What do the following have in common? The captain of Paraguay’s national football team. The captain of Albania’s national football team. The captain of Ghana’s national football team.
If you are a football buff, you will know the answer: which is that they are all part of Sunderland Football Club’s squad, and our Albanian is its captain. Now of course, this is nothing new, even in Sunderland (we had at one time the Austrian, Danish and Norwegian national goalkeepers in the squad, and we have had at least three managers from Mars, so transparently little did they know about team selection. The current manager is from further away, i.e. Newcastle).
I’m torn between applauding the internationalist spirit of Sunderland (whose team is actually, for the most part, British), and thinking This Is Very Strange. You wonder what the nineteenth century teachers who put together the team from which the current Premier League is, as it were, descended, would have thought.
Still: after one of the most careless games Sunderland have played, they managed to win 5-2 last Sunday. This is dreamland stuff for supporters addicted to the normal experience of being a Sunderland fan: some fans may need medication for their loss of depression. In fact, perhaps we should sue. Supporting Sunderland is supposed to be about diversity in the face of triumph, about disaster ground out of fine prospects. But we are winning. It is hard to take.