Luther Blissett

by Lorenzo Piccoli

It is time to talk about Luther Blissett.

Born in the late 1950s in Falmouth, Jamaica, Blissett moved to the UK to play professional football when he was still 14. He soon became the most prolific scorer of his team, Watford, playing the the British Second Division. At the beginning of the roaring 1980s, however, Blisset and his teammates made the headlines as they surprised many by getting to and proving successful in the First Division. Watford briefly led the league in the autumn, before finishing second to Liverpool. In Watford’s first ever First Division season, Blissett was the top scorer with 27 goals. It was 1983.

Blissett was then bought by A.C. Milan where he was welcomed as a celebrity. However, it has subsequently rumoured that A.C. Milan confused him with his Watford teammate John Barnes. In any case, Blissett’s first and only season in Italy was rather disastrous. He scored only 5 goals and he is most famously remembered for his innumerable misses when coming close to the net. Some of his audacious attempts have been collected in an iconic video by the Gialappa’s Band. A few weeks into the season merciless supporters started calling him Luther Missett. Understandably, this didn’t contribute to make his experience any easier. Never mind how tough playing in the first division was to him, Blissett seemed to have a whole different problem with his Italian life: “No matter how much money you have here”, he famously complained, “you can’t seem to get Rice Krispies around here.” He left Milan at the end of the season and went back to Watford, prior to founding Team48 Motorsport, which aims to promote young racing drivers of Afro-Caribbean background.

But Blissett has not been forgotten in Italy. One year after leaving the country Luther Blissett reappeared in the form of a pseudonym that a number of cultural activists began using for staging urban and media pranks. From Bologna the multiple-use name spread to other European cities. Most famously, Luther Blissett figured as the author of the novel Q, first published in Italy in 1999 and subsequently translated in many other languages. In 2004 the living Blissett appeared on a TV show and quoted extensively from the manifesto of the project. Meanwhile, however, in December 1999, the Italian activists who had launched the Luther Blissett Project had decided to discontinue usage of the name by committing symbolic ritual suicide, or seppuku.

In spite of Blissett’s glorious career and the attention he raised on this important issue, in present day Italy there continues to be a shortage of Rice Krispies.