Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Tory benefit proposals are stupid and cruel (Observer)

Barbara Ellen: The plan to make the unemployed work for their benefits is breathtakingly wrong

2. The bank wot won it? (Sunday Times)

Not until investment picks up can the Bank of England’s newfound optimism be justified, writes David Smith

3. David Cameron has a women problem (Independent)

Poll after poll shows they are deserting the Tories, and when interviewed by Red magazine, the PM managed to shoot himself in the foot, says Janet Street-Porter

4. Open government? Don't make me laugh (Observer)

David Cameron is boasting about the UK's transparent government. In fact there is more darkness than daylight, says Nick Cohen

5. Don’t bully the energy giants — here’s how to help the little guys (Sunday Times)

While my head knows that Ed Miliband’s idea of freezing energy bills could leave us with frozen homes, my heart can’t suppress a cheer at the thought of exacting some petty revenge, writes Camilla Cavendish

6. Christians are dying for us to help (Sunday Telegraph)

The West has been apathetic in its response to the persecution of Christians by Islamic extremists. But such apathy can have disastrous consequences, says Jenny McCartney

7. Porn has changed – for the worse. Even men have noticed (Independent)

The former editor of a lads' mag has changed his view of pornography, because of the possible effect on his son, but he has forgotten something, says Joan Smith

8. This joyous performance will do more for fashion's health than Femen stunts (Observer)
Rick Owens's designs for a team of athletes achieved far more during Paris fashion week than Femen's topless protest, says Bertie Brandes

9. David Cameron gears up to say hello again to Mondeo Man (Sunday Telegraph)
Far from lurching to the Right, the PM wants to reintroduce himself to the Tory voters who famously defected to Tony Blair, says Matthew d’Ancona

10. How Turkey blew its chance to lead this troubled region (Independent)

The country could have enhanced its influence and saved a lot of lives. It did the exact opposite, says Patrick Cockburn

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

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