CONDOLENCES to the French midfielder Lassana Diarra on the loss of a cousin, a Muslim like him, in Friday’s attacks by the odious ISIL in Paris. See footnote …
There is not enough time just yet – for reasons I outline in a long footnote touching on the sadness of recent days – to offer a proper review of the volume of Sunderland-related essays edited by Lance Hardy, the author of a superb book on our 1973 FA Cup final win, Stokoe, Sunderland and ’73.
But it is right to record its publication, with the promise that as soon as other commitments permit, a full review will appear on these pages.
Pete Sixsmith was invited to write the review but declined, nobly judging that it was inappropriate for a contributor to the book to assess its merits.
So let us just say for now that this is a fascinating project in which Sixer remembers with customary eloquence the Great Escape under Guy Poyet. Other chapters have been written by Jim Montgomery, Gary Rowell, BBC Radio Newcastle’s indispensable matchday commentary team of Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett, the SAFC programme editor and admirable club historian Rob Mason and, among a clutch of writers and broadcasters with personal and professional interest in Sunderland, Mike Grady, Jeff Brown, David Jones, Graeme Anderson and Doug Weatherall.
Hardy himself pitches in with a look back at another Great Escape, or rather attempted escape as this was 1977 and it ended in tears and anger.
In his introduction, Hardy – who has been hooked on SAFC since the first game he ever witnessed on television, that Sunderland v Leeds final – holds out hope that the book’s sub-heading “Volume One” proves accurate. “Hopefully,” he writes, ” it will the first of many such volumes”.
And the very last page offers confirmation, promising Volume Two next year.
Buy your copy for a tenner. The publishers’ own site is at www.talesfrom.com/Sunderland. The Amazon link shows it to be currently unavailable from there, though I am assured this will change and Waterstones – https://www.waterstones.com/book/tales-from-the-red-and-whites/9780993238123 – says purchasers can expect a copy to be on its way within 24 hours.
Monsieur Salut writes: it feels a little odd and uncomfortable to be interrupting what I have necessarily been writing about over the past few days to dwell on football (please see John McCormick’s words on this theme at https://safc.blog/2015/11/the-french-connection/.
My visit to France started on Thursday when I trudged around the sprawling and squalid Calais migrants’ camp to gather material for a 2,500-word essay I must write in the coming days. Even that task has been shoved back in the queue by demands on my time since the awful events of Paris.
The young man you see wearing my jumper – I’d taken some old clothing following the recent appeal on these pages from Philosophy Football – told me he was a Protestant who had fled religious persecution in Eritrea.
Next night, I was in Lille. And by the end of the evening, sport was the last thing on my mind.
But football still has its place and just as it is one that should not be exaggerated, nor should it be dismissed as unimportant. Think about the limited Christmas truces observed by British and German squaddies facing each other in the trenches of the First World War; some played football in a brief respite from trying the blow one another to smithereens. I thought about those ghosts of an earlier conflict while wandering around the gardens of the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres, and the museum, In Flanders Fields, in the town centre, on Friday morning.
Please think today of Lassana Diarra, the Marseille and France player who heard the Stade de France explosions while playing for his country in the friendly against Germany on Friday. He had no way of knowing that among other explosions and shooting in the heart of Paris, his own cousin Asta Diakite would be among the victims, shot dead while out shopping. And please, while quite rightly raising a;ll the questions that need to be asked in the wake of such horror, never forget that this is a French Muslim family and by no means the only French Muslim family to suffer at the hands of evil men acting falsely in the name of their faith.
Vive la France. Vive l’esprit de football. And I wish Lassana Diarra courage in the face of grief.