Saturday, May 28, 2022
HomeCulture WarsGobby Gary’s no match for measured Matt

Gobby Gary’s no match for measured Matt

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GARY Lineker or Matt Le Tissier? Which do you prefer, the supreme penalty-box poacher or the maverick ‘wonder goal’ specialist? That particular pub debate, unlike the often portly Le Tissier, will likely run and run. But the question has been reframed in recent weeks as the footballing legends have clashed on non-football matters, expressing views and displaying attitudes as diverse as their playing styles.

Lineker has been an enthusiast for the vaccine and has no time for the hesitant or the sceptical, while Le Tissier has been prominent in highlighting the serious issue of footballers suffering heart problems post-jab. He has called for an investigation into a possible link and has been seen on anti-vaccine mandate demonstrations. He has also tweeted in support of vaccine sceptic Dr Robert Malone’s appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

This aroused Lineker’s ire and prompted this snarky and sarcastic tweet. 

‘Who to listen to: brilliant scientists around the world or Matt Le Tissier or a DJ? Tough one [laughing emoji].’

This is typical of the man once dubbed the ‘Queen Mother of Football’ and further evidence of how much Lineker the social media commentator has in common with Lineker the player. While less strategic footballers would race around after the ball like children after a balloon, Lineker would choose his spot close to the goal, and loiter (he called this ‘attacking space’; others call it ‘goal hanging’). The Twittersphere is Lineker’s new penalty box. Within that limited space he loiters, awaits his moment, then pounces. He doesn’t need to body swerve opponents now: he just blocks them.

He’s been at it for a while, and it’s the arrogance that grates. While Le Tissier has confined himself to issues directly related to his sport, Lineker, it seems, is omniscient. He’s happy to regale us with his checklist of Left-wing orthodoxies: the horror of Brexit, the horror that was Trump, the deadly threat (yawn) of climate change, the heartlessness of anyone who harbours the slightest concern about illegal immigration, and now the idiocy of anyone questioning the vaccines.

This would be hard to stomach from anyone qualified only to kick a football and comment on others doing the same, but let’s remind ourselves who pays Lineker’s wages – the BBC, funded by a non-optional licence fee. The corporation, quite rightly, has guidelines instructing its on-screen talent about what they shouldn’t express views on in public.

But this doesn’t apply to our Gary. The former Barcelona striker clearly considers himself ‘mas que un presenter’. In 2018 the respected cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew told Lineker that as the face of BBC sport he should keep his political views to himself. Lineker snapped back with his trademark sarcasm: ‘Thanks for your concern, which I suspect wouldn’t be a concern if you agreed with me’. To another critic he was blunter: ‘I’m a freelance and I’ll talk shit about whatever I like on my Twitter feed, thanks.’

Cynics might suspect that as a straight white male in his 60s, Lineker feels he needs to stay onside with his ruthlessly woke employers by tweeting his politically correct BBC endorsed views incessantly. Again we are reminded of Lineker the footballer – he was not booked once in his entire career. But it is more likely that Lineker, comfortably ensconced inside the BBC bubble, simply never encounters contrary views. Thus, like many of his colleagues, he seems to regard his opinions not as opinions but as truths, or even virtues, and anyone who dissents as primitive denizens of an inferior realm not worthy of courtesy or a proper hearing.

Let’s be fair: Lineker is an intelligent bloke and, as far as I know, fundamentally a decent one. He once gave (at least) a million quid to save his first club Leicester from the administrators, something I’ve never heard him mention. He contributed to Paul Gascoigne’s medical costs. He showed a generosity of spirit with a heartfelt tribute to Diego Maradona, who cheated Lineker and his England teammates in a World Cup quarter-final in 1986. He is on record as being fiercely critical of FIFA in the scandalous Sepp Blatter era. He had nothing to gain from that.

But when Lineker moves away from football, he can turn nasty and intolerant pretty quickly. If you’re against knee-taking, you’re part of the problem (i.e. a racist); if you’re concerned about illegal immigration, ditto; if you’re sceptical about anthropogenic climate change, you’re a denier. If you have any doubts about the efficacy or safety of the Covid vaccines, or the ethics of vaccine mandates, you’re an idiot.

Contrast with Le Tissier’s approach. Asked on a podcast about his relationship with Lineker – given an opportunity to hit back – he passed up the open goal and said simply that they had met and had very different views.

When challenged on Twitter by someone who respectfully disagreed with him on masks and on the vaccines, he replied: ‘I don’t expect everyone to agree, all I ask is for people to see both sides of the story before coming to a conclusion.’

Class: you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

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