First, if you haven’t seen the Tavern’s weekend listings by Tim, go there now. Hot games this weekend, both in Europe and Korea.
Back again? Ok, strap in your seat belts, this is a very strange and crazy trip, involving Kim Bo-Kyung and his former manager at Cardiff, Malky Mackay. Many Tavern goers are now aware via twitter about the racist, homophobic and sexist comments via text exchanged between Mackaye and his former head of recruitment Iain Moody.
If you aren’t aware, the Daily Mail first broke the story on Wednesday evening (the very same evening during the Tavern Hangout live event whereby I had thrown out Malky’s name as a possible candidate for the KNT manager job -since he didn’t take the Crystal Palace job. Fate, it would seem, has a sense of humor – particularly at my expense!). Rewind the timeline earlier on Wednesday: Crystal Palace, who were impressed and set to appoint Mackay as their new manager, said talks had broken down -this coming after receiving a dossier by the FA on Mackay’s time at Cardiff.
Fast forward to the article exposing the text messages, especially the ones applying to Kimbo – allegedly made by Malky when Moody informed him of his acquisition:
‘Fkn chinkys. Fk it. There’s enough dogs in Cardiff for us all to go around.’
Cardiff City FC, under orders from Vincent Tan, released the text transcripts as part of their official investigative complaint to the FA over what they claimed were the 2 men’s racist/homophobic/sexist behavior. Separately, Tan launched a £750,000 investigation over 8 transfers they considered as controversial. With the help of a London law firm, they were able to raid Moody’s house and seized on records including tens of thousands of text and email messages. And there’s still the ongoing claim that spying by Moody when he took the Crystal Palace job resulted in points lost for Cardiff in their end of season match – that was also part of the investigation.
In the quickly unfolding sequence of events, Moody resigned from his position at Crystal Palace. The Premier League fined Crystal Palace a yet to be disclosed amount over ‘spygate.’
There’s no doubt these are damning to both men and to their reputations. There’s been initial speculation in around Korean football forums that the sentiment expressed privately by the 2 men was indicative of why Kimbo’s had some dry periods where he struggled to find playing time during his 2 years for the Welsh club.
However, adding some intrigue (to what I’m dubbing Moody/Malky-gate), John Duerden had reported these via twitter:
Source close to Kim Bo-kyung says Kim never suffered racial abuse from Malky Mackay. Praised Mackay for helping Kim settle.
— John Duerden (@JohnnyDuerden) August 21, 2014
Source close to Kim Bo-kyung also claims that Mackay told Kim that he wanted to take him to Crystal Palace — John Duerden (@JohnnyDuerden) August 21, 2014
Could both the initial racist texts by Moody & Mackay AND Kim’s assertion that Malky was helpful in settling into the club and even expressed to him interest of taking him to a Premiership club – could both be true? If so, what does that mean?
Not to diminish Malky’s initial comments when Kimbo first entered the club, is there a plausible scenario whereby the texts could be seen in a different light- that it be taken as light hearted joking? The League Manager’s Association defended Mackay recently, calling it ‘friendly text message bantering’ -to which the LMA apologized after a storm of criticism that they were overlooking bigoted comments by the pair. Mackay came to his own defense personally today, saying that he wasn’t a homophobe, racist and sexist and really did mean the texts as friendly banter -nevertheless was apologetic: “I’m a leader of people and it shouldn’t have happened, But I’m a human being and I made a mistake.”
Let’s pause for a moment and consider this other possibility: whatever you may think of Malky’s racially offensive text to Moody concerning Kimbo’s arrival, might Malky actually have grown in that span of time, enough to get past his own prejudices to accept Kimbo’s talents and see him for the player he was?
If you remember Kim’s first season (2012-2013), he featured on and off, then was invisible from mid February to March. Suddenly in April, he made a surprise start, and suddenly turned in a Man of the Match performance in a 3-0 rout of Blackburn. I know because I was there at Cardiff City Stadium. I had interviewed Kimbo post match as a freelancer at the time for the NYT. Before the interview began, I was ushered into the post match conference with both winning and losing managers. I was about to ask Malky a question, but a regular member of the press corp got the jump and asked this first: “Kimbo didn’t play a single minute since February, and he proved he was a vital player for the squad. Why hadn’t you started playing him sooner?” Mackay rattled off something like, ‘well it’s taken a while for Kimbo to adjust to the physical challenges of the championship, but I felt he made sufficient progress to come on for us now.’
Since that game, Kimbo continued to be in their starting XI, immediately giving an impressive sheen to Cardiff’s late season push towards promotion. Finally, that magic moment of promotion came a few weeks later, resulting in a massive pitch invasion -supporters releasing years of pent up emotion after spending decades away from top flight.
This is what Malky had to say about Kimbo as he was praising him in the BBC last August:
I always knew that the raw talent was there, that the ability was there, it’s just making sure we have an environment that allows him to flourish. – Malky Mackay
In the interview, he told the BBC he expected Kim to be an important part of the club in avoiding relegation. Sure enough, in the Premiership, Kim continued his starting role and he and his Bluebird teammates played well enough initially to earn some impressive results, including a win against Manchester City -with Kimbo himself using his head to blast a last second equalizer against Manchester United. However, the team eventually started to struggle and midway through the season, Kim found himself a periphery figure again, his status clouded further between Mackay’s sacking and new manager Solskjær’s constantly changing mind.
If you subscribe to the notion that Kimbo was sincere in his assessment of Malky and his experience of having him as a manager – during the struggle for promotion – to the initial glory of contributing to wins against Manchester City and a last second equalizer against Manchester United – all before Malky was sacked in December… if Kimbo was being real, then perhaps the notion that Malky grew in his appreciation and affection for the Korean might not be too far off-base.
We’ll never actually know, mainly because Malky didn’t get the Crystal Palace job – and his word about taking Kim back up to the Premiership with him.
But some nasty side business remains. First, did Vincent Tan do a number to specifically ruin Mackay? Rewind back to May when Malky without warning ended his wrongful termination suit against Tan, then mysteriously apologized profusely to the Malaysian billionaire, saying he shouldn’t have brought on the suit. What dirt did Tan have that had the power to do that? With Cardiff City FC in a round about way disclosing the 10,000 texts, we have a good idea now what it was. And yet, as Mackay was about to finally be employed again, a manager with proven results (bringing Cardiff up), some see Tan’s timing as pure retribution. Why? Just to screw the manager that openly sang, “We will always be blue,” that dared to defy Tan’s decision to upend 104 years of blue only to turn the Bluebirds red to satisfy his personal superstitions. A man who dared bring up a lawsuit of wrongful termination against him. Despite the apology back in May and a retraction of that suit, Tan went ahead with disclosing those damning private conversations anyway. Harry Redknapp, among others have decried Tan’s timing as character assassination. He makes it clear he doesn’t condone his awful remarks, “…but he’s not a bad person, he’s a fantastic lad. Show me someone who has never made a mistake in their life and I’ll show you a liar. It happens,”
“He’s not murdered anyone, he’s not a rapist or a paedophile. He’s made a big mistake. It shouldn’t finish his life or his football career. It’s going to take time for him to get back into the game. People get second chances in life who have committed bad crimes. Why shouldn’t he? He’s made a mistake but we’re not going to hang him for it, are we?”
This is the murkiness of it all. Donald Sterling’s racist comments, made in private, were paraded around and the owner of the LA Clippers was subsequently punished. The difference might be that Sterling apparently approved the recordings of those conversations – though undoubtedly regretted that his mistress ever released them. But outside of the legality of it’s disclosure, once the transcripts were out there, there was no retracting them – and the NBA did what it had to do.
Could this be a different case? Just for comparison sake, the Premier League’s own chief executive Richard Scudamore was not punished by the League when it was revealed that he sent sexist emails to a colleague. It was deemed that the emails were sent privately and out of their matter. There’s still a case pending concerning the emails as part of a sex discrimination and sexual harrassment case.
I am curious (as a civil liberty kind of guy) as to how exactly Cardiff City FC came upon said texts? And sure, who isn’t extremely disappointed in the pair about their private messaging behavior – but between the texts and their emails – I do have to ask myself – aren’t they private?
I’m going to come out and say this: I support GLBTQ rights – in fact I have gone to lengths protesting on behalf of advocating for civil rights in the form of gay rights in the US. I even got George W. Bush when he was POTUS back in 2006 to directly read my protest poster decrying his efforts to constitutionally ban gay marriage (the poster read: Gay Marriage Ban = Weapons of Mass Distraction). He gave me a thumbs up by the way (what a dumbass). And yet —and yet, I have said the word “faggot” and texted that to one of my best college friends – as an inside joke. But here’s the context – the humor in it was that we were speaking as 2 friends – who are both for marriage equality. We may be straight but we have both stood up for a group of people who have been treated as 2nd class citizens by the US. If my private text messages were to be published by, oh let’s say Glen Beck, just to prove that I’m a hypocrite and a homophobe just like he is, sure it will look bad. But the context is missing. And maybe, just maybe, there’s some context missing with Malky and Moody’s private messages.
And maybe not. Sol Campbell among other black footballers in England have said repeatedly that England and it’s FA is institutionally racist. That’s a pretty heavy charge, but I do not doubt for a minute that that is not legit. Racism in football in Europe is documented -but up to a point. The disclosure does paint a broader picture of institutional racism and bigotry that has been lurking all along. Everything about this just leaves me a bit unnerved by it all.
Last but not least, regardless of how it was obtained and disclosed, the private conversations do offer a fascinating insight into the world of European football – and it’s management. Yes, it is the best football on the planet, where players across the globe are in this test tube environment of hyper competition. But there are legitimate questions that arise: those private conversations and attitudes deemed racist – does it manifest itself as managerial decisions? Does it explain why there are few Asians in European top flight? Does it explain why some Asians do not get adequate playing time on the pitch – ala Park Chu-Young sidelined at Arsenal from 2011-2012? Or how about Kagawa today at Manchester United? How rampant is racism at administrative levels? Alternately, do those managers like Mackay privately joke, but then put them aside to select the players objectively?
Let’s set aside the heavy news and go back to …where else but to London England. QPR’s multi-media officer Adam Hulme sent this to the Tavern where we find Yun Suk-Young taking the ALS Ice bucket challenge [to raise money and awareness for the ALS Association in researching motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis]. He even cusses in this one. Yun challenges Ki Sung-Yeung and Ji Dong-Won. Watch: