop – Barca v City. For those of you who have been living in a subterranean cave for the last few years, here is a brief synopsis. Manchester City, after years of languishing as a ‘sleeping giant’ of English football, were bought by a very wealthy Qatari family who preside over a country that can boast of appalling human rights abuses. Since then, they have used the money to buy their way to their ultimate goal – Champions League football with Pep Guardiola at the helm as manager.
Monetize as motto
Barcelona used to boldly claim that they were ‘mes que un club’, which is to say they were more than just a mere club. Whatever the truth of the claim, certainly they were a club that seemed to be beholden to few, a position most visually exemplified by the lack of a corporate sponsor on their jersey. This changed in 2006 when they decided to feature UNICEF on their kit – aw.
There was a slight change in direction when, in 2011, Barca then swapped the children’s rights organization in favour of Qatar Airways or Foundation or… Definitely not the Qatar Workers Union, anyway.
Hello, rabbit hole
So, what do we have? Well, in the parlance of political science, we have a giant projection of ‘soft power’ whereby Qatari money becomes the wind that pushes the boats we spend so much of our time obsessing over, wildly applauding and hooting as their pretty sails unfurl to dazzle our little, uncurious minds. Huzzah! In fact, it’s a pretty neat analogy for quantum mechanics insofar as when you really take the time to observe all these shiny things, their pleasing nature quickly fades into something else altogether more disturbing and nebulous.
Ducks in a row
Qatar is presently preparing stadia and infrastructure for their chance to host the World Cup 2022. The most cursory of e-glances will bring up a slew of articles to inform the reader of the brutal and cruel conditions which migrant workers face as they put the finishing touches to corporate suites in the yet-to-be opened vanity projects.
By paying poor men a pittance, they can bank the difference and maybe use it buy some fancy Rolex watches to hand over as gifts when the glitterati of European football visit to stand and smile for photos in the desert.
Further down the food chain, people like this column will sit down with friends and earnestly discuss the relative merits of the players, teams and managers. The outstanding skills and passion on display will take up most of the space in our heads and, with luck, we’ll be treated to a game that will leave us beaming and with plenty of fat to chew over after. At those moments, it is exceedingly difficult and jarringly incongruous to stop and observe the detail behind the curtains.
The macro-world has the comfier blanket. Aside from Qatar, Barcelona should win. Best price there is 1/2 from BetFred but if you prefer to stick it to the man, follow your local team and boycott the next World Cup. BetVictor has a lovely 13/2 on a City win.