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Thursday, 22 May 2014

Of Cakes and Handshakes

Yaya Toure in happier times

Just when you think football can’t possibly get any more ridiculous, along comes a story about a 31-year-old man being so upset about only getting a birthday cake from his employers that he’s prepared to jack in his £220,000 a week contract and leave. A grown man. A grown man who, for the record, is not only 31 years old, but earns £220,000 a week.

I don’t know if I’ve already pointed this out but this man earns £220,000 a week, and is 31 years old. For context, that’s approximately 10 years older than the age at which most people start wishing that people at work completely ignore their birthday because they fucking dread their colleagues creeping up behind them in the office and standing there in awkward silence for six minutes while they try and say something nice about the fact that all they’ve received is a card and a pair of gloves. No one likes work birthdays.

So Yaya Toure’s annoyed. But annoyed because he DID get something. Maybe it’s because a cake isn’t a great present for an elite athlete. Elite athletes don’t like cake, for one. Everyone knows that. You certainly can’t make marauding runs through midfield and score 24 goals in a season off the back of a diet of cakes, that’s for sure. And the World Cup’s coming up. Did Zinedine Zidane have a whole fucking Victoria Sponge the night before the 1998 final? No he did not. Was Andres Iniesta tucking into an Arctic Roll as an afternoon snack before the final in 2010? NO HE WAS NOT.

As ever, it was left to a representative of a grown man who earns £220,000 a week to speak on his behalf. Here’s a bit of Dimitri Seluk’s quote to the press: “I don’t expect City to present Yaya with a Bugatti*; we only asked that they shook his hand and said: ‘We congratulate you.’ It is the minimum they must do when it is his birthday and the squad is all together.

“I hear one newspaper has written that City congratulated him from Twitter but this is a joke. It is better they don’t put anything on Twitter if they are not saying anything to him. The club’s owners ate a 100kg cake after wi-…”

HANG ON DIMITRI. BACK THE TRUCK UP. A 100kg cake? That’s nearly 16 stone. And the club’s owners ate it? All of it? Are you fucking nuts?

Here are some other things that weigh around 100kg. The Komodo Dragon. A Bengal Tiger. A Lion. A Gorilla. A Panda. A newborn elephant. This is clearly a cake the like of which the world has never seen before, and you’re worried about Yaya Toure? The 90kg Yaya Toure? Get lost.

Asteroid-sized cakes aside, the matter boils down, as it so often does, to perceived respect, or not ‘nuff of it. And central to that, and by extension to all of football, is ‘the handshake’. No one shook your hand on your birthday? Are you taking the piss? You have been mortally wronged. End of.

Bizarrely, football seems to be a sport obsessed with handshakes. Managers, players. They love a good handshake but even better than that is the snub. Suarez snubbing Evra. Can’t remember the result of the match but that snub, oh my, do I remember that handshake he DIDN’T give! John Terry has been on the receiving end of TWO high-profile snubs: Wayne Bridge (because John Terry had shagged his wife), Anton Ferdinand (because John Terry had called him a ‘fucking black cunt’ or had said ‘I didn’t call you a fucking black cunt’ depending on whether you believe elephants can fly or not). In footballing circles, that is worse than a custodial sentence.

Perhaps with this reverence of the handshake in mind, Toure’s behaviour can better be placed in the context of our times. A 100kg cake is one thing. A snubbed handshake quite another**.

If Yaya Toure does end up leaving Manchester in the summer, presumably for somewhere a) hotter or b) hotter and where they pay no income tax, then all we can hope is that they have a more liberal attitude to hand shaking than they do cake eating. Because elite athletes do not like cake.

* “I expect City to present Yaya with a Bugatti. And I’ll have one and all”
** For the record, Kolo Toure’s birthday is March 19th.

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