The Great Game – really?

What is up with football at the moment? Diving, cheating and players being racially, verbally and even physically abused by fellow stars and fans alike – I thought we’d left this all behind in the ‘70s!

Watching a Premier League match should be a treat, a reward after a long week at school or work.  90% of the time it is, with free-flowing attacking football and plenty of goals. But the remaining 10% of the time is spent cringing while players roll around on the floor or steal a cheeky few yards to take a throw-in. It really is pathetic and detracts from a game that should be known for its aesthetic beauty rather than its lack of sportsmanship.

Many fans like to believe that this influx of cheating has correlated with the rising importation of foreign players and that good old English stalwarts stay on their feet. This may be true as diving is even worse in Serie A and La Liga than over here but then you look at players like Ashley Young and see they are no different. Diving is a trait installed by managers to make sure their players win no matter what and they then make the hypocritical comments when someone dives against their team that cheating has no place in football. If you feel that is the case then do something about it and stop your players from doing the same! I’m not saying that all managers tell their players to fall on the floor to make it look like they have been scythed down by a sniper but there are certain teams who’s players seem to spend more time flying through the air than they do in possession of the ball.

It’s not just diving that riles me but the way in which the players protest to the referee to try and get opposition players booked or sent off or argue with them if they feel aggrieved by a decision. There is no respect for anyone in football except yourself and your team and the referee is often, rather unfairly, on the receiving end of the flack. This is something that is not seen in rugby – last weekend London Irish No. 8 Chris Hala’ufia was red carded by the ref after he was alleged to have spear-tackled a London Welsh player, who got straight up after the tackle and made no complaints. Although I think a permanent dismissal was very harsh, the Tongan took his punishment with no arguments from either side and some of the Welsh players gave him some sympathy as they also felt a red card was harsh. I’m not saying that rugby is the perfect sport to follow – especially in light of the unsavoury brawl at Welford Road last weekend in which resulted in red cards for Matt Banahan and Brett Deacon – but when do you ever see a player argue with the referee about a decision? Both of the aforementioned players accepted their fates with no qualms and even shook hands less than 3 minutes after they were punching each other in the face. Footballers need to have some respect installed back into their system and learn that the referee is of higher authority than them, not someone who can be bullied.

And it’s not just the players who have a lack of respect for the opposition but the fans too. I walked past a young rugby player earlier asking his dad why football fans feel the need to get up and hurl abuse at opposition players whenever they come near them and his dad couldn’t come up with a proper answer. Why the fans feel it necessary to insult and gesture at someone who they don’t know, will never know and has not really done anything to them personally is one thing, but to racially abuse them… That’s not just crossing the line but planting great big size 12 feet about half a mile over it. There really is no excuse for insulting a footballer about the colour of their skin or their heritage just because they are playing against a different team to the one you support. In games such as rugby and cricket there is no such abuse towards players, as well as other fans. Supporters of opposing teams are often mixed together as they can be trusted to get along well and not break out into fights every 5 minutes. This mob culture that football fans seem to have was supposed to have been eradicated from football 30-40 years ago and, although that it is nowhere near as bad as it once was, it does still exist and needs to be addressed if football wants to be recognised as a game for everyone and not just those with a love for pies and hurling insults at innocent people.

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