When Will British Punditry Quit Its Lazy Analysis On Black Footballers?
"What he brings you is this powerful presence in the opposition box," Danny Murphy tells Gary Lineker and Jermaine Jenas as he analyses Paul Pogba's performance against Swansea on Saturday afternoon. As the highlights roll on, the next clip shows Pogba's reading of the game as he intercepts a pass from Tom Carroll before providing Henrikh Mkhitaryan and driving forward to receive the ball from the Armenian.
As this is going on, Murphy tells his fellow pundits "This is what I think he's going to be best at, getting forward, using his athleticism, using his power and can he finish?" As it goes, the Frenchman did finish and it was an exquisite one, to say the least, but Pogba's intelligence throughout the period of play was not once touched on, nor did it receive the praise it deserved.
The final clip from the montage of Pogba's match-winning performance was a counter-attack from the Red Devils after a Swansea corner and what followed was perhaps the most appalling part of Murphy's analysis. Following some excellent hold-up play by Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian slipped in team-mate and best friend Pogba who begins his charge towards ?ukasz Fabia?ski alongside Anthony Martial. "Look at him, bursting late in the game, he's nice and fit and strong, can he make the right decision? Yep, a simple pass to Martial."
Now, given pundits are often described as 'football experts', describing a world-class footballer who had just run from his own box before providing Martial with the fourth goal of the game as 'nice and fit and strong' is far from expert punditry. What it sounds like is someone who can't be bothered.
Paul Pogba possesses one of the best techniques in the Premier League, and right now, it's hard to think of many better central midfielders with the skill he holds. Not only that, but his style of play allows spectators to see intricate pass after intricate pass no matter how well the rest of his side are playing, yet this is always ignored with the 'powerful' phrase always being preferred. This is an issue that still surrounds Manchester City midfielder Yaya Touré, who's still very rarely considered a Premier League great.
It's not just Murphy, though. Sky's recent addition Alan Pardew who, by the way, was signed as a pundit because he was out of a job after being sacked by Crystal Palace, doubted Romelu Lukaku's football intelligence, saying he lacked 'cleverness'.
Speaking after United's win over Swansea, Pardew said: "Lukaku needs to improve at Manchester United when they regain possession. His movement today was not good enough."
"He needs to think a little bit quicker. We were talking earlier about Ruud van Nistelrooy, Teddy Sheringham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He needs to get some of that cleverness about where to be without the ball."
These comments talking about a player who has scored three Premier League goals in 180 minutes with his new team-mates and one who, so far, has completely transformed United's front line with his stretching of defences compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovi?, who on many occasions halted counter-attacking opportunities by slowing play down. The questioning of movement in black players in football is considerably higher than it is with white, which boils down to the 'lazy' stereotype.
Mina Rzouki previously weighed in on the Lukaku-Morata debate by saying she would pay £20m or £30m more to have Morata in her team. Why? "Because I would always prefer an intelligent player in my team," she said. Romelu Lukaku has scored 88 Premier League goals at the age of 24. Today, Álvaro Morata made his 50th career start in Europe's top five leagues.
How can a player with 88 Premier League goals, which is more than Dennis Bergkamp, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suárez and Harry Kane, not have any footballing intelligence, so much so you would pay £20m-£30m more for a player with 38 fewer starts than Lukaku's goal tally, when it's the strikers job to score goals...
Now, I am not saying that anyone mentioned above purposely said what they did because of the colour of Pogba or Lukaku's skin but it is becoming a common pattern and not on just Match Of The Day or Sky. It's in British punditry in general.
No matter how well a player with black skin does something, his technique is almost never mentioned, but instead, pundits would rather focus on their athleticism, power or even on some occasions, label them as a 'beast'. And because pundits are doing it without thinking they have done wrong, the issue has to be addressed, either through training or just telling pundits.
If Danny Murphy knew that his comments were being perceived as racist, he wouldn't repeat the same type of comments but instead, we choose to ignore the issue and use a few examples of white players being called powerful and pretend that those talking about the issue are wrong. Well, they're not and one way or another, the issue needs to be addressed.