Ah, the January transfer window: a period of rumour, conjecture and – in our era of ubiquitous opinion-platforms – bullshit. Perhaps it is something about the post-Christmas comedown that turns people into speculative gremlins; cowering in their living rooms, piecing together quasi-realistic transfer gossip in order to fill these long, dark winter evenings with a modicum of excitement and self-congratulation.
“I started that!” they squeal internally, when a Celtic aggregator account tweets that the club are being ‘linked with’ whatever Belgian centre-forward Derek from Drumchapel has found on Soccerbase. These people are forever a curiosity to me, but they are relatively harmless, really. Sure, Derek is living in a self-constructed dreamworld; excited by the minor dent he has made on a small portion of the Twittersphere. But let Derek live in his deluded construction, he doesn’t get paid ‘til the 28th and he’s got nothing better to do.
The way I see it, there are two types of January transfer window miscreant: there’s relatively harmless Derek, tweeting rumours about how Rangers had to sell parking spaces at Ibrox to pay for Jermaine Defoe’s wage – usually in the form of the in-the-know, faux-informed Twitterer, often masquerading as a fan account-cum-blogger-cum-Limmy wannabe; but there’s another, more insidious kind of bullshitter – the person who genuinely thinks that they know what is going on behind the scenes. It is these people who fully embody the ignorance of the January transfer window.
Football fans are reactionary – that’s just a given. The combination of emotion and partisan loyalty that we feel is fairly unique compared to non-sporting industries. In an era in which the sport moves so quickly and is such an omnipresent entity, it is easy to spot the conditions for the online whirlwinds that occur whenever a club signs a new player. Perhaps the key ingredient for this is ignorance, which, as we know, is the root and stem of all evil.
Ignorance can take many forms, of course. At its most frivolous, it is thinking that Pep Guardiola isn’t a great coach because he could spend money, or that the Ramones were actually a good band. At its most poisonous, though, ignorance bleeds over into issues far greater than mere football arguments or bad taste in New York bands (the New York Dolls are far, far superior). There’s simply no denying that football is a concerning harbour for racial ignorance.
During last year’s World Cup, there was some discussion regarding analysis which reduced the talent of African football players to exclusively physical attributes, such as pace, power and strength. The ignorant implication of this analysis is that talented African players are so simply because of inherited bodily traits, as opposed to technical talent or game intelligence. This kind of ignorance evidently objectifies these players, reductively ignoring the defensive intelligence of Kalidou Koulibaly or the technical prowess of George Weah.
The madness of the transfer window has brought this kind of ignorance to our front door. Earlier this window, when Celtic were linked with now-signed Ivorian striker Vakoun Issouf Bayo, an image was circulated claiming that he was pictured at Glasgow Airport. However, the image was, in fact, of former Celtic striker and fellow West African, Amido Balde. I have to admit, I fell for the photo – although this was largely due to the fact I had not yet seen a picture of Bayo, and had entirely erased Amido Balde from my memory. Now, I don’t want to come over as a weeping liberal wet-the-bed killjoy, but this illustrated a larger point besides the obvious joke of mixing up two black, African players.
Our high-speed speculative January transfer window culture encourages us jump to early conclusions regarding unknown players. As mentioned, we are football fans: reactionary and emotional. The more poisonously ignorant among us make sweeping generalisations, clearly based on race and nationality – Timothy Weah was “another Charly Musonda”, not another Patrick Roberts; Bayo is a “new Bangura”, not a new John Guidetti or Nadir Ciftci. You can decide for yourself what these comparisons have in common.
This ignorance is, sadly, something that pervades much of our society – not only football. It is readily put on display, though, when mixed with our reactionary ignorance with regards to the sport we love. Although emphasised by the madness of January, it isn’t exclusively contained within this time of year. Throughout this season we have had “rumours” that the French-speaking, black players in the Celtic squad have “chucked it” since Moussa Dembele left, but I’ve seen no accusations that the Scottish players have thrown in the towel since Stuart Armstrong departed. Funny that, eh?
May we see an end to the speculative January gremlins, whose reactionary comparisons highlight all kinds of ignorance? May we see an end to Timothy Weah – an American from New York, who has lived in Paris – being asked if he is cold in Scotland by actual professional journalists? And, for the love of god, can we see an end to comparing black centre-halves to Bobo Balde? He couldn’t even pass anyway.