During Cardiff City's brief visit to the Premier League last season, owner Vincent Tan was the cartoon villain. His dark glasses, black leather gloves, and business casual football shirt tucked into his nipple-high trousers combined the unique fashions of stereotypical villain and comically out of touch billionaire. But his actions reinforced these judgements based on his appearance.
After saving the club from bankruptcy in 2010 with his investment, he changed the Bluebirds' primary color to red, which he believed (at the time) to be lucky. This created a disconnect with local supporters that even quick promotion to the Premier League could not repair. Then, after a number of small faux pas and misunderstandings that kept the outrage simmering, came the final straw in the eyes of many Cardiff City fans. Vincent Tan sacked popular manager Malky Mackay midway through the season.
This ramped up the protests against Tan and contributed to numerous media outlets labeling him THE WORST OWNER IN SPORTS. Fans brought banners to Cardiff City Stadium (the one which Tan's investment helped expand) that read "TAN OUT" and "Dictator Go Home" and "We Don't Want Tan, Malky's Our Man" and "In Malky We Trust."
"One day we are a hero, another day we are a zero," Tan told BBC Sport two months later as he accused the British media of racism in their treatment of him. He was talking about his own predicament, but those words are now proving true for Malky Mackay as revelations about racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism and conduct in transfer dealings have now brought an abrupt end to his hopes of taking the vacant Crystal Palace job.
"He played the media well," Tan added in that BBC interview. "In the eyes of some fans he is the hero, I am the villain. When the truth comes out, this will be revered. I assure you."
Though Cardiff fans will still have their grievances with Tan, Mackay certainly isn't a hero anymore.
Cardiff City's investigation into Mackay and former head of recruitment Iain Moody, who is now Crystal Palace's director of football (for now), over eight suspicious transfers last summer has turned up roughly 70,000 text messages and 100,000 emails that, according to the Daily Mail, reveal the pair's hate-filled correspondence.
And The Mirror adds that evidence against Mackay and Moody related to high agents fees and commissions were also part of a dossier handed to The FA by Tan. Since this just happens to coincide with Mackay reportedly being on the verge of being given the Palace job, its timing brings maximum devastation for the man once trusted by Cardiff supporters.
Shortly after these reports were published, former Cardiff City player Ibrahim Farah broke his silence on his experiences with Mackay.
Malky mackay is racist wish the people at cardiff city seen it sooner— Ibrahim Farah (@Ibby_Farah) August 20, 2014
Malky mackay always use to call me a wee Egyptian and laugh his head of no one knows what happens behind the scenes in football clubs— Ibrahim Farah (@Ibby_Farah) August 20, 2014
At the time when your a young pro no one will listen. People would listen to the manager and not me so I chose to keep my mouth shut— Ibrahim Farah (@Ibby_Farah) August 20, 2014
Every manager has his views on his players I wasn't his type of player but to treat certain player on how he did at cardiff was disgusting— Ibrahim Farah (@Ibby_Farah) August 20, 2014
Oxford away a young Somali boy was at the gates and Malky shouted look at that black Somali kid at the gates, look it's ibby brother— Ibrahim Farah (@Ibby_Farah) August 20, 2014
He then started laughing him and coaching staff— Ibrahim Farah (@Ibby_Farah) August 20, 2014
And no I'm not Egyptian I'm welsh and I'm my parents are from somaliland— Ibrahim Farah (@Ibby_Farah) August 20, 2014
Though this proves that Tan was right about Mackay all along, none of this gives him the complete vindication he predicted it would. Tan has still done many things wrong himself — just not a bigoted and hateful level like it appears Mackay has. But this illustrates the problem with painting people as purely evil or purely great. It's easy to forget that the sports personalities we praise and curse belong to actual human beings who are a mix of good and bad like the rest of us. Things like this should reduce the proliferation of hyperbole and simplistic views cast upon them. But it won't.