O’Boyle: Defeating soccer’s villians
Daniel O'Boyle | Tuesday, November 3, 2015
If you are even the slightest fan of the movies, you should know that this week marks the release of “Spectre,” the latest installment in the classic James Bond franchise. The film is a return to the screen for the iconic villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the criminal organization that lends the movie its title (full name: Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion).
As worthy adversaries to the iconic and quintessentially British spy, Spectre and Blofeld are surely the second-greatest villains Great Britain has ever seen. The greatest? Defending Premier League champions Chelsea F.C. and their manager, Jose Mourinho.
Pretty much every major English soccer team is easy to hate if you’re not a fan, but perhaps none more so than Chelsea. The club’s captain previously served a ban for alleged racial abuse. Their star forward is as famed for on-field violent conduct as he is for scoring goals. The team transfer policy for many years was to spend whatever it took to attract Europe’s biggest names to West London, and it worked, as Chelsea rose from title race outsiders to one of England’s most consistently successful clubs. Chelsea fans have been arrested for racist abuse during a game in Paris earlier this year. The team’s owner, Roman Abramovich, is the most direct comparison to any “Bond villain” archetype: He’s a Russian oligarch accused of crimes including bribery, fraud and theft in building his billion-dollar empire.
But despite all that, Mourinho serves as the strongest magnet for all the anti-Chelsea sentiment.
Since his very first press conference, when he famously declared, “I think I am a special one,” Mourinho has been a polarizing figure in soccer. He won games, easily delivering Chelsea their first league title in 49 years in his debut season in 2005 and won again the following year. He left London after a dispute with Abramovich but returned to win another Premier League trophy in 2015.
However, the “special one” always had his critics. His defensive style of play earned him results but was unpopular for many neutrals, especially when he criticized opponents who dared to do the same. He berated referees throughout his career, accusing them of bias and a “campaign” against his team last year. His public feud with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger included him labeling the Frenchman a “specialist in failure.” And his famed arrogance always left people wishing for his downfall. But for more than 10 years, it never came: Mourinho was one of the best — if not the best — soccer manager in the world.
That’s why the last three months have been such a joy to neutral fans in English soccer: Chelsea has inexplicably become one of the worst teams in the Premier League. The team is currently sitting 15th in the Premier League, and in the Champions League Chelsea currently sits third in a hardly-formidable group, enough to see them eliminated if results do not improve. In the League Cup, Chelsea was eliminated after a penalty shoot-out.
Stars like midfielder Eden Hazard, last season’s Player of the Year, and midfielder Cesc Fabregas have suddenly turned from revelations to anonymous passengers.
And best of all, Mourinho himself is right at the center of the crisis.
From the first game of the season, Mourinho was embroiled in controversy after criticizing club doctor Eva Carneiro for treating an injured Hazard, forcing him to leave the field when Chelsea was in need of a goal. From there, each Chelsea fixture became a new installment of the “Jose Mourinho Show:” He declared a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City to be a “fake result,” publicly criticized referees and was early this morning suspended a game and fined for his antics during a 2-1 loss to West Ham United last month. Carneiro was dismissed from Chelsea and sued the club in response, and Mourinho refused to speak with the media after a game.
Mourinho’s antics — once a convenient distraction from rare on-field slip-ups — are now fuel for the downfall of the “special one.” A Chelsea legend and the greatest manager in the world mere months ago, Mourinho is now facing a serious risk of losing his job by the end of the week.
Of course, sports aren’t like a movie. Villains usually win: that tends to be what makes them villains. Maybe Mourinho will return to form turn things around. Maybe the sport would be more entertaining if he did; the Premier League might need Mourinho the way a Bond movie needs a villain.
Yet seeing a talented yet universally-disliked figure fail this catastrophically in sport is oh so rare. Maybe the soccer gods can give us this one.