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This is TV and this liberal team are going to close to a league title. Fair enough. That's a great achievement. But that man United team for an all time great because they weren't playing very well early in the season. Does everything have to happen in the same period of time? Well, you cannot have those elements on that team in the Champions League, obviously, this year, but but not a threat to equal Manchester United travel season. They have to win at least the Champions League in the league.
And you could say that by not winning a cup, if they don't want to go, then they're not sars-cov-2 season at I and say we want to travel. Do you want to travel?
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Champion's League final is on Sunday at seven on Virgin Media to in Munich against passenger Miguel Delaney. Good morning to you.
How are you? Morning to what what what is what's Lisbon like at the moment? It seems as if restaurants are open, our bars open there like a little bit of life around the place, a little bit.
And a lot of Spanish tourists, from what I can tell, but still very quiet and like I mean, so much space everywhere, which is not associated with a city like this at this time of year. And it is a little bit pointing in the sense that. So, like down in the main square, just down from Libertad, they have that giant inflatable Champions League that they always put up the trophy itself, the inflatable trophy that they always put up any time the stage in the final somewhere, and obviously usually be, you know, thousands of people around it.
Yeah. You walk down there now and it's just it's usually scattered quite at twenty people or whatever, which kind of just, I suppose, emphasizes the the authority of this occasion.
I half expected some Munich fans to get in their cars and to drive this week and to be in Lisbon just for the. Well the weather's good. It's nice place to spend. Some time has not happened at all. Has there been any sign of that yet?
Just a few in my hotel, actually, because I saw a few by Munich jerseys, a few scattered around, like it's not exactly I remember like being jeez, I think this is the worst. The decision to terrify left on a fourth involving via Munich, I remember, especially in 2010 in Madrid, the place obviously packed with Munich fans. Abu Abbas, you're going to say it's going to be like fifteen, twenty around here. But yes, I mean, there's a little bit someone's going maybe for showing their face representation and not much else.
We talk about the football itself. And a couple of minutes time I have seen a debate from various people asking what the difference between what's going on with with Pakistan is from, say, Juventus, when the NLE family, Boris or Philipps and PSV Eindhoven or Buyer and Bayer Leverkusen, none of these are there to varying degrees. They're all an effort to use football for either profit or to make a drug company look cool or to, you know, give the workers something to do and maybe get involved in football.
And that's kind of Silvio Berlusconi is another example. What do you say to people who do ask that question?
But what is the fundamental difference between a state being involved?
And in Berlusconi's case, it was the opportunity for him to take over football and football on TV and then use that as a springboard to become the the prime minister of a country.
Well, I think it's much more directly cynical and it's basically a Top-Down exploitation of the sport rather than a bottom Bottom-Up exploitation. That's what really comes out. I mean, you point to a few clubs there, like, say, you Ventus with Fiat or Biolab. And in pretty much all those cases, though, the club itself grew out of essentially the workers wanting to play and, you know, representing a group of people. And then true that even in Berlusconi's case, I mean, I think, one, the theory of braless Berlusconi is, you know, true, the adulation he got with football that almost kind of fired his imagination for politics.
And even then, I mean, I suppose one of the one of the problems of PSG and why this is also a Lamba market is this is an evolution of the way football was going. And they like the game written about this and independent of the games greedy embrace of hyper capitalism. Let it to grow to a size where certain clubs were attractive to wider interest and just making money or the promotion of certain component companies or whatever. But even in the case of, say, the you say it's still ultimately about the club.
Say same with Berlusconi, Milan. It's ultimately about I mean, there are obviously ulterior objectives, but they run parallel to what the club is. I like that. The fundamental is about. Success at the football club with Paris and Germany, that's not the case, the football club is ultimately the success of the football club is only important insofar as the promotion or I'm not even sure why what were to correctly use. And it comes down to it.
But it's about the enhancement of Qatar's image and something a lot deeper, a lot more sophisticated. And when you get right down to it than where it really goes into issues beyond football, I mean, you know, financial disparity, greed and football are obviously bad things, but that's still very much pales next to real world concerns like migrant worker deaths, like human rights abuses. And I mean, the most simplistic but still fair criticism of Qatar in that sense, that this is all a sports washing project designed to deflect or not to try to deflect because think this is something that's come up with the World Cup where they won the World Cup for 2022.
And it's just it's it's brought more criticism than I ever had of migrant workers, but almost a key with these situations. And we particularly seen this Abu Dhabi main city is that it allows them to go having projects like this and something that allows this level of integration into the West basically essentially allows them to go about business or even do better business, despite a myriad of problems that should really warrant great scrutiny. And I know that they're in the final they should warrant greater scrutiny.
But that's also why I think it is a landmark day. Football has obviously going this way. But now that it's here, it is worth reflecting on the situation we're in and how bad it's got. That was actually a political project is in the Champions League final.
I'm always conflicted about this because I think that, like. The easy answer to to the point I'm about to make is that the by not playing with South Africa, it really helped by ostracizing South Africa, it helped to speed the process along. And yet the counterargument is that by and by these clubs being owned by these countries, suddenly actually people are more interested in them than they would be otherwise.
Like how how does change come about in the future unless it comes from the scrutiny that you bring in your pieces where you're writing to match reports. And it's like, hang on a second here. Everything else that's happening around the globe is actually far more important to more interesting than is happening on the football pitch. In a way, it's slightly counterintuitive, but.
By allowing them to get involved in the first place, there might be a potential positive outcome down the line from the scrutiny that comes. Is there any any merit in that argument?
It's what I did a piece in two months ago and discussed exactly this with Peter Hain, who was, of course, central to kind of the boycott. But the boycott movement as regards South African sport, I mean, I think you're right to a degree like when Sydney won the Trevor last year and myself, a lot of journos suddenly because of the extent of the domination, we we asked what exactly it poses a greater question. And so hang on a second.
We've got we've got to look at this. I like what we've basically heard. The club or maybe some of the Abu Dhabi owners weren't exactly happy with references to the war in Yemen. In Masche reports, that wasn't the goal.
But ultimately and a bit of criticism from kind of, you know, left leaning journalists or some academics really pales next to the success again. And if you look at the city case, right, I think the South African argument still stands in that you basically I think in the Haine approach, ultimately completely right. Because you look at city case, the argument is that, well, by integrating them them, it might improve and improve conditions, improve attitudes, human rights with Manchester City and Abu Dhabi, the absolute opposite has happened.
I mean, if you talk to any academic whose work in the area, the kind of Human Rights Watch amnesty on this, Abu Dhabi is in much, much worse place as regards human rights in 2020 than it was in 2008. And despite that, obviously, we've seen the massive growth of Sydney project. We've seen Abu Dhabi use the club to basically launch a construction empire in Manchester. At the same time, when when Khaldoon, who is the chairman of Manchester City and also the de facto prime minister, Abu Dhabi, anytime he's over in England on business, he also uses these trips to meet with basically government officials in in meetings that you only really read about in the Abu Dhabi press if you go looking.
So from that perspective, I mean, ultimately, I think the best way to put it is if you just allow them into the sport or any questions asked and or without sorry, without any attempt at reform, I mean, they can just go about business any way that they get they get all these massive businesses, all these massive benefits without having to change. And that's precisely what's happened. And it's why we should be pushing back against this or and now asking the biggest question on the biggest one with Qatar this weekend, as they you know, they have the game that has been seen as a culmination of a grand project.
Is they how many migrant workers have died since 2012? It's it's a question the country still won't answer. And the question that is obviously intimately connected to sport, given how much construction has has has been involved with the 2022 World Cup.
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Pick one up and store like I mean, they are slightly separate scenarios, but ultimately they have essentially the same aim of establishing a power base in a part of the world where you then are involved in new types of businesses and you have soft power, soft diplomatic power and access to all sorts of global stars.
And like it's as Adam Koogle from Human Rights Watch put it to me, one of the easiest way to sum it up is basically if you have a football club and suddenly it connects to all different sectors of society, it fosters the image of, hey, these are good guys to do business with. And I mean, that's almost the simplest way of putting it. And so it was on one side, you obviously have all these human rights concerns, complaints from going to amnesty and human rights groups.
But then on the other side, well, look at look at this great football. These guys are OK and it is crude. Is that almost?
And it turns out that the football is so great like that. The the constellation of stars put together is actually quite intoxicating sometimes. Yeah.
That's the shameful seduction of I think it's almost a little bit of a metaphor for the Champions League itself, because I think the Champions League has become a massively problematic competition because the amount of money in it and the amount of prize money has basically created this huge financial disparity in Europe to the point that it's actually eroding football's unpredictability. And we see like the two finalists weekend buying in Paris, Dangerman, there's not really a realistic chance of winning the domestic leagues anytime soon ever again.
And the Champions League has been a huge factor in that we should have a massive problem with this competition.
But the flip side is because there's so much money in it, the football is so good when these big teams meet and thereby it's so seductive and we'll all be looking on kind of enraptured on Sunday where we were having this conversation a little bit earlier on as like once the game kicks off, can you actually remember that this is a nation state financed the way they are and one side's and I mean, I don't have that much problem with the history of Bahrain, apart from their various scandals along the way.
Like, it's impossible to it's impossible not to be seduced.
It's impossible to remember the whole way through for the 97, 98 minutes because you love the game. Yeah.
And then, of course, you been say if you're writing on a reporting on it, it is actually it almost feels incongruous on one side talking about the glory, these players and the, you know, the history of a competition like this and what it means and in crowbar in references to actually the greater significance. But I actually think it's necessary now. We should we should be if we do if we're in football, media or sporting media. And I suppose one of the concerns of media should be the kind of the betterment of society and the sport.
We should be including these references with with everything. Basically, we should be making what a club like Paris and Germany is front and center, because otherwise the argument is that you're actually you're engaging in sports, watching, but you become both a victim of it and someone who propels it. Yeah.
Which is the worst part. You're just a patsy at that point. Yeah, that's not great at Mechelle, just on sports watching. I mean, it's part of the problem that maybe fans don't really care that. I think you wrote a couple of months ago on The Independent about you quoted a Newcastle fan saying, you know, if I get to celebrate our first trophy in decades along with my son, I won't care who's in charge of us, that these tycoons maybe pounce on the fact that, you know, fans really don't care.
And the sentiment is there that even among PSG fans this weekend that, you know, we're in the Champions League final. We don't care how we got there. That's exactly. And it's not even the fans don't care because I'm talking to a lot of fans. I mean, I need you to talk to my fans today. And there is always that kind of for a lot of them, it's they're hanging. But I suppose I remember speaking someone about and if you look at from a psychological perspective, it can often be unfair to ask the most severe questions of fans like boycott their club or whatever, because ultimately this is this is something they grew up with.
They've sort they formed a really strong I mean, you want to connect it to kind of how people think about Geia counties, whatever, but something that they've grown up with, they form a really strong psychological connection with the precedes owners like this. And it's very difficult to make any sort of attachment, which means a lot of people have talked to make almost moral compromises if they do indeed care. But it's because of that emotional power of sport that these owners are are directly trying to tap into.
And I remember being told in in the midst of of the attempted Saudi tabo takeover of Newcastle that it was precisely Newcastle's struggles over the past 30 years or longer in terms of actually being successful and particular with Mike. In the Clubcard almost felt it was just it was moribund, really under Mike Ashley, that this was ripe for a takeover because it meant anyone coming in as owner was going to be welcome to work with anyone that was promising a lot of money.
And Sangermano also an interesting club in that regard. And that I mean, it's wrong to say they have no history, but they're a relatively new club. They're only founded in 1972 as an amalgamation of different clubs. And it's true that kind of for decades, until they were bought by Qatar, they went through very different incarnations from a club that was regularly beset by crises to in the 90s when they were bought out by, you know, the model that distorted the game there, which is the Berlusconi broadcasting model, although in this case, Canal Plus who bought Pouchy and create a team of Ginola Arri and most famously, George Weah bought just before Qatar had bought them.
They've gone through a decade of crisis. And because of that, I cope with that kind of I suppose variable identity is much more malleable for a project like this, where now it's I mean, I wrote a piece today about France's history, the Champions League, and they've only got one Champions League. And that should have an asterisk beside it because it was Marcey when they were found guilty of match fixing and relegating and relegated for a league game just before that.
Well, I mean, the irony, if the French League does finally get its Champions League again this weekend, it's really more Qatar's Champions League than France's, I guess.
Sorry, not going. I suppose we should talk about football as well, given that the match take place on Sunday. But John Giles was on last night and had a bit of a turnabout on Neymar. He's coming around to Neymar attitude. And I know, Miguel, there's something you've spoken about recently as well, that we all remember him sitting in the stands when PSG lost Manchester United last year, a disconsolate figure. But how does his mindset and focus changed to help PSG to this final on Sunday?
Well, if he feels like the kind of penny dropped from a little bit and and to be fair, actually, what the club where in terms of the football project, I would say probably did influence him in this for a lot of his time. And we all know he spends a lot a lot of his career as the club so far looking to get out. I remember being told last year, actually, I mean, a lot of blame was put on his father initially, but the father actually wanted to stay at Barcelona.
And I just I mean, this is one of the kind of almost a there's a whole dynamic psychological dynamic with Neymar maybe in his relationship with his dad. Well, I remember being told by someone who had worked with him and represented him, represented him that it was actually Neymar, his decision to go to PSG. And part of it was because he was surrounded by such a massive entourage where it almost feels like he's often not in control of his own career.
So he put the phone down and said, no, I think I want to do this deal that he got there and really was very different the past where he was at these two big mates and Leo Messi and Luis Suarez. But. I mean, things from a football perspective, given the joke that I've made of this particular twenty, seventeen and twenty nineteen, when they suffer another humiliation at United under two, sure things have come together, but it feels like they've found a bit of a chemistry that works on Neymar being fifth has helped.
It's it's helped his kind of mindset as regards the club. And I mean for all the criticisms, it's certainly no coincidence that they've suffered all these early eliminations and all these humiliating humiliations when he's not been in the team and when he's finally the team for the latter stages, they they finally make that breakthrough. I mean, he actually hasn't scored a few games yet, but he's been brilliant in every single game.
I'll give you a prediction. Who's going to win? I think actually we're just going to shade it, right?
I think Byron are susceptible to, I think by an overall a better team with a more and feel like the more competent more areas. But I just worry. I think in a win, a one off game like this, they almost got caught a few times against Barsa and Leon was ultimately hammering them, which was what he meant, spells when they could really get caught. And you feel that pacem behind when you got them up, a Neymar, that that's that's where it worked for.
That's why I actually just think it'll tip towards PSG. Yeah.
And Neymar, who couldn't love watching him and Neymar, they they know what they do in those sports washer's. Miguel. Great to have you with us. Enjoy the trip.
Thanks a million shares. Michael Delaney from the London Independent.
You can read his work there, OTB. And this is OTB Sports Radio, the OTV podcast network with Virgin Media.
Catch all of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League games live on Virgin Media TV.