Hyderabad: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the bravest man in Britain now. The baby-faced Norwegian has bitten the bullet by agreeing to occupy the managerial hot seat at Cardiff City. The Welsh club are in the throes of uncertainty as a result of one man. Intriguingly, the man — Vincent Tan — has a controlling stake in the club.
Tan is a billionaire businessman from Malaysia who has parachuted into the EPL with the aim of expanding his empire. He is the butt of all jokes in the land where modern football originated for his lack of insight in the beautiful game.
Tan can apparently not tell a direct free kick from the indirect variety and a passive position in offside must obviously be beyond him. But he has money. So he can talk rubbish and act even more abhorrently.
Club football owes its existence to the working class people of industrial towns in the late 19th century. It became the face of a locality in the first quarter of the next century and an unstoppable force ever since. In the romantic era, football administration was in the hands of people who knew the game.
But modern economic compulsions have changed the dynamics. The name of the game is business now.
The influx of foreign owners is a double-edged sword. Fans want cash injection from the owner and, at the same time, no interference from him in football affairs. It’s not easy for owners from abroad to pass the passion or loyalty test because they can’t match the sense of ownership fans have for their club.
The way Tan sacked Malky Mackay, Solskjaer’s predecessor, reeked of arrogance as well as ignorance. Tan had committed an even graver blunder when he changed the home colour of Cardiff from blue to red last season. The colour of the jersey has an importance that can’t be captured in words.
Imagine Arsenal switching to blue for their home matches. There would be mayhem in north London. Some owners don’t understand the magic that keeps the engines of club football going for 125 years.
Hull City owner Assem Allam, an Englishman of Egyptian extraction, is also in the eye of a storm for seeking the FA’s permission to change his club’s name into Hull Tigers. Allam has undoubtedly helped Hull perform better in the EPL with his money but he has shown utter contempt for the supporters of the club.
Tan and Allam have touched a raw nerve because some unwritten rules are inviolable in football. Both showed no respect to the sensibilities of the fans. Solskjaer has vowed to finish the season ahead of Swansea City, another Welsh club in the Premier League. Will the former United star be able to walk the talk? Tan will tell.