From "The European", 20 - 26 March 1997, p.6


While the real Blissett helps train his old English club, young rebels are subverting 'the System' in his name.
One footballer's season of wayward shooting for AC Milan exercises a bizarre fascination over a bandof cultural warriors, writes MICHELE PUCCIONI Italian football fans have long forgotten Luther Blissett, the British striker who briefly flitted across their collective consciousness in 1982 when he played an unsuccessful season for AC Milan in Serie A.

Unkind sports commentators suggested then that his only legitimate claim to fame was his ability to miss chances when it was easier to score.

Now however, and for no obvious reason, Luther Blissett, or rather his name, has become a postmodern icon, a symbol of cultural anarchy from Rome to Milan.

While the original Luther Blissett helps train his old English club Watford as they plough a mundane furrow in the lower divisions, hundreds of young rebels are busy subverting the Italian "System" - in his name. On 13 March four men, all calling themselves Luther Blissett, went on trial in Rome.

They, along with others, had been apprehended ticketless on a Rome tram. When asked to identify themselves, all gave the name of Watford's assistant manager and, reasonably enough, argued that "a collective identity does not travel with a ticket".

The defiance of the ticketless four is only one example of how the Luther Blissetts operate. Although they are not an organised group, and anyone is free to adopt the name, they do conform to type. Most are young, many are students and all appear to take delight in poking fun at authority.

A series of hoaxes has been attributed to the informal network. In 1994 investigators from the hit television programme Chi l'ha visto? (Who has seen them?) spent weeks searching for an English artist named Harry Kipper who had disappeared in the north of Italy. he turned out to be a fiction. The author? Someone called Luther Blissett.

Similar hoaxes concerned Naomi Campbell's "cellulite problem" in 1995, the "exhibition of chimpanzee art" in Venice that so interested the media the same year, and the Black Mass that wasn't last year. It is called communicative warfare, and "Luther Blissett" is in the vanguard. One document available on the Internet claims that "it is a name that everybody can use, to broaden his or her desires, annulling identity and showing your anger and whatever else you would like to be and are. This is why I am 'Luther Blissett'".
"Luther Blissett" in Bologna is keen to emphasise that the goal is not to demonstrate that the media lies. "That is already well recognised. This is more to show the public an alternative way of facing them. We are a collective ghost "he says", a myth which finds its reality in those who participate in it."

Some might argue that Watford have been little more than a ghostly presence on the football pitch at times this season. A late charge for promotion from Division Two may save their season from anonymity, a prospect helped by a 1-0 win at home to Bristol Rovers on 18 march which lifts them to a play-off spot.

After the match the real Luther Blissett, who enjoyed success as a player before and after his transfer to AC Milan and was capped 14 times for England, turned his attention to the anarchic participants in his postmoder existence.

"I heard about the story last October", said Blissett. "But I'm pretty indifferent about my name. I don't mind these people using it, whoever they are.

"Obviously I think it is weird. In fact it's rather funny, bordering on the ridiculous, if you like. But it doesn't bother me at all, and I have never thought of doing something to stop them. It would probably be impossible anyway."

So he suffers no identity crisis then? "No, I really do not have anything to say about this idea of denying your own identity. Knowing that some people use mine as a 'multiple name' does not confuse me. When I look in the mirror, I do not see another Luther."