There are some fascinating news stories circulating at the moment: A Mexican drug baron’s body is stolen from a morgue, Jimmy Saville was obviously doing a little more than just ‘fixing it’ for the UK’s children, most of Greece wants to decapitate Angela Merkel, and a man is about to free fall from the stratosphere. Surely the world of sport can come up with something equally riveting. Well, not really. The tennis season is all but over after the US Open finished, the same can be said for golf now the Ryder Cup is done, and all that leaves us with is motorsport and football.
Starved of anything else to comment on I have decided to be drawn back into the murky and depressing world of the once beautiful game. I know I said I would be boycotting it in all its forms, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and after all it’s not as if I’m going to be in the least bit positive about the sport.
On the same day that a new centre of excellence was opened by Kate and William, who undoubtedly have no interest what so ever in the game, the football related stories that littered the back pages of the day’s newspapers were depressing to say the least; The continuing fall out surrounding the John Terry racism affair, managers and players accusing fellow managers and players of cheating, and of course a customary managerial sacking.
The two stories I want to focus on are Ashley Cole’s Twitter rant and diving being described by FIFA as a cancer. The latter is an issue that I take about as seriously as an episode of Eastenders. As a junior footballer I used to dive around theatrically for many reasons. I liked to play the fool and make my school friends laugh at my audacious attempts to con the ref (usually our sports teacher Mr Duke who would simply scowl at me and shout “get up Owen!”), I also enjoyed glancing over at my dad who’d be going a deep shade of red as he explained to fellow spectators that he hadn’t taught me how to dive. It always shocked me just how irate people could become all because I’d drawn them into a reckless challenge that led to a free kick or penalty. In one particular Sunday league game I won two penalties in one game and nearly got beaten up by the opposing side, who just couldn’t work out how to stay on their feet. I bet that even as I write this now there will be some of you fuming in front of your screens.
But let’s be serious for a second here. Diving is in essence, cheating. So how do the powers that be stop it? There’s the idea that a ban for the offending player would solve the problem, but would it? What if it’s an FA Cup final and a player dives to win a last minute penalty? That player doesn’t care if he receives a 10 game ban. No, that idea won’t work. What about video evidence during a game? Well has anyone watched an El Clasico game? The match would be stopped every 30 seconds as Messi, Ronaldo, and Co did pirouette after triple salco. No, that won’t work either.
The answer to this dilemma is that there is no answer. The onus to change things remains with the players themselves and managers. In other sports this might work. Eye gauging is, now, a rare occurrence in Rugby, golfers regularly tell officials if they should be penalised for a breach of the rules, and tennis players often correct calls in favour of their opponents. The stakes are just as high for these sportsmen as they are for footballers, so why can’t the PFA and the Managers Association get together and make a pact to eradicate diving from the game. If you do dive, just get up and have the decision reversed. So simple, but this would work….. or would it?
This brings me onto issue number two. We must remember that many Premier League footballers are the scum of the sporting world. Ashley Cole, perhaps forgetting the colour of his skin, has taken to Twitter to defend his ‘friend’ and captain John Terry who was charged with having made racist remarks towards Anton Ferdinand. Before Twitter was invented the voices of the likes of Ashley Cole would never have been heard. Unfortunately, these days lazy journalists love to scour this world of the #whogivesashitwhatyouateforbreakfast to find their story of the day. Personally I would have it written into a player’s contract that they can’t use Twitter. What’s the point? It’s not quite the same as following a musician, an artist, a politician, or a comedian. Nothing a Premier League footballer has to say is interesting, and if they do then why not do an interview with someone who might extract a little more than just “the FA are a bunch of twats”.
Of course footballers will continue to use Twitter and journalists will continue to quote their pathetic ramblings, diving will only get worse, and football will continue to dig its own grave, one slow agonising shovel at a time.