Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Under my presidency, Chávez's revolution will continue (Guardian)

Venezuela has lost an extraordinary leader, but his democratic and socialist project of transformation is more alive than ever, says Nicholás Maduro, interim President of Venezuela.

2. Bomb North Korea, Before It's Too Late

The purpose is to neutralize a clear and present danger. That is all. (International Herald Tribune)

3. North and south are worlds apart (Financial Times) (£)

Britain's politicians must be both ambitious and realistic in response.

4. She may not have known it, but even Thatcher was not immune to art's capacity to challenge (The Independent)

David Lister on Thatcher's relationship with the arts, plus, the BBC should regret the passing of The Hour and Hytner's first class.

5. How poetry gets to the heart of the matter (Times) (£)

When verse is said aloud it transforms both speaker and audience, as the schoolchildren in our competition found, by Andrew Motion.

6. Margaret Thatcher and the scars that refuse to heal in former mining communities (Mirror)

People in Orgreave told us of a community wrecked, where drugs and drink and divorce have taken hold, and they lay the blame at Margaret Thatcher.

7. Martin Samuel at the Masters (Daily Mail)

Augusta must be barking mad for punishing Guan Tianlang.

8. Sunny! Sunny! Sunny! Out! Out! Out! (Times) (£)

Warm weather divided Britain. Southerners and Falklands islanders may miss it, but what about miners?

9. Margaret Thatcher: Her funeral is not a political act, but a moment to wish for peace (Telegraph)

After a life of striving for God and country, Lady Thatcher has earned her final salute

10. This lovefest for Margaret Thatcher spells trouble for David Cameron (Guardian)

The prime minister is damned if he's too much like her, and damned if he's not enough. Meanwhile Labour is left unruffled.

Getty
Show Hide image

Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

0800 7318496