If the best players in the world are more intent on cheating than they are entertaining, no wonder lesser performers are becoming experts in football’s dark arts.
Suarez, Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, Bale, Iniesta and Xavi were among the superstars playing in last weekend’s Barcelona v Real Madrid ‘El Clasico’ and yet the tiresome spectacle of players constantly throwing themselves to the ground and grabbing the first body part that came to hand is what remains burned in my memory.
Actually I excuse Messi from criticism as he tries to stay upright despite regular attempts at savagery upon his person and I suppose I should expect pathetic theatrics from a known buffoon like Javier Mascherano, one of these so-called hardmen of football who are apparently knocked senseless every time they brush past an opponent.
But I want my footballers to thrill first and foremost.
I want to recall the brilliance of Luis Suarez’s winning goal and not his leaps in the air clutching the back of his calf every time he feels a defender behind him.
It amazes me that these players can watch the replay of the game (believe me most players are strutting Narcissists and will have the dvd on as soon as they get home) without feeling a great sense of shame.
Their acting is acutely embarrassing and gives off more than a slight air of wimpishness. Keanu Reeves is a better role-player than most of them.
But the best players in the world (and most of the worst players) spend their lives being mollycoddled by press officers, agents and star-struck, partisan fans when what they need is a strong dose of reality.
When a player is sent off, and by definition harms his own team, supporters are now in the habit of clapping and cheering them off the field. It happened with young Posh defender Ricardo Santos last weekend.
He was applauded as though he’d been substituted in the final minute after scoring the winning goal rather than having been cautioned twice in three minutes leaving his team-mates to battle against a gifted side with 10 men for over 30 minutes.
Supporters shouldn’t be afraid of criticising their own players. It’s called tough love.
Instead bad player behaviour is left to filter down to low-level professional leagues, amateur football and, most worryingly, to junior football.
I witnessed two instances of League One players writhing in agony on the ground last Saturday before they bounced up fit as a fiddle and raring to go as soon as play re-started.
It’s always baffled me why fellow professionals try and get each other into trouble at every opportunity, but then winning at all costs is the name of the game.
I also witnessed a Posh ballboy delaying the re-start of the game last weekend. Watching a representative of my club behaving like that is one of the saddest sights I’ve seen in recent years.
Almost as bad as MK Dons 3, Posh 0.