Football Manager is a game of striking realism and difficulty. In the day to day dealings of managing a professional squad, I deal with salty footballers lambasting their playtime or "paltry" contracts, angry fans, and incompetent, frugal board members.
It all sounds very first world, doesn't it? Sitting in my tracksuit bottoms for hours on end, tinkering away at formations and embroiling myself in the world of my favorite sport. And I'm ok with that decidedly unsexy reality. But what really bugs me are the elements of the real world Football Manager, for all its obsessive attention to detail, fails to simulate. A world where football isn't the utopian, all-inclusive paradise that its games and governing bodies try to make it out to be.
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Football Manager developer Sports Interactive managed to sit down and contemplate the effects of Brexit on football—something the English government seems lax to do for the entire world. So I'm hopeful the devs will consider attending to some other areas that fail to reflect the reality of the industry the 'Champ' series so comprehensively recreates.
3 Pressing Issues That Should Be Discussed In 'Football Manager 2018'
World football/soccer has been a blistering dumpster fire of dodgy dealings for some time now, but it wasn't until 2015 when heads began to roll over the sheer corruption at the heart of the beautiful game. Not literally, though. That'd be really messed up.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini were both ousted from their positions after being banned from all football-related activities for eight years by FIFA's ethics committee. The two crooks were embroiled in a scandal, $1.7m worth of "disloyal payment" passed between them with no written contract to speak of. And seriously, that's just the tip of the iceberg with these two and their high-ranking officials, a whole host of whom were also arrested and impeached.
Wouldn't it be interesting if this was represented in the next instalment of Football Manager? Where pressure from law officials can lead to your board being taken to court and having the possibility of going to jail? The game could even get you involved, asking you to throw matches for millions. Man, what would you do?
Now there isn't anything fun about racism. It gets people killed and ostracized from the land they call home, because they look and believe in things different from the white majority. It strips children of their childhoods and can drive a strong-willed person insane. And a lot of it still exists in football. Like, a lot.
Recently, infamous Liverpool FC forward Mario Balotelli (currently on loan at French Ligue 1 club Nice) was subjected to racist chants whilst playing against SC Bastia.
Four Chelsea fans were recently handed suspended prison sentences for racially abusing Souleymane Sylla, a black Parisian, whilst on their way to a Champion's League game against Paris St Germain.
And, sticking with the Chelsea theme, 21-year-old Blues fan Fabien Richardson had his season ticket revoked after being caught making 13 Nazi salutes toward Tottenham Hotspur fans. It should be noted that Tottenham is a club known for being associated with the Jewish faith, and the accused states that he was simply "waving at his friends". That's just three events in the last two years.
Racism is a vicious epidemic, has been for generations, and we can't allow it to be swept under the rug for the sake of "good clean fun". It has to be openly talked about, because it's not only the fodder of "gap-toothed hicks" and the governments of the west. It permeates every iota of society and leads to the social, economic and psychological marginalization of people of color.
Sports Interactive are staunch supporters of England's anti-discrimination initiative Kick It Out, created to challenge discriminatory practices within English soccer, and to promote the positivity found in inclusion. But back in 2012 even it saw a surge in dissent.
A number of well-known black players chose to boycott a protest organized by Kick It Out, during which players would wear t-shirts with KIO's logo before matches, due to the organization's significant lack of action and organization during a time fraught with racist abuse on the pitches of the English soccer and international matches. Take this under-21s game between England and Serbia as an example.
In order to tackle racism it has to be highlighted. Shown in its true form, despite how much it may hurt. And it will hurt. If eyes are opened to a situation and space is created in order to incite conducive discussion, growth will occur. This is the only reason I'd want to see racial abuse included in Football Manager. As said before, the footballing world isn't the utopia the sport's governing bodies would like us to believe, so neither should be its greatest simulation.
FYI the Serbian FA was fined a paltry €80,000 by UEFA for its team's actions during this game.
In 1997, in a lock-up garage somewhere in Shoreditch, London, ex-Norwich City forward Justin Fashanu ended his life due to the pressures of being the first footballer to come out in soccer. The English player, whose nomadic career saw him reach the US, opened up about his sexuality in an interview with UK right-wing, yellow press tabloid The Sun.
He instantly became the focus of heinous jibes and "jokes" from teammates and fans of the game, even those who supported the teams he played for. Justin's brother John Fashanu distanced himself after his coming out, and, in the end, Fashanu couldn't even get a full-time contract from a club post-revelation. At ends with the world after accusations of him sexually abusing a 17-year-old male in Maryland, Fashanu fled the US for the UK and ended his life in a decrepit garage.
Fashanu left a note left at the scene explaining his reasons for his final act.
I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family.
Today, in 2017, there are seventeen LGBTQI players that are or were involved in world soccer, including Thomas Hitzlsperger, Robbie Rogers and English women's soccer legend Lily Parr. We can only hope for more of these brave sportsmen and women to become role models for football's LGBTQI community.
Due to the overtly masculine nature of the game—not to mention the commercial value available for players (and their clubs) who lead an apparent straight-edge, CIS-existence—LGBTQI footballers are either talked down from coming out, or are too scared to take the weight of suddenly being thrust into the limelight due to their sexual orientation.
Back in 2011, Bayern Munich's current and ex-German national team captain Philipp Lahm stated that he would tell players to refrain from coming out in his controversial autobiography 'The Subtle Difference'.
I would not advise any gay professional footballer to come out.
I would fear that he could end up like Justin Fashanu who after he outed himself was driven into such a corner that he ended up committing suicide.
He would then go on to lambast his own accusers.
First, I am not a homosexual. I am not married to my wife Claudia for appearances and I do not have a friend in Cologne with whom I really live. This speculation doesn’t matter to me. I have nothing against homosexuals and I find that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality.
But it never ceases to amaze me that these isolated types, who tell these stories, can have a lot of influence on public opinion. ‘Philipp Lahm homosexual’ […] do you not have anything more important to talk about?
Back during the run up to World Cup 2010 in South Africa, the then Brazil head-coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was pretty candid with his feelings towards LGBTQI footballers.
"If I found out that one of my players was gay I would throw him off the team."
In 2008, South African footballer Eudy Simelane was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered for being one of the first openly-Lesbian woman living in KwaThema. Her body was found partially clothed in a creek after being kidnapped.
LGBQTI footballers are some of the bravest athletes around. Forced to keep their true selves hidden, enduring the macho lifestyle, and listening to the jibes from their peers and fans must be enough for them to consider hanging up their boots. We need more of these brave men and women to feel safe enough to ply their trade no matter their sexual preference. We may have our heroes, why shouldn't LGBTQI kids have theirs?
That's why I think homosexuality and Stonewall, the inspirational organization and first openly gay football club, should be included in Football Manager, alongside corruption and abject racism. The only way to change the world is to open eyes to what's broken. And football has been broken for an age now, so isn't it high time we talked even louder about it?
Some of you may say "these issues are emblematic of a much larger problem within society", which you're completely right to say. But so many people interact with football that it would be one of the most apt places to start working out a way for everyone, of all walks of life, all races, all religions and all preferences to just start talking. That's all we need: discourse. Right?
So over to you, Sports Interactive. You brought Brexit to the Brits, now what about football's other more pressing concerns?
[Sources: Complex, Wiki, The Independant, Stonewall FC, Goal, The Guardian]