the beautiful game?

What is it with these over-paid petulant prima donnas, we call footballers? I love the game and the Premiership is the best league in the world but I’m getting to the point where I’ve had enough of their antics and behaviour. This week alone we’ve seen:

–  Ronaldo flouncing off the pitch after being substituted and then throwing away a track-suit top offered to him by a well-meaning member of his back-room staff. He continued his very public sulk on the bench with that mock disbelief head-shaking whilst mouthing ‘f*cking joke’, all for the cameras’ benefit. The poor lamb was clearly in a state of total shock at Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to take him off after 58 minutes of the Manchester derby with the match seemingly decided in United’s favour at 2-0. The fact that the manager probably felt that Ronaldo had done enough for the team with yet another stunning goal after 18 minutes and needed to be kept fresh for the critical last few games of the season with the season’s two most significant trophies still to be won (or lost), was clearly not totally appreciated by the player. After all, what on earth was Ferguson doing? As manager’s go he’s achieved what exactly, eh Ronnie? Take a look at the ingrate:

In fact Ronaldo’s been on a season-long sulk at not being allowed by SAF to leave the club that had developed him into the World Player of the Year with probably the highest earnings in world football, for the non-achievers at Real Madrid. To say that I’d be prepared to off-load him for a world-record transfer fee and replace him with Ribery or Benzema or even Wigan’s Valencia, is an understatement. He is an idol to my football-mad grandson but a truly poor example of a sportsman. If I were SAF I’d pay his air-fare to Madrid, pack his suitcase and stick in it a video on the career of Ryan Giggs (another good-looking lad with outrageous talent) and slap a post-it note on saying ‘that’s the way to do it’.  Such a talent but his totally self-regarding manner is becoming simply unbearable and I think a real problem for the outstanding United team ethic. SAF’s unloaded great talents before, like Beckham, Ince and Keane, when their egos and personal agendas started to become more important than the team and the club. Surely Ronaldo’s United career is going to reach its expiry date in Rome.  

– It seems incredulous but that wasn’t the only petulance on display yesterday (and it didn’t even involve Robinho). Team-mate Carlos Tevez scored a great little goal to seal the game for United then ran to the touchline and, addressing the Directors’ box, cupped his hands to his ears as if he was asking them whether they had heard the cheers of the fans:


Of course it was a little gesture intended to remind David Gill and his Board members that the club have still to decide whether to pay £32m to make his move to Old Trafford permanent. I have said before now that I really enjoy the skills, commitment and energy that Tevez brings to any game but I cannot believe that his constant moaning and mouthing off to the Argentinian footballing media and attempting to publicly humiliate the United Directors will serve his cause well. He’s a great footballer but  just not worth that much. Still his display yesterday probably did impress a set of Directors with more money than footballing sense so it’s over to Eastlands at season’s end for Tevez methinks.

– The situation at Newcastle is dire of course; tonight they play troubled Boro for an absolutely critical match which will probably decide which of either of these sides can possibly escape relegation. A loss or draw and one or both are doomed. In this situation a manager tends to select his in-the-trenches players; the ones who give everything for the team and inspire others with their performance. For rookie manager Alan Shearer the challenge was always going to be enormous but it was understandable when last week he decided to test this theory when he dropped Michael Owen and selected Joey Barton for the difficult away match at Liverpool. Surely this was a now-or-never moment for the recidivist Barton. Would he at last turn in a performance that had the fans in raptures? Nah. Have a look at this piece of beautiful football from the thug Barton – he deserves to be run out of the club. No doubt Sam Allardyce will be in for him come the summer:

– Then we have two choice examples of great role-model behaviour from two of N London’s finest. Firstly  Nicklas Bendtner (alright perhaps not Arsenal’s finest player) emerged from Bouji’s nightclub at 4am with his trousers around his knees. Earlier he’d been a member of the Arsenal side which had suffered a telling defeat to Man Utd in the Champions league semi-final. Ah well good to see you weren’t too upset – there’s always next year eh Nicklas? I bet Arsene Wenger must have been so proud to get the call from the club’s press office at 4.30am.


Then yesterday morning the captain of the Spurs side Ledley King also out on the razzle  ends up being arrested and detained on suspicion of assaulting a nightclub doorman. Apparently he’d been doing nothing more than goading the guy about how much money he had and calling him a ‘Paki’. Despite being almost incapable of standing Ledley did  have the presence of mind to ask if the bouncer knew who he was. It’s classy stuff. Here’s the late night action shot that must have gladdened his manager’s heart the next morning –


– And speaking of Champions League we then had the spectacle of Drogba, Ballack and others from the Chelsea team berating the referee for his hapless performance in the semi-final against against Barcelona. It had been a thrilling match and the frustrations of the players were understandable but not the way they conducted themselves –


It was ugly and you just know that lots of kids are going to emulate their actions the next time they don’t agree with a ref’s decision. Drogba’s subsequent re-appearance on the touch-line to shout and swear openly into the Sky cameras and virtually accuse EUFA and the referee of a fix was quite unbelievable. How he was allowed by the club’s officials to do this is beyond comprehension.  He and the club will get a stiff fine no doubt which won’t harm them one jot but the real damage is done and unmendable. They really are a charmless, graceless bunch at the Bridge.  

I know I’m sounding like some moralising saintly ne’er do badly, who’s never got annoyed on the pitch, never fouled someone badly, never had a drink after a match nor argued with a ref over a poor decision. Because I have. But in every case I just about managed to retain a tiny shred of self-respect and, I’d like to think, never showed total disrespect for others. Unlike these half-wits who remain role models for thousands of young kids. Bear in mind this is just  one week’s headline activity and none of it relates to the fantastic action we’ve seen this week. That’s the sad thing. One again the image of football in this country (and quite probably world-wide) has been damaged by the self-serving and boorish actions of some of the Premiership’s so-called leading players. It’s about time the game got a grip and made examples of them rather than everyone making excuses for them. The beautiful game? Not from where I’m sitting.


ps Well wouldn’t you know it, redemption arrived this morning with the news that one highly-paid footballer at least this week has acted with huge dignity in the face of a shocking family tragedy. Wilson Palacios, another Spurs player, learned during the night that team-mate King was out getting drunk and  arrested for assault, that the body of his younger brother had been found, several months after disappearing following his kidnapping. It’s hard to imagine quite how devastating this news must have been for Palacios but he had the grace to wait out the night in the lobby of the team’s hotel until he felt it a suitable time to disturb Harry Redknapp, his manager, to seek permission to fly home to Honduras to be with his family. What a contrast in attitude and I’ve got nothing but admiration for the young guy.

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