Among the more peculiar attempts to raise some sort of festive mood in the adent of the European Union’s 50th birthday was a recent football (soccer) game between Manchester United and a team named Europe XI at the Old Trafford. The announcement of this led to some amused questions by journalists, and EU Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen found it necessary at at least two different press conferences to repeatedly underline that the Commissioners themselves would not take part in that team. To the general dismay for those of us who might have wanted to see Mr Barroso et consortes get a good tackle or so.
Anyway. This spurred my imagination into thinking how the EU institutions would perform as a football team.
First, there is no manager. There is a collective of 27 people all trying to influence coaching, but they can only give general directions, mostly in the neighbourhood of “Strategy: Put ball into goal“. They take turn organising the training, which means that strategy changes every six months.
Second, there is a captain, but he can only propose what to do. The decisions are taken by yet another body of 27 managers, the composition of which changes depending on whether we are talking which way e.g. the goalkeeper or the forwards should go.
Third, the supporter club insists on having opinions about everything and anything, but does not have the power to really change much. And a number of members in the supporter club cheer for opposing teams or want their team to be dismantled altogether.
Fourth, because of the constant infighting within the team, it has set up its own court to settle disputes between them. This doesn’t stop some of them from grumbling that they’d be better off leaving the field altogether, maybe joining another team. However, there’s really no established way for such transfers.
Fifth, outside the dressing room are a number of other players wanting very badly to get on the team, and they are usually let in without much further ado. Except one, because it refuses to seek professional help for its sado-masochistic tendencies. This leaves the field increasingly crowded with players who keep running in all directions, sometimes charging towards their own goal.
Sixth, everybody keeps shouting their opinions in their own language. Since they cannot agree on using a comon one, the field is even more crowded by an army of translators, who have to follow their every step. Since things sometimes get lost in translation, the left forwards insist that everyone should use their language.
Seventh, the team spends considerable time arguing against the referee, in spite of the real risk of being sent off the field.
Eighth, it is plagued by hooligans, many of which believe there should be no game altogether, or even that the entire sport should be abolished.
In other words – sounds just like Arsenal.
(For those of you who wonder: The match ended 4-3 to Man U.)