Ibrox On Fyre: How The Peepul And The Media Were Seduced By A Big Nothing.

Image for Ibrox On Fyre: How The Peepul And The Media Were Seduced By A Big Nothing.

There are times when fact is stranger than fiction, and things happen in real life which would stretch the credulity of most Hollywood producers so that nobody would ever film it for fear of being laughed at for going over the top.

I watch a lot of TV shows and I am always looking for new things.

When I saw that the wonderful Julia Garner, of Ozark, was starring in another show recently I couldn’t resist it.

Inventing Anna is about a New York “socialite” named Anna Delvey.

For many years she was a regular feature on the jet-setting Manhattan social circuit.

She presented herself as a young German heiress who was awaiting her inheritance. Her social media profiles were filled with pictures of her hob-nobbing with the rich and famous. She walked the walk, she talked the talk, she dressed with impeccable style and taste and she moved through those circles exactly like she belonged there.

It was all smoke and mirrors.

She was, in fact, a complete fabrication. Delvey wasn’t her real name, but something she plucked out of nowhere. She was actually Anna Sorokin. Her family had no money to speak of.

Yet this woman of virtually no means managed to con her way into the stratospheric heights of the New York upper crust. More incredibly, she had somehow put together an elite team of specialists who were trying to help her secure tens of millions in funding for a mammoth arts project which she was trying to launch.

Yet none of that – as remarkable as it is – is what I found most amazing about the story. The most amazing thing about the story is a little off-hand moment which is barely explored; the fact that for a while, Sorokin lived in the home of another New York socialite who was less than surface appearances would suggest; fellow bullshit artist par excellence Billy McFarland, famous now for being the creator of the notorious Fyre Festival scam.

I’ve thought a lot about the Fyre Festival in the last week or so; an elaborate sleight of hand relying on surface glamour and the suspension of disbelief, and which ended with thousands of people who spent lavish sums of money and who thought they were on a trip to heaven ending up stranded in a Hellscape, penniless, angry, without adequate food or water and slowly coming to the realisation that they had been made mugs of.

I’ll bet you think that sounds familiar now, right? Of course it does.

Listening to the wailing of the Peepul, and their moaning about a city that didn’t do enough for them, about how UEFA didn’t do enough for them, about how Spain shouldn’t host another European final, I nevertheless cannot help but think that a lot of them are finally awake to the scale of their own self-delusion.

They weren’t conned exactly … but they swallowed a lot of hype and hysteria only to come crashing down to earth.

During the worst cost of living crisis in recent memory, with MyGers membership fees due and season tickets to buy, tens of thousands of them still managed to scrape together what little cash they had to travel to a faraway place for a party that never happened … and one which, if you read this blog consistently, you’ll know I never believed would.

The whole “run” was built on hype. Let’s, one last time, review the statistics, because they bear repeating.

They got to a European final having played 21 games in continental competition, two in the Champions League and nineteen in the Europa League. They won just seven of those matches; a one win in three games ratio. Eleven of those games were away from home; they managed a single win, albiet a big one, in Dortmund.

That is not the form of a team which deserves the adulation poured on them by our gibbering media, or by a support that was convinced that victories over Red Star and Braga amounted to anything substantial. Two wins against top Bundesliga sides are interesting and appear to offer a counterpoint to that argument, but the team that beat them in the final won’t finish in the top ten in Germany this season … so where’s the counterpoint now?

There are teams who, sometimes, go on to do unexpected things.

As I’ve said before, aside from Frankfurt and Sevco there are teams who have got to the final of this tournament who don’t have any discernible record in Europe to boast of; Braga, Dnipro, Middlesbrough, Fulham et al. None of these sides, or their media, embarked on the kind of nonsense that the Ibrox fans and our press corps did.

These clubs weren’t suddenly going to be catapulted into the European football elite. That is, and was, an utter fantasy of Anna Delvey style proportions; you can dress in the garb, and talk like a natural, but that doesn’t make you the real thing.

Sorokin didn’t con everybody, and nor did Ibrox’s “stunning” march to Seville.

When investigations into her dug deep they saw that the “friendships” which her social media depicted were mostly superficial and based on one or two casual meetings.

To use what might come off as a ridiculous comparison – but it isn’t – she was, in many ways, the Paul The Tim of Manhattan! Lots of pictures with famous and influential people … but very few who had more than the vaguest idea of who she was.

On top of that, some of those who encountered her sussed that there was something off with her, and whilst most didn’t penetrate the charade entirely there were a handful – like the Chinese art collector and museum founder Michael Xufu Huang, who was conned out of $3000 by her and realised pretty quickly what she was – who saw through it all.

I’ll tell you this; nobody at Bayern Munich or Real Madrid or at Liverpool or City was looking at that Ibrox team the other night and thinking they have something to fear. Whoever wins the Champions League could have – and would have – booked the Super Cup winners party before even knowing what the makeup of the Ibrox team will be next year.

So yeah, talking the talk is one thing but it doesn’t make you the real thing.

Sorokin’s con-job was effective because she presented the right image to the right people, but she actually didn’t get near to the type of money she was chasing any more than Ibrox was truly on the brink of those tens of millions and European football affirmation … penalty kicks notwithstanding, it was barmy for them to think they only had to show up and they could have it all.

Billy McFarland, on the other hand, with a similar act to Sorokin, got his hands on millions from outside investors and he conned the lot of them as well as the silly bastards who chucked their money down the bottomless pit of the Fyre fantasy. As I said, it was that festival of nothing that nagged at my brain all week long as the hysteria bubble swelled.

I was thinking of it even before the parallels – poor penniless stranded bears, people thirsty for water under the blazing hot sun, those who booked up expecting smart hotel rooms and got much less, and locals who smelled stupidity in the air and charged fortunes to people who had already maxed out their credit cards – became obvious.

It was in the way that the whole thing was oversold, and overpromised, and based on hype rather than on something substantial, and that if you possessed a modicum of sense you could see that for yourself in the way some of those who bought tickets for Fyre, and then did a little digging, saw the flaws long before they landed on Great Exuma and clocked those FEMA tents instead of the Coachella luxuries they had been promised, and had spent absolute fortunes on.

But then, this is the Ibrox fan-base all season long … believing in the oversell, believing in the PR machines, believing in the slobbering nonsense of a media which does no digging of its own and never tries to look below the surface spin.

Fyre was sold on its pre-publicity; a group of supermodels in a high voltage marketing video and the promotion, across social media, of the Fyre “symbol” – and this cracks me up folks – a bright orange square. The advertising beyond that was entirely false, but because it was done in connection with all these big-time names people believed it. Hell, the number two guy on the whole scam was the rapper and actor Ja Rule … he lent it an air of credibility.

You can tell already where this is going, right? And to whom … Yes … wait for it.

Everything about all that buzz was fake, though.

The glitzy, glamourous “marketing video” went viral … but it was a chaotic and disorganised shoot which was only made to look good by the hard work and sweat of serious people who knew their business and made it work.

The event was supposed to take place on “Pablo Escobar’s private island”.

Well, right there, I would have smelled a rat.

Norman’s Cay wasn’t Pablo Escobar’s anything … the guy who owned all the land on Norman’s Cay, and who turned it into a smuggling hub, was his Medellin Cartel associate Carlos Lehder. This isn’t even a little known fact; the movie Blow features the Norman’s Cay operation in its back half, and it was a minor plot-line in Narcos.

Anyone who smelled bullshit on that claim should have thought the whole thing was a bit off … much like anyone who looked at Ibrox’s record in this tournament rather the media’s spin on it should have been like “This isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

McFarland’s company didn’t “own” the island either, as they had claimed, but had been leasing it, and they only got the lease on the explicit condition that they never mentioned its drug smuggling past.

Which of course they did on all the advance publicity … and so the owner kicked them off with just months to go, forcing them to go with Plan B, which was to locate the whole thing on Great Exuma. In the middle of an annual yachting event, guaranteeing that there was no available housing for all the guests or the bands who had already been hired to play.

But the glamour and the hype had already sold all those who would soon be making their way there, even some of those who had been suspicious or fearful of the arrangements and looked into it a little.

As was the case with the Ibrox fans during the Whyte debacle, even when various sites reported the facts, a lot of these folk just didn’t want to believe them.

Aside from the Ibrox run not being half as good as the media portrayed it, there were a lot of people in their team who got hyped to the nines as well … none more so than Aaron Ramsey, and that’s another Sorokin/McFarland comparison which I find delicious.

Because right from the day Ramsey signed a lot of us said that this was all rep and flimflam and that it was a bling signing which would not make them even 1% better and only drain the Ibrox finances.

In short, we said it would be a disaster.

Well, Good God, we never expected it to be quite so disastrous for their club as it was … but I’ll tell you right now, without a word of a lie, that when he stepped up to take that penalty the other night I knew he would miss it and that we were about to witness the final denouement in both their Europa League fantasy and the wider charade of Ramsey himself.

I didn’t have the least doubt in my mind.

If the Europa League form hype is the Fyre Festival PR campagn, then it’s Ramsey himself who is the Anna Delvey of this whole season; a product of spin, a fairytale which a lot of gullible people told themselves until they believed it.

This was, quite literally, a case of Inventing Aaron.

Everyone who is now backing away from their over-promotion of the guy who had barely kicked his own backside in the last three seasons should feel utterly ashamed of how little critical thought they applied before writing their garbage about how this was the biggest player to arrive in the country since Gazza, and all the rest of it … an absolute joke, all of it, and to the eternal embarrassment of every single one of them.

Ramsey, brought in to “save the season” – according to some – or to “elevate this team to ever greater heights” – according to others – contributed exactly what those of us more capable of analysing it objectively said he would.

Nothing but laughs.

£2 million in loan fees was expensive enough … but that penalty miss must make that the most catastrophic transfer flop in the history of our game, with nothing even coming close.

The comparisons with Shane Duffy are frankly ridiculous and grotesquely underestimate just how momentous the consequences of Ramsey’s signing proved to be.

But as with Sorokin, and Fyre, Ramsey’s surface glamour somehow tricked almost the whole of the press corps and the vast swathe of the Ibrox support into believing that Scottish football had a superstar in its midst.

I found the idea insulting at the time and said so.

I now find it hilarious, and I suspected from the start that one day I would.

His vastly inflated salary at Juventus – possible only because they signed him from Arsenal on freedom of contract whilst his stock was still high – convinced a lot of folk that there was more here than met the eye … and you couldn’t tell them different, and there is even talk about how he might make up for it in the Scottish Cup Final, as if even a hat-trick in that game could possibly erase what happened on Wednesday or the impact of it.

This has echoes in how McFarland is still called a genius by folk who should know better and Sorokin still counts on the support of people who still cannot separate the penniless German con woman from Delvey, her invention, who they thought they knew so well.

The moment Ramsey stepped up to take that spot-kick, I knew that Ibrox hubris had again met its nemesis.

I knew we were in line for one of those twists so ridiculous that audiences wouldn’t have accepted it in a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

Because fact is stranger than fiction at times, and it produces plotlines which would test the limits of what screenwriters think they can get away with. McFarland and Sorokin sharing a flat, without one knowing that the other was living a lie just as large? You couldn’t have invented that. People would never have believed it.

Ramsey stepping up to take that penalty, after all the hysteria surrounding the signing itself and our months of mocking it … who else had no doubt that we were about to get the ending that story deserved?

But no script writer would have dared run with that.

Because it’s almost too crazy for words … but it’s no crazier than what Ibrox fans and the club’s fawning media toadies have been swallowing whole for months; that a freakish European run, built on bad stats and fortunate draws, had elevated them to the pantheon of football’s elite and would end in the ultimate victory.

That Tavernier and Goldson had proved they were good enough for England.

That Kent had been reborn as a superstar.

That Ramsey sits amidst the greatest players in Europe, for that is what these yahoos were telling us when he signed and what they continued to believe all the way up to the moment he hit that penalty.

You know how McFarland and Sorokin did it?

Because they both have the same instinctive understanding of one thing above everything else; give some Peepul a dazzling vision, however remote from reality, and they will swallow anything.

And some of them will back that belief with their cash, no matter how improbable the dream.

Those two supreme con-artists know that there are loads of them out there, and one born every minute.

They should have taken jobs at Ibrox, or at The Daily Record.

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  • Stewart says:

    And it’s all starting again,, as gio an his troops prepare for battle this w/e Scottish Cup,,, don’t seem to be a lot being said bout hearts,, minor irritation to swatted aside,,, I can see more tears,, here’s hoping

    • 18871888 says:

      Does anybody know, was their loss against Eintracht more creditable this our loss to Feynoord? Asking or a friend.

  • Bob (original) says:

    Karma was having a laugh: Ramsey brought on late, just to miss the penalty!

    And to kick them when they are down, Hearts have to deliver the Final blow on Saturday.

    Then the blue hordes will be foaming at the mouth, looking for someone to blame, as per.

    Separately, if you have watched “Inventing Anna” you will appreciate this SNL spoof, if you haven’t seen it already on YouTube.

  • John says:

    All the same James they came within the width of the keepers leg of winning the damn thing the other night. That goes without saying would have been an unbearable outcome. Had to laugh at that clown. Bennet spouting in a tv interview that they were now dining at the top table because every big team in Europe told them that. What a d*ck! Let’s hope that Edinburg h mob can get their act together tomorrow and make this a week to remember. Very much doubt it though

    • Droopy McCool says:

      Read the article again, James always knew the width of the keeper’s leg would step in, he knew Ramsey would miss and he knew the run would come to an end eventually. I agree that the run is far away from the hype that surrounds it, but this could easily have swung the other way and they would have a European trophy, that would’ve been the only stat that counted.
      It didn’t though, so let’s enjoy their pain for a bit longer…

  • James Mallon says:

    Tomorrow they have devalued the Scottish Cup to the Consolation Cup.
    They think shit,talk shit aspire to shit and congregate with shit.
    If you are not part of them you are spotlessly clean.
    How many of the media rses are covered and smelling shit.
    If they accidently win the
    Cons Cup will it be better than Celtics any competition wins.
    Honestly I can not take them seriously sad sad people.
    Hope it goes to penalties.
    James Mallon

  • Frankie says:

    The great Rambo according to the muppet Boyd.John they never won it all ifs and buts.

  • Tony B says:

    They lost, and as William Munny said just before shooting Little Bill Dagget in the head….

    ” Deserve’s got nothing to do with it”.

    Hubris Nemesis and Karma.

    Shite team shite klub and shite supporters.

    Woe to the conquered.

  • Brian Connelly says:

    At last someone else has seen through the smoke and mirrors this european run…excellent peice

  • Phil says:

    Did Celtic not get pumped out of three European tournaments this that stat without precedent particularly as the opposition were hardly European elite

    • Martin H. says:

      We weren’t hyped up to win this second cup, on top of the petrofac cup, the media as usual took the pish out of you.

    • Pedro says:

      A brand new team who gained more points than Sevco against superior opposition in the group stages as opposed to a team who were together because no one wanted to buy them against mince opposition….it’s the hope that kills them. How’s liquidation going?

  • REBELLIOUS says:

    Why not have jobs at dr., ibrox AND the bbc, there’s plenty ex-ibrox pros doin that very thing, ergo, it cannae be that difficult.
    Three jobs n delusional is surely the way to go?
    Good holidays I hope, musta cheered you up watching that game though?

  • Martin H. says:

    Great article James, good to have you back from a well deserved holiday, hope you enjoyed it,one of the best weeks in my 70 odd years, in the pub, prior to the game, a wee bit of banter no club colours aloud, looked like v.e. day with ibrox club tops, all talking about they booked up for super cup, should have looked up paddy power first, asked if I watching game, naw, watching Lewis, but I did watch it on bt sport next morning when the fireworks didn’t keep me awake.

  • Jim says:

    It did have an air of inevitabilty when Ramsay stepped up to take the kick.

    With three minutes to go he didn’t even really have time to warm up. Maybe he had been the best penalty-taker in training, but otherwise it seemed a foolish decision and another reason why GVB must stay.

    Can’t believe Bassey has made the Europa League team of the year.

    Can anybody find a photo of Bassey where he doesn’t have his arms around the player he’s ‘tackling’? Me neither. Let’s hope he finds his true vocation and moves over to Rugby or WWE wrestling.

  • Tom says:

    As much as we laugh and condemn the Scottish media’s all out PR spin of Newco. They will continue to do such.
    The match was over a matter of minutes before each and every radio station was projecting the sell Bassey string. It cannot be luck that they all say the same things without direction from the DUP PR man.

  • Mark B says:

    Well that was a hard read. I was thrilled they lost delighted … why? because we all know that them getting there and nearly winning was a stupendous achievement. This article and Phil Mac have missed the point and the awful sour grapes and feigned indifference is not something I’d expect from our side. It’s sad. Of course we were envious of them getting to a final and it’s why we celebrated their loss. But this article is as bad as the bloggers and writers from the Ibrox side of town. Ten years after admin and liquidation they get to a UEFA Final it’s staggering and we know it. Of course we are jealous of that just admit it. We need to ask why can’t we at Celtic get anywhere near it. That is the real story for us to focus on.

  • Henry says:

    Mark B makes the best point. After 2003, Porto went on to lift the CL. What did we do? The Dark Force have gotten to two finals since. We haven’t even been close. I think if they had played Diallo through the middle last Wed they would have won (he was excellent in that role last weekend).

    They may not have superstars but they work well as a team. Frankfurt were very wasteful in front of goal (much like AZ were against us) as well as having a bombscare centre-half (Toto i think his name was) and in Europe, when you let teams off the hook, they can really punish you when they get their act together, much like Shaktar did against us about 15 years ago when we could and should have been 3-0 at HT.

    Having said that, Red Star were very unlucky against them with disputable offsides, and Dortmund didnt seem arsed. Braga like all Portugeuse teams dont travel well. But you can only play the team in front of you. Glad they lost, but I won’t be crowing about it. Our post-Christmas European performances over the last 20 years have been dire. Why is this?

    • Paul Mac says:

      It’s hugely to do with our “magnificent”?? Former CEO and our board who sat on their hands for the past 10 years just happy to be the big dog in Scotland! Didn’t that gobshite of a chairman that we have claim that it was impossible for a club like ours to aspire to do anything in Europe so they haven’t bothered.. Well after this week like it or not that argument just won’t wash anymore… Not even with the Lawwell or board acolytes!
      When Braga did reach the final in Dublin they were against Porto so it was not expected that they would return with the cup to be honest… Braga are very much a 4th position team over here… Maybe 3rd if one of the other 3 shit the bed completely!
      News over here well sort of is that Celtic will activate the Jota deal and that he is OK with that… Roger Schmidt the new gaffa who left PSV has basically said that he has no future at Benfica… Which has surprised and pissed off a large section of the fans… The price that we agreed has likewise pissed off a large selection… The 30% sell on has eased that position however… Looks as if he has really bonded with big Carl and CCV also is off with Welsh which can only bode well for us if after a season they want to go on holiday with fellow team mates! If they were looking to split they would not be off on holidays with permanent team mates I would argue?!

  • Roonsa says:

    You always said it wouldn’t happen? Easy to say after the fact. What if Ramsey had scored and that Eintracht pen that hit the post, before going in, stayed out?

    Fair fucks to that team I say. They were very unlucky. I was delighted they were but for you to suggest it was always going to happen is utter nonsense.

    • James Forrest says:

      Well it’s funny … cause I DID say it wouldn’t happen, over and over again.

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