Cantona to re-create New York Cosmos. Is this for real?

January 19, 2011

Eric Cantona, soccer super-star and Manchester United legend, is to revive the New York Cosmos soccer team.

Is this for real, or are we falling under the spell of another piece of Eric’s creative magic

Eric Cantona. The name still rings down the terraces at Manchester United. Fans sing “On the seven days of Christmas” with the refrain “...and an Eric Cantona“. Don’t think you can get it right without training. Eric needs three stresses.

His mercurial career helped propel Manchester United ahead of their rivals. It also included memorable goals, “assists” (as we learned to call them), mystic press statements about seagulls and herrings [sardines actually, but see below for that] and a forced spell of community service. On field, he cultivated a collar-up strut that only little boys dared imitate. Even his warm-up routine was a work of art and worth the entry money.

He inevitably then chose a career with space for his ego and headed for the movies, even playing himself in Becoming Eric.

So is this for real?

Maybe. But the breaking story has an appropriate sense of fantasy about it. Eric has no managerial experience. Which is OK, because at present The New York Cosmos does not play in a league. In fact, they don’t even have a team. Marvellous. We await developments…

The sardines quote

The origins of the famous Cantona quote about trawlers and sardines were recently explained:

In 1995, Eric Cantona was at the height of his powers. But after being sent off in the game against Crystal Palace, he lost control of his emotions as he walked to the dressing room and launched a martial arts-style kick at a fan he alleged had verbally abused him. Sentenced to 100 hours’ community service for assault, Cantona’s actions made worldwide headlines. But his only comment to the press after his conviction was that one sentence.

“When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”

Many believed it was the work of a little known French philosopher. Others thought that Cantona had shown himself as a deep and enigmatic thinker. But Michael Kelly, the former head of security at Manchester United, has revealed in his book that the quotation had been assembled by a number of people including Cantona [and Kelly] in a London hotel room.

Martin Luther King day in Miami

January 19, 2011

Americans honor the birthdays of three of its citizens with holidays named after them. George Washington and Christopher Columbus were the first two recipients, Martin Luther King the third.

It’s a day off work for government employees, and for workers in some other sectors such as banks. In America the date is fixed on a Monday closest to the actual birthday. Martin Luther King day falls on the third Monday of January. The edict was eventually enacted by all 50 States, although there were some who reluctantly gave up celebrating a more local hero on the day.

Miami celebrated under grey clouds this monday [January 15th 2011]. A visitor to the city might not have appreciated its significance. Traffic downtown was light. But the near deserted finance sector could have signified any non-working day.

King, and the “I have a dream” speech

I remember Martin Luther King, from a time when I was working as a research assistant at a New York medical college. That was in the 1960s. The civil rights movement seemed to an outsider like me to be lead by more militant characters. It was typified by the cool supporters of the Black Power movement held out leaflets from the street corners of Manhattan. Sometimes I would take a pamphlet. The activists seemed more concerned with getting their message across to “brothers rather than others” who mostly hurried by, occupying a different space on the sidewalks.

The controversial figure of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was also rarely out of the headlines. Powell was a firely politician and pastor who represented Harlem, in the United States House of Representatives for a staggering period from 1945 until his removal in disgrace in 1971. Although I did not know it at the time, Powell strongly opposed Martin Luther King’s non-violence policies.

But it was King’s voice which won through, both in a literal and metaphoric sense. His speech has become one of the most praised of all time for the power of its delivery and its impact. It is said to have encouraged President Kennedy to put more weight behind the Civil rights campaign (JFK was rather more ambivalent about his direct involvement than was his brother Bobby.)


King Day events were reported rather modestly, and outside the news headlines. In Atlanta, the symbolic focus was at MLK’s Ebenezer Baptist church close by his birth place. The messages from political leaders and members of his family picked up on the continued need for non-violence and reconciliation. The recent slayings at Tucson were picked up as a theme.

This echoed a recent speech by President Obama which had also called for greater efforts toward reconciliation. The tragedy had triggered mourning and a political storm of accusations that rhetoric had inflamed the popular mood and precipitated acts of violence.