Photo courtesy of www.union-foto.de
"So, how come they shout 'Football God' after every single players name? They can't all be Football Gods.“ It was a good point. My friend's son Vincent is too smart to become an FC. Union fan, too smart already for the blind, slavish and unquestioning devotion required for this club. Or maybe even to be a Hearts fan for that matter, Union's opponents on Saturday in the last friendly before the start of the 2. Bundesliga season. Those poor buggers need medals for sticking by their team in the face of 21st Century football.
This is taken from the recent statement made by Vladimir Romanov, the "Jambos“ chairman and owner. He goes through managers like Naomi Campbell goes through assistants, but this was such a gloriously mad, rambling mess of accusations that it should win awards.
"What's happening with the club today is not a new thing. For almost seven years, we have been fighting to shield the club from crooks, criminals and thieves..... Every year Hearts fights to be in the top three, but even last season in the last 12 games it was almost like someone replaced the team with a different one. Whose fault is that? Players? Manager's? Or it is Mafia? Mafia are dragging kids into the crime, in order to blackmail and profit from them. It is not possible to separate these people from paedophiles and you don't need to do that. Each year we are forced to fight these maniacs harder and harder.“
Hearts finished third in the Scottish Premier League last year, but were still 29 points off Celtic, 30 off the winners, the Rangers. To say that Scottish football is a closed shop would be wrong. It is a warehouse secured by navy seals. You might as well try a smash and grab at Fort Knox. The hegemony of the Old Firm clubs is as strong as ever. Christ, it must take some devotion...
So when Union fans cheer every single player as a "Football God", it makes a bit more sense. They have been accepted into the fold, into the family unquestioningly. No matter how badly they play, there will still be a Fußball Gott waiting for them as they get substituted. And, as always, it was the case on Saturday as the new guy had his name called out for the first time. Silvio Carlos De Oliveira. Or as he is known, simply Silvio.
"But how do they know if he's a Football God, or not? They haven't seen him play,“ was Vincent's reply to this one, but I was prepared. It's simple. He's Brazilian. Everybody knows that Brazilians – every man jack of them – are great at football. As Alex Bellos points out in his marvellous book Futebol: The Brazilian way of life, when the French have chefs or the Tibetans have monks. Brazil is synonymous with its footballers.
We are suckers for the myth – and it is a myth – every time. Immediately, just because he's Brazilian, he's got a mystique attached. Bellos quotes an agent called Fabio Menezes who sums things up
"It's easier to place a Brazilian footballer in a team than a footballer of any other nationality... It's sad to say, but it's much easier selling, for example, a crap Brazilian, than a brilliant Mexican.“
It was only a friendly, and Hearts were obviously not up to speed yet in their pre-season, but Silvio wasn't crap. Far from it. He was excellent, and at times Union played with a verve and a spark that Socrates himself (the player, whose famed back heeled passes were so good, Pele said he "is a better player going backwards than most are going forwards“) would have been proud of.
For his opening goal he knew where he wanted the ball already as Simon Terodde (who scored a cracking second) picked it up just past the half way line. Silvio pointed in front of him. "Right there“, into the gap between the centre halves. As the sliding defender got his foot around the ball, and got up, Silvio just shrugged him back down, and took his time to finish in a way that Union have needed for some time now. Clinically. Sure, it wasn't a fairytale bicycle kick, was probably a foul, and may not have even been given in the league, but the fans didn't care. They've got a new football God.