The biggest lie in football (well until Luka Modric finished four places above Lionel Messi in a vote for the best player in the world) is the ‘Respect’ handshake mullarkey before matches.
Footballers, at local youth level as well as in the professional game, deliver a cursory pre-match handshake to players on the other team and the officials, and then spend 90 minutes fouling each other, trying to cheat each other or in the case of the referee and his assistants abusing them and trying to con them.
I refereed one game this season when not a single member of either team shook my hand at the end of the game. There was a big ‘Respect’ sign outside the dressing rooms as there is at most clubs I visit. A sign that no doubt fulfils an obligation so some county FA official can tick a box.
Nationally two huge derby games last Sunday saw behaviour that delivered a great disservice to football.
The media, including me, love Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp , but I am yet to be convinced he has what it takes to win anything substantial.
After watching his side run out of ideas painfully quickly against Everton, and being forced to send on hopeless subs Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi (yes I know he scored, but he ended up with a 50% success rate on open goals) I admit Klopp’s reaction to run 50 yards on the pitch straight after a late winning goal, and before the final whistle, was an act of relief rather than an extrovert showing off.
But it was horribly disrespectful to run up to his own goalkeeper to celebrate a comical error by England’s number one at the other end. It was also disrespectful to Everton boss Marco Silva who conducted himself like a gentleman when others might have been tempted to storm off in a sulk.
Football folk will hide behind the word ‘passion’ but that’s just ignoring the potential ramifications. I’m glad the FA have already charged and fined Klopp although the punishment was pitiful.
He’d already been let off by the match referee who really ought to have sent him to the stands.
‘Passion’ was also the word TV pundit Gary Neville used to describe Arsenal substitutes taking exception to Eric Dier celebrating a Spurs goal in the North London derby.
Really? What I saw was an ugly spectacle which came close to turning into a masss brawl. It wasn’t a moment that should ever be praised, but then as Neville once thought it was a great idea to bait Liverpool fans at Anfield after a Manchester United win I wasn’t entirely surprised by the source.
Doubtless those Liverpool fans now defending Klopp also defended Neville that day. Or maybe not. The respect of fans goes no further than to those they support, people they will defend to the hilt. It was a shame as Arsenal were superb on Sunday. They are revelling now Arsene Wenger is no longer able to hold them back. Hopefully their football will do the talking in future.