The transformation of football from the ‘beautiful game’ to the ugliest of sports is almost complete.
Nationally and at a local level football is now firmly in the gutter, put there by players, managers, spineless governing bodies and know-nothing pundits and partisan supporters who refuse to condemn their favourites even when fighting against incontrovertible evidence.
Wigan beating the Manchester City moneybags was a magical FA Cup moment this week, but the shocking behaviour on and off the field shouldn’t be forgotten. Winning with grace and humility is now as impossible as losing without displaying rancour in the social media age.
The managers Paul Cook and Pep Guardiola ranted and raged at each other, after a shockingly dangerous on-field tackle (one that Guardiola would have demanded a prison sentence for if it had been carried out on one of his darlings) which provoked a typical over-reaction from the players on the field which had the effect of making the referee look weak and pliable.
These disgraceful scenes continued into the tunnel at half-time, and were beamed live to a national TV audience. A proper TV audience as well, not a Sky or BT one.
Naturally condemning the referee for showing a red card for an obviously dangerous tackle was the priority for the clueless Beeb pundits rather than condemning the behaviour of their sainted hero Guardiola so it’s no wonder this sort of behaviour filters down football’s food chain.
The weekend before last there was a horrible incident after a quarter-final tie of the prestigious PFA Senior Cup which involved a cowardly assault on one of the smaller players in the Peterborough Premier Division.
Within 48 hours members of the guilty party’s team/management were tweeting their disapproval of the match referee (including a rather gross personal smear), a Peterborough League official (one with a long record of fine service to grassroots football) who was present and who dared to make a critical tweet about bad behaviour, and to the pressman who dared to report it.
The club did get round to issuing regret, but my goodness they were badly let down by the hard of thinking.
Adults at local level are probably beyond help, but it’s not too late to save the junior players from themselves.
It’s a fact most players, officials and parents are well behaved, but as usual the minority ruin it for the masses.
Poor behaviour towards referees prompted the local junior football league to describe it as a ‘disease’ earlier this month. The words were well-received and well-intentioned , but they will make no difference. I expect a smiliar letter in a couple of years after another batch of young, qualified referees have decided taking charge of 13-14 year-olds is not worth the accompanying hassle.
It’s such a shame and the biggest shame belongs to those at the top of the game.