Premier League all but won, Carabao Cup champions, Champions League favourites, talk of being the best English team of all time – it’s fair to say Manchester City and Pep Guardiola are having a near perfect season.
Ironically, it has taken a measure of goodwill from Pep to spark the largest question about the standards of the Catalonian manager this season; although this is no debate of his coaching talents. It is rather a question of ethics, as the importance of geopolitics in football is growing beyond the point of ignorance for those who claim football and politics should not be discussed in the same sentence.
Pep has been wearing a yellow ribbon in recent months to represent his support for the imprisoned activists and politicians who have campaigned for Catalan independence. This statement of solidarity had not gone unnoticed with the FA and they charged Guardiola a few days before their League Cup final as he’d breached the rules surrounding promoting political messages at football games.
City smashed Arsenal 3-0 at Wembley in the Cup final to bring his first major honour to Manchester as Guardiola continued to wear his ribbon in spite of his ban, unsurprisingly, much of the media after the game were pressing him on his decision.
“Before I am a manager, I am a human being”. Pep Guardiola expressed his feelings further to the Catalonia situation as he compared to how Scotland were granted a chance of a legitimate referendum.
There aren’t many in football who have the same level of admiration and respect as Pep Guardiola – when he speaks, the whole world listens – this is why his message carries such weight, he has raised awareness and conversation about a serious situation beyond his realms and deserves credit for spreading what he believes in.
Guardiola’s passionate argument for the issue of people being held against their will unfortunately soon felt fickle as questions began to be asked about his opinion on his employers. When quizzed on the human rights issue of workers situation in the UAE, his response was remarkably meek, “Every country decides the way they want to live for themselves”.
I’m sorry Pep – but that doesn’t cut it. It’s a real shame that Guardiola dodged the question and failed to recognise the brutal issue of workers conditions in the Emirates, especially moments after expressing such care for the situation which is happening in his homeland.
Pep’s contradiction brings light to a creeping issue which hasn’t seen as much daylight as some would expect. City is almost owned by the state of UAE. Few know what Monsour’s ambitions are as such a highly influential member of the Emirates, but what we do know is that they are sponsors of one of the most entertaining football teams in recent history.
Human rights researcher Nick McGeehan has written about how he believes that the overall aim is not to make money out of City but to attach their brand to a prestigious football club, resulting in positive coverage for their region and giving them further influence, power and a distraction from their human rights record.
Pep’s hypocrisy suggests that behind the beautiful performances from City there is something which isn’t so pure. It highlights a discussion which needs to be had about the migrant workers’ problem in the UAE which creates such apartheid, ran by the very people who own our greatest football club.
By Tommy Joyce