Attending this week’s Champions League match between reigning European champs Real Madrid and Liverpool FC, I was struck by the amount of time the best paid player on the field (and possibly in the world of soccer, but what do I know?) spent (1) falling over, (2) rolling around and (3) whinging to the referee about how unfair it all was. Clearly not new behaviour, and presumably one that pays footballing and financial dividends, but that doesn’t make it The Right Thing To Do.
Can we really not expect our on-pitch heroes, role models to their millions of shirt-purchasing fans around the world, to show a small degree of integrity and leadership? How hard can it be to show some basic respect for the rules of the beautiful game and for its (humble and far less well remunerated) referees? Aside from the fact that, IMHO, rolling around on the pitch complaining doesn’t make for great spectator sport.
This followed the first leg at Anfield where the new star player for the home team was roundly criticised for swapping shirts at half-time.
Helpful clarification of this ethical and cultural grey zone from the opposing captain, who informed the foreign press that “you can swap shirts at half-time in Spain and it’s no problem”. Thanks for that, but could Madrileño ethics possibly differ from Liverpudlian ones? “Usted nunca caminará solo” just doesn’t have the same ring to it…
His shirt swapping antics mid-match also prompted outraged press comments that “he really is not a Liverpool-style player”. One wonders whether they considered that before forking out the £16m transfer fee to bring said gentleman from that hotbed of integrity, AC Milan (owned by…say no more).
All this comes in the week of the latest Manchester derby game, with an estimated global TV audience of around 650 million. The home goalie in that game, incensed about some no-doubt-brutally-unjust in-game incident, squared up to the referee and then appeared to make contact with the referee’s forehead. According to one newspaper “the whistleblower didn’t flinch and appeared to brush off the incident” and no action resulted. Brave chaps, these whistleblowers.
Also in the last week, a Swiss amateur player was banned for 50 years (yes, you did read it right) after kicking a ball in the referee’s face and spraying him with water. This will put him out of footballing action until the age of 78 therefore.
Champs or chumps – what do you think?