Revenge, particularly in football, is one of the great motivators. But obviously it has to be done right. If you’re a football manager and former player, used to the “death or glory” mentality all week, every week, then legging it out of the clubhouse wheeling an office chair with no back on it behind you doesn’t carry the sense of defiance with it that it might for a normal person in a normal job. Paolo Di Canio, it’s relatively safe to say, knows how to do revenge well.
What Di Canio did this week, after quitting his post and using the word ‘betrayal’ a lot, was steal the memories of his time as Swindon Town manager. Yes, indeed. Now, obviously if you’re going to be specific about it, he stole a few pictures of himself at the club, but detail can ruin any point, so we shouldn’t dwell on what he actually stole, we should focus on what it meant.
He stole memories. According to the Guardian, Di Canio and three members of his coaching staff were captured on CCTV entering the office at his old club, removing the mementos of his 21 months in charge. If that’s right, it’s the kind of revenge you get a real buzz out of the first time it comes into your head—the word genius is thrown around a lot, but you’d be tempted to give Di Canio this time.
What he did was perfect, because in football memories are the only currency worth more to people than money (okay, not strictly true.) In attempting to erase his successful promotion campaign from the club’s history, Di Canio almost struck a proper blow: he came close to nicking some golden moments from the club’s history, and what else is it all about other than that? You can’t have me or my achievements, you arseholes: he essentially said. That is some excellent defiance; some excellent revenge.
And of course the fact that it’s being referred to as a midnight raid adds to it as well. Impulsive revenge is impressive, but being seething enough to plot out your revenge, then go through with a midnight raid, is genuinely admirable. It’s real revenge. Had they been watching Michael Corleone settling family business with Carlo Rizzi the night before? Almost certainly. Picture the scene: Di Canio and three lackeys enter the clubhouse at midnight, they’re halfway through the door and one remembers he’s left the oven on at home so he has to leave; the other three go through with it anyway, completely unphased with Di Canio as leader, entirely focused on the task at hand. They move through the building stealing staplers and erasing history, then run, cackling into the night with framed photographs of themselves as the alarm goes off. It’s almost beautiful. Actually, it is beautiful.
It’s beautiful enough to make you realise that others involved with football should do the same after fallings out. In a game which is for most people more about emotions than anything else, revenge comes close to glory as the most important of the lot and there’s no point in pretending that it’s not enjoyable to watch and hear about. Who can honestly say they haven’t fantasized about quitting their column at The Score via sending bullets to their editor’s inbox? No-one, that’s who. Revenge is ace.
Things have settled down since, but imagine if at the time when Roy Keane was ushered out of Manchester United he’d tried to go back and take with him his performances from United’s treble season: it would have been far better than any harshly worded interview in The Times could be. First, because watching a man so furious try and do something so petty is very funny, but second, because imagine if he’d succeeded: “There, you haven’t won the treble now, that season didn’t happen” “Damn it.” United’s world changed forever, just like that. The fewer of these acts football gets to witness, the worse off it is.
Obviously you’ve got to do it right to maintain your dignity. Rafael Benitez infamously tried to remove Jose Mourinho from Inter Milan’s history books, ordering his pictures off the wall as a part of an ongoing battle with the man dubbed ‘the greatest genius in modern football by a million miles and a true hero to me and my family and I want to become friends with him’ (by me), but that incident, even if it didn’t really happen, as he claims (lies), did not have Benitez coming out looking good. Perhaps you have to be successful to pull petty revenge off, otherwise you come out looking like a loser. Perhaps you just have to not be Rafael Benitez.
Either way, Di Canio is someone to learn from. Stealing a broken mug from Linda in the office is one thing, but having off with an entire promotion campaign is quite another. And quite magnificent. More of this, please. When I fall out irreconcilably with Richard Whittall I’ll try and remove all of these columns from the internet, but it will be impossible, sadly, because they have already touched so many people’s hearts and that can never be taken back.
Theo Walcott update
Arsenal’s 100k a week man was excellent against Bayern Munich in the Champions League this week, once again proving his worth. No, he was not.