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Rishi's own goal: six classic premiership football blunders and what they reveal | Rishi Sunak

Rishi's own goal: six classic premiership football blunders and what they reveal |  Rishi Sunak


IIt was a disastrous first day of campaigning for Rishi Sunak: it was discovered that his audience of warehouse workers in Derbyshire included undercover Tory councilors, and his talk in Barry, South Wales, was snubbed when he asked everyone if they were looking forward to all the football: Wales did not qualify for the European Championship.

Sunak is probably in a helicopter somewhere right now, soothing himself with the truth that all prime ministers make football blunders. It's so common that it's almost part of the office; that you are not authentic in your love for the beautiful game. Certainly, all prime ministers Doing Some things get messed up, but each clanger tells his own story, about the man (or woman), the time, the expectations and the team choice.

David Cameron vs Aston Villa

Cameron's main mistake in 2015 was that he had always claimed to be an Aston Villa fan, and suddenly he asked everyone to support West Ham. The terrible thing is that you can see cortisol coursing through his body as he realizes his mistake, starting at his hairline; the terrible realization that something has just happened that will haunt him forever. As a slip of the tongue it is impossible. Football fans never misunderstand their team. Who hasn't said the wrong name in bed, or called one of their children by the dog's name? But no one ever makes a mistake about football.

Cameron's insincerity went much deeper: in 2001 he said bluntly in the House of Commons that he was not a football fan. Then he said in the same debate that he was (when England travel abroad to play football I want the team to win so much and I'm afraid they won't). In 2012 he suddenly had a team (Aston Villa) that he had supported since he was 13 (1979), but by 2015 his support dated back to 1982, when the team he may or may not have heard of defeated Bayern Munich in the European Cup Final. In other words, what you're looking at is a man who doesn't believe in anything, which ties in with his general style as Prime Minister: I think I'd be quite good at it. It's very different from the impression Sunak made in Barry, which was more: Isn't there some kind of carnival coming up that you guys like?

Tony Blair vs Jackie Milburn

Tony Blair presented a signed Newcastle United shirt to Jakaya Kikwete, the then president of Tanzania, in 2007. Photo: Alastair Grant/AFP/Getty Images

In 1997, Blair said he was a Newcastle United supporter, and was mocked for years for claiming to have watched Jackie Milburn, which was impossible as he was four and living in Australia when Milburn retired. It was actually a reporter's mistake, not Blair, and Blair later joked: I had a lot of trouble with it. But here's the thing: him it didn't I have so much trouble with it. Like his fake accent, the ask-he-does-he-not-support Newcastle was taken as a feint by the common man, and priced in. Sure, he pretends to be classless: that's what people do these days.

Harold Wilson vs. Leonid Brezhnev

Harold Wilson, Leonid Brezhnev and Andrei Gromyko in 1968. Photo: Central Press/Getty Images

Wilson was a lifelong fan of Huddersfield Town, that much was indisputable: they had a golden period of winning everything in the mid-1920s, which coincided with a prelapsarian period in Wilson's own life, between eight and ten, before the economy took a turn. Shit, his father got fired and his politics started (1930). So there was no attitude towards the common man when he carried around a postcard of the 1924 team, but it was a little strange how often he took it out of his wallet to show people.

Anyway, he did that with Brezhnev, and Brezhnev thought he wanted an autograph, and signed it for him. So then he carried his beloved team, signed by the General Secretary of the Communist Party. This is really Brezhnev's blunder.

Margaret Thatcher against the British working class

Margaret Thatcher in Bradford City in 1987. Photo: Manchester Daily Express/SSPL/Getty Images

Margaret Thatcher hated football, hated football fans and created an ID card system that was extraordinary in scope (entering the grounds without an ID card was punishable by a month in prison). But she was really just mediating a class war through the twin evils of unions and football (this was before it became acceptable to demonize welfare recipients). When there was a football boom in the 1990s and no one, anywhere, didn't like football, it was almost a post-class war settlement, a collective sigh of never again. Naive, as it turned out.

Winston Churchill greeted the England football team in 1941. Photo: Print Collector/Getty Images

According to Stanley Matthews, Churchill always did the same thing in his pep talk to the England team. He shook their hands a little too long, called them troops and wished them well. If pushed, he would admit that he did not like football, but polo. Polo. It's actually quite rude, like going up to Jacqueline du Pr right before a concert and saying you prefer the kazoo. But if you're a posh Prime Minister, there's a certain amount of dignity in simply admitting it.




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