Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Soccer is a Game Without Honour

Henry Winter has almost got it right in today's Telegraph about UEFA's current Chelsea Inquisition. Winter points out that if UEFA are serious about taking on the problems that beset the World's Most Popular GameTM, then Jose Mourinho's beloved mindgames are very small beer indeed compared to the lack of ethos in the modern game.

Winter focusses on racism, but racism is a sociological, not a soccer, issue. A man is a racist or he isn't, irrespective of whether or not he's at the soccer or at the opera. The thing that most bedevils soccer is cheating.

Cheating is rife, rampant, and an accepted part of the game now. If you dive in the penalty box when no contact has been made, you are a cheat. You are a man without honour, and should be treated as such. But it happens weekly, and no shame seems attached to it. In fact it's encouraged, sometimes tacitly (the phenomenon of the "streetwise" player), and sometimes blatantly, as per Iain Dowie's remarks prior to Crystal Palace's game against Chelsea at the weekend, to the effect that if Chelsea were going to act the maggot in the penalty box, so would Palace.

When the anti-racism wristband craze was racking up about a month ago, Roy Keane suggested that players wear an anti-diving band, to show that they're against that particular practice. Keane's suggestion was either ignored, or treated as some sort of a joke - he's a crazy facking Mick, inne? - but Keane, as ever, was on the money. An Spailpín was watching some game - I think it was in the European Championships, I'm not sure - where some buckaroo was rolling around on the floor and nothing the matter with him, when the disgust became too much for Johnny Giles up in the commentary box. "It's supposed to a man's game!" said the former Leeds hatchetman.

An Spailpín has a friend who's nephew is learning the ancient game of hurling on a foreign field - London, to be precise, where the child is resident. This cara an Spailpínigh went to see the young lad playing one Sunday morning and was astonished at the rolling around these young lads were doing after the slightest contact. But they knew no better, as that's all they see from their heroes all the time.

The most amazed witness to all this was the grizzled old veteran from Tipp who was training the young lads. This chappie would have learned his hurling in the sixties in the Golden Vale, when every pull was a funeral. In his day, if a man was rolling around after a bit of a trimming, it was a good sign, as it meant he still had the use of his limbs.

Modern soccer is predicated on a charter that protects and encourages cheats and cowards. UEFA ought to be ashamed.