Why Xhaka’s Apology Was More An Apologia

I wanted to write this piece on Tuesday but I just didn’t have time till today. It might have seemed prescient then. My theory was that there wouldn’t be much of an apology, and on the other hand, the players weren’t likely to go against him easily either.

Intercepted. A copy of Xhaka’s 1st apology:

“Here is a list of people and groups to whom I would like to issue an apology by shoving it so far up their collective arse that…”

Xhaka’s 2nd apology, which he actually did release, was published by him on his Instagram account. And it was more Apologia than Apology. Baboom Ching!!!!

That is to say, not so much an apology as an explanation, a defence, of why he done what he done.

“An apologia is a formal defense of an opinion, position or action.”

I remember reading about the concept of honour cultures. If you don’t know, honour cultures are those groups, races or tribes where reputation or honour is everything. They are often tribal or regional, and they can often be found in specific geographies eg South America, the Mediterranean, south of Scotland (who were the antecedents of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys), the Confederate states of the US, Bedouin tribes, etc.

But also “gangs”, as in The Wire, or The Hells Angels. Or the Mafia, which is both gang-like as well originating, in part, from a Mediterranean region, Sicily.

The Honour Cultures have some distinguishing characteristics:

  • Maintenance of honour / respect is king. It is the primary measure of manhood. Insults aren’t let go of. Scores will be settled – via duels, or vendettas. Tit-for-tat, an-eye-for-an-eye.
  • Loyalty to group is of the fiercest kind.

Fierce loyalty to the tribe works in concentric circles: There is an old Bedouin saying: I against my brothers. I and my brothers against my cousins. I and my brothers and my cousins against the world.”

Even when the original conditions go away, the culture maintains the characteristics for many generations eg immigrant populations maintain the honour culture values, or the fact that the American Civil War ended more than a century ago.

By contrast, so-called dignity cultures are said to value individuals simply by dint of being human. Individuals over group.

Brown, a social psychologist at the University of Oklahoma, studies “honour cultures” – “These cultures are characterized by a deep concern for reputation and a sense of being duty-bound to retaliate against anything perceived as a slight.”

The culture values honour even above religion, hence why Mafiosi or Southern Gentlemen were not torn by the great contradiction with the religious edicts for forgiveness, peace and love, or turning the other cheek.


“”A culture of honor is a culture in which a person (usually a man) feels obliged to protect his or her reputation by answering insults, affronts, and threats, oftentimes through the use of violence.” Cultures of honor have been independently invented many times across the world. “

“Surprise, Serbia! You just got taken down by Albania! Err…I mean, Switzerland.”

So, let’s do a little recap…Mediterranean states (Albania,) reputational insults (believing he was jeered by a good chunk of 60,000 people before a worldwide audience), no backing down but rather retaliating (gesturing to the crowd to give him more / cupping his ear / telling them all to fuck off), his refusal to apologize (in his view he was the insulted party (as disrespect is the greatest injury) so where is the apology to him),  fierce loyalty to his group (but…who is his group? It’s not the manager nor the supporters. It’s the players – and that’s why the players picked him in the first place, given all their various cliques. He was loyal to the whole squad and that’s why they are now loyal to him.) Check, check, check, check, and check.

Other interesting Honour Culture candidates?

– Mesut Ozil who famously refused to apologize for meeting with the head of his tribe, which then was used as an excuse by the German NT to lay the blame for their humiliating defeat at the world cup on him. After that insult he cut them all off.

– Sead Kolasinac, who not only stood up to armed attackers, he actually attacked them back barehanded.

– Remember Zidane inexplicably losing his shit in the World Cup final game, at the pinnacle of his career, against Materazzi:

“Materazzi was pulling his shirt. Zidane told him that once the match is over, he can have it. Materazzi replied “I would prefer your whore sister.” Zidane then headbutts him at a crucial point in the 2006 World Cup Final, supposedly the crowning game of his career. What possessed him, given all his years of experience? Extreme pressure combining with a demand for respect?

Algeria lies on the Mediterranean too.

On The Mediterranean

Now, I don’t want to push it too far. Maybe it’s total bollox. They could all just be a bunch of hot-headed footballers. But it’s hard to look at Xhaka, once you consider Honour Culture, and not see where it all went wrong last weekend. Why didn’t he behave “normally?” ie like regular players do. And especially afterwards, why not just issue a simple apology. I mean, my God, celebs apologize for shit all the time whether they think they did anything wrong or not, just for the career protection. And footballers will do anything for their careers and money, right? Right?

But not Xhaka. Everything is on the line for his career but he’ll tell you you can all go and fuck yourselves. And this is why he’s not having any of the “devastated and seeing a counselor” stuff even though it might have quite a bit of truth to it. This ordeal WOULD be devastating for him, asked to just back down from being insulted and become a coward (in Honour Culture, the worst thing a man can be seen to do), or to suffer the further humiliation of being stripped of the captaincy. Every fiber of his being tells him he can’t let the insult go, and he can’t apologize. It may cost him the captaincy, his career at his dream club, as well as adding the humiliation of tabloid rags writing his name in their headlines while the media goes to town on him. But the alternative for him…let’s just say, this is about more than stubbornness or stupidity.

And all of that is why a simple apology was never on the cards. But also, just as much about why the players were probably going to stand by him.

So, buckle up, Emery, Edu and Raul. It’s going to be yet another bumpy ride.

More Of An Apologia