Friday, May 25th, 2012
(By Paul Morrissey – follow on Twitter here.)
Louis Saha’s diary-style book makes for a welcome change to the bog-standard and formulaic auto-biography. You know the one, laced with match reports along the lines of ‘and Dixie played it up the wing to Roper, who cut inside and slipped it on to Mackey, who laid it off to me and I scored.”
His Franco-Guadaloupian background makes for an interesting perspective on life inside the Premier League, and his strong supporting cast provide additional informed insight.
Hit ‘em wit a little Ghetto Gospel
It opens with a lengthy account of life growing up in the Paris banlieue, how the hard-knock life formed his character and prepared him for life in the cut-throat world of professional football.
Much like with Zlatan’s recent tome, it extols the virtues of coming up in the ghetto, almost as if parents should be looking to get on the nearest housing scheme in order to toughen up little Jeremy. It reminds me of Eamon Dunphy’s assertion that you need ‘poverty and war’ to build a team of champions.
It’s an appealing notion, but it doesn’t really hold. Look at the current European and World champions: how many of them came up in the ghetto? Zero, as far as I’m aware, as Spain’s cities do not suffer from the same immigration hangover so symptomatic of the Parisian banlieue.
The ‘winning mentality’ that the ghetto ingrains into you has struggled when it’s come up against technical excellence honed in high-tech training facilities, because everyone likes to win, regardless where you come from. It’s a great feeling that doesn’t necessarily need to be morally beaten into you by ‘hood life and ganglords.
The section on his private life and how he manages his marriage is a bit mushy; his intentions are well-meaning but it’s hard to see how many people will be overly interested in the goings-on chez les Sahas; that said this part does seem to be more aimed at his fellow pros who can relate to living out a relationship in the spotlight. I’d be lying if I said I read every single line here; a bit of sly skimming is required here unless you really want to get to the bottom of which half does the washing up. Hey, whatever blows your hair back.
He relays the quill to Madame Saha for a chapter, which is a nice touch, as she reveals what life is really like for a WAG with humour and style.
He goes on to discuss a bit of everything: philosophy, race, religion, sex and sexuality, you name it. The problem is, a lot of his arguments fall down due to a lack of cogent knowledge on the subjects; he’s no Levi-Strauss, put it that way. Much as it pains me to say it, some things are best left to the academics; they’d truly blanche at some of his uninformed musings. It might sound harsh but these are complex subjects that require in-depth research (I’m gonna sound like a real stickler but some references wouldn’t have killed him!)
An idea may have been to have teamed up with a Philippe Auclair, just as Luca Vialli did to such great effect with Gabrielle Marcotti in The Italian Job.
Stylistically, it also possibly suffers from overly-literal translation from French; it can sound a bit too forced with such short and functional sentences.
Ironically, it’s when he’s delivering skinnies on life inside United that it’s at its most interesting. He hardly mentions the 06/07 season where he played a huge part in United’s reclaiming of the title; in the first half of that season he was United’s Cantona and it was he who got several 1-0 winners before Ronaldo came to life and shoved him aside with his one-man show.
Though as he admits himself, he looks back more with rancour than joy on his United years, and it’s the more harrowing memories that he expounds upon.
His passage on missing out on the ’08 Champions League final in Moscow is powerful; the memories are still so raw that he all but spills his bleeding heart out on the page.
All in all, it doesn’t quite deliver on its Joycean title, but is still an enjoyable read and well worth a butcher’s.
To win a copy of “Louis Saha’s Thinking Inside The Box: Reflections on Life as a Premier League Footballer” – send us an email at 101greatgoals@gmail. com telling us how many goals the French striker has scored for Tottenham.