skip to content

Martin Samuel: Shock, horror: we all survived Rooneygate and the Premier League carried on

11 Apr 2011 01:22:08

Martin Samuel: Shock, horror: we all survived Rooneygate and the Premier League carried on

And yet, despite all, the great game of football continued along its path this weekend. Matches did not end six-a-side as players were dismissed for uttering the odd curse word. Wonderful goals, such as Daniel Sturridge's first for Bolton Wanderers, were scored, even though the protagonists were denied the opportunity to tell the nation to eff off via the medium of the television lens. There were thrilling games between Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City and Nottingham Forest and Reading, and significant twists in the narrative, such as the away win that elevated West Bromwich Albion to the brink of safety under Roy Hodgson. Wayne Rooney did not play for Manchester United, but they beat Fulham comfortably with Dimitar Berbatov in his place anyway, which is what having a ?30million striker in reserve will do for you. In other words, there were no negative ramifications of the Football Association's two-game ban on Rooney at all. Those who feared for freedom of expression can move on to weightier censorship matters, such as the strengthening of the government's iron fist in China. Wayne who? Dimitar Berbatov (left) helped United to a comfortable 2-0 win over Fulham We have not lost Ai Weiwei here (the designer of the iconic Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, who has not been seen since his arrest while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong on April 2). All that has happened since Manchester United's match at Upton Park is that some veryprivileged sportsmen have been reminded of certain responsibilities. Only in the precious world of modern football could this constitute a lynch mob. Yet, if we are the lynch mob, let's tie up a few loose ends. RioFerdinand started it. 'We should follow Wayne Rooney as a footballer, rather than keep lynching him,' he said. 'There are bigger things going on in the world, things happening in Libya and the Ivory Coast.'   More from Martin Samuel... MARTIN SAMUEL: Sorry, Nick, it'll always be about who you know07/04/11 Martin Samuel: Wayne's simply a world apart... with fun as his new F-word06/04/11 Martin Samuel: Harry's best laid plans ruined by Bernabeu blitz06/04/11 Martin Samuel: 'We're Man United, we do what we want' (... not any more!)05/04/11 Martin Samuel: It's hard to avoid whiff of hypocrisy in Rooney's FA charge 04/04/11 Martin Samuel: Harry's done miracles ... so why don't Spurs love him?04/04/11 Martin Samuel: Rooney seems a man motivated only by vengeance and spite03/04/11 MARTIN SAMUEL: A sad state of the arts? Get a proper job!31/03/11 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE Indeed there are. Strangely, though, the merits of an interventionist foreign policy and democracy in the raw in west Africa have not exactly been trending on Ferdinand's Twitter account lately. Piers Morgan's man-boobs, Trey Songz, the next RnB superstar, chicken emporium Nandos and the Michael Jackson statue at Fulham have all had a recent mention, but opinions on the bloody resistance of former president Laurent Gbagbo to the internationally recognised Rally of the Republicans (RDR) regime of the elected Alassane Ouattara, not so much. Unless Ferdinand was just glibly using the turmoil in Abidjan to make a self-serving point, and wasn't really that interested in Ivorian politics at all. Surely not? Still, there were plenty of other risible arguments raised in Rooney's defence last week, not to mention Sir Alex Ferguson's repositioning of himself as referee Lee Mason's friend in the face of bullying by the FA, a concept so laughable it made orange juice come down my nose. Stated in several quarters was the mitigation that Sebastian Coe swore into a trackside camera lens at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984, without consequence. This only works if one feels the FA should be hidebound by events from 27 years ago taking place in an entirely different sport. Toput this in context, in 1984 Niki Lauda was the Formula One world champion, Lee Trevino won the PGA Championship, Michael Jordan was drafted from the University of North Carolina to begin his professional career with the Chicago Bulls and Scotland won rugby's Grand Slam. Timeschange, you see, and we are allowed to change with them. Therehas also been the suggestion that Rooney is merely imitating the aggressive celebrations of the stars of American sport (although if he is capable of being influenced by others, surely others are then capableof being influenced by him, an extrapolation which reignites the role-model debate, although not in the way his apologists would wish). History: Seb Coe winning the 1500m at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games Even if this were true, it is hardly a tendency worth encouraging. Just as admiration for the gang culture of south central Los Angeles has not been beneficial in Britain's inner cities, so it would be nice if English football did not follow the path of the NFL, in which the back story to every modern Super Bowl appears to concern a participant's road to redemption following a sexual assault charge, a chemical addiction or implication in a homicide. It might be advisable to nip this one in the bud. Then there are those manipulating the language as if the little words, like 'on' and 'into' do not also have meaning. As in: caught swearing on camera, versus caught swearing into camera. 'This weekend, a referee will give something, a player will swear and it will be caught on camera. Will he be banned for two matches?' asked Gary Neville. Well, no, because the instances are entirely different. Say a teacher is walking across a playground and he overhears a boy telling his mate to 'give my f****** ball back'. He may reprimand or warn the boy for using bad language, but in all likelihood little more. Context steers him towards leniency. Bad influence? Some commentators have said Wayne Rooney was imitating American sport Yet, say the same boy, required to give the assembly reading that morning, arrived at the lectern and told the entire school to 'f*** off'. He could be looking at  suspension or exclusion. In the first instance, he was caught swearing in what he believed to be a private situation; in the second, he swore very deliberately and publicly in a manner known to cause offence. The English language is the most nuanced on the planet. If Neville is to make a successful career in media, he must come armed with more watertight arguments than this. Meanwhile, Superintendent Mark Payne of the West Midlands police was roundly denounced for writing that if Rooney had behaved like that in Wolverhampton on a Saturday night he would be locked up. Ferguson called  him a 'wee guy . . . needing to be noticed' and asked: 'Do the police actually arrest people for swearing on a Saturday night? Dearie me, that's a good one.' And this is true. Modern police forces have neither the resources nor the will to treat aggressive behaviour in this way, but that does not mean Payne's words did not strike a chord. Angry man: Wayne Rooney landed a two match ban for his foul-mouthed celebration against West Ham 'I have seen a thousand Rooneys and I am sure most police officers have,' he wrote. 'The same aggressive stance, the bulging eyes, the foul-mouthed rant, fists clenched, surrounded by his mates, all cheering him on. It is OK to insult and abuse, it is OK to react with ridiculous aggression to perceived slights or provocation, it is excusable because it is the heat of the moment.' Does Payne sound like the member of a lynch mob to you? No, me neither. What we have witnessed over the past week is not an irrational or unreasonable reaction, but simply a watershed. Rooney's behaviour was not diminished because there is worse going on in Libya, because Coe did it in 1984, because that is how they celebrate in the NBA, or even because he won't be the first, or last. For once, football drew a line in the sand. On a Saturday night in Wolverhampton, you would cross the road to avoid a man who looked as Rooney did that day and we shouldn't have to keep ducking our heads and hastening away to avoid trouble. For once, we stood our ground. If that makes us a lynch mob, we'll have to live with the slight; we weren't the aggressors here, we just decided: no more.  There is, of course, a middle ground in the goal celebration debate and the sight of the gifted Neymar being booked in a Copa Libertadores match for donning a mask of his own face to celebrate a fantastic solo goal for Santos against Colo Colo, shows how ludicrous some of the rules are. Neymar received a second yellow card for this harmless gesture, which sparked four more red cards in chaotic scenes. Off his face: Neymar received a second yellow card for celebrating a goal wearing a mask of his own face These pointless regulations often provoke more controversy than they prevent. If the motivation is to prevent players displaying slogans or political messages that could incite, surely each case should be judged on its merits, rather than penalising for exuberance or making a joke.  Finally, following the Football Association's crackdown on swearing, Andriy Arshavin has been banned for50 games, Danny Shittu for 100, while Stefan Kuntz has given up his jobat FC Kaiserslautern just to be on the safe side.  Six from Spain no recipe for successThe referee for Chelsea's match with Manchester United last week was Alberto Undiano Mallenco, of Spain. His linesmen were Fermin Martinez Ibanez and Juan Carlos Yuste Jimenez, the fourth official was David Fernandez Barbalan, and the additional assistant referees behind the goal were Fernando Teixeira Vitienes and Carlos Clos Gomez. And there, in a nutshell, is just one of the many problems with Michel Platini's extra pairs of eyes. Floored: Ramires (right) felt he was fouled by Patrice Evra (centre) inside the area UEFA prefer officials to work as a team.It used to be a team of three (referee, two linesmen), then four (to include a fourth official) and now it is six (referee, two linesmen, fourth official, two additional assistant referees). So, just because Spain is considered to have a capable lead official in Mallenco, it mustalso provide five others with the quality to handle a major Champions League tie: which it clearly hasn't got because one of the additional assistants missed a blatant penalty in injury time, despite having the clearest view in the stadium. For Real Madrid versus Tottenham, the officials were all German. For Inter Milan versus Schalke, six Englishmen were deemed top quality, while six Scots handled the game between Barcelona and Shakthar Donetsk. Does Scotland have six outstandingly able officials? Weren't they all going on strike earlier this season because so many were questioning their competence? No matter. Scotland must provide six guys or Craig Thomson cannot get a game. Human error was never going to be addressed by adding more humans, but to compound this error by insisting that all officials had to be from the same country seems foolish in the extreme. As the game at Stamford Bridge proved, nothing has really changed. Mallenco could have messed up comfortably on his own, without requiring the services of a squadron of clueless countrymen. And while we're at it... UEFA own goal for 2012A report released by the East European Monitoring Centre has revealed details of almost 200 serious hate crimes at recent football matches in Poland and Ukraine, hosts of the 2012 European Championships. There have been 133 reported incidents in the last 18 months in Poland, including 56 related to the open display of racist or fascist symbols, and 36 cases of anti-Semitism. Ukraine had 62 incidents including one involving neo-Nazi fans of Dynamo Kyiv, which ended with an Arsenal Kyiv fan receiving multiple stab wounds. Flashpoint: Scenes like these are common at every ground in Poland So what is currently vexing UEFA? Sectarian chanting at Rangers matches. A serious matter, no doubt, but far less painful than admitting you have awarded your tournament to hosts whose football clubs have a penchant for attracting right-wing nut-jobs.  It was always said that football management was a merry-go-round. Once on, it was hard to get off, competent or not. These days, sports administration has taken over the ride. Andy Anson, the former chief executive of the failed 2018 World Cup bid and the man who thought freedom of the press could be bartered for votes, has walked straight into a post at the British Olympic Association. Nice work if you can get it; and his type always can.  At the time Roberto Di Matteo was sacked by West Bromwich Albion, many felt the decision harsh. The club was in 16th place, but merely two points off the bottom. At that moment, West Ham United were 19th, having decided to stick with Avram Grant following rejection by Martin O'Neill. Sacked: Di Matteo Success: Hodgson Going down? Grant Now, two months later, West Brom are tenth under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson, while West Ham have risen one place, and are still in the relegation zone, despite Grant continuing to talk as if he has inspired some wonderful revival. West Brom jettisoned one of the most promising young managers in the Premier League, but at least this showed a determination to survive. Grant, and West Ham, meanwhile, continue to sleepwalk towards the Championship. And it is too late to change manager now, of course.  Truth hurts at Grand NationalThere were two horses dead at the end of the Grand National on Saturday, which racing enthusiasts maintain is one of the sport's occupational hazards, albeit a tragic one. Why then, if the sadly unavoidable risk of rider injury or equine death is part of the drama of Aintree - and it is, because 33 horses have died at the Grand National meeting in 11 years - did the commentators not make clear why the horses were bypassing fence 20 and Becher's Brook second time around? Carnage: Or Noir De Somoza (6) is brought down at Becher's Brook Mick Fitzgerald sanitised the reality, saying only that the runners were avoiding an obstacle, rather than revealing a horse lay stricken on the landing side. The broadcasters cannot have it all ways and neither can the fun punters at home. This isthe Grand National, not the Blackpool beach donkey derby, and the truthhurts.  It was always going to be the case that the greatest casualties of the debacle that was the heavyweight title fight between David Haye and Audley Harrison would be the promoters of future pay-per-view events. Having received just 50 takers for Amir Khan's homecoming against Paul McCloskey on April 16, the WBA light-welterweight title fight will no longer be broadcast by Sky Sports. Khan's purse has taken a substantial hit and the poor undercard is being blamed, but there remains an air of don't get fooled again around boxing right now. Haye's summer date with Wladimir Klitschko cannot come soon enough, because as it stands his greatest legacy so far is spoiling it for everyone.  Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, David Haye, Danny Shittu, Piers Morgan, Sebastian Coe, Dimitar Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Hodgson, Daniel Sturridge, Audley Harrison, Amir Khan, Roberto Di Matteo, Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville Places: Barcelona, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Scotland, Libya, China, Spain, Poland Organisations: British Olympic Association, Football Association, National Football League, National Basketball Association


Daily_Mail

Sponsored links