“I expect players, officials and fans to set a perfect example of fair play” – Sepp Blatter, September 2010.
Anybody else out there bored listening to the empty voices waffling on about FIFA’s great and wonderful (and essentially hollow) ‘Respect’ campaign? Anybody else wish they would all just stop talking start doing? Anybody else losing faith in our wonderful game?
Every day we see somebody else being the puppet, mouthing platitudes about fair play, anti-racism, unity, values, morals and ethics.
And every day we watch players making a mockery of this hyperbole with their diving, their brandishing imaginary cards, their foaming at the mouth like disease-ridden feral animals as they scream obscenities punctuated with expletives at match officials who meekly accept it as part of the game.
What a great example to hold up for the kids watching our ‘beautiful game’.
One of the reasons we all love to watch Lionel Messi is his integrity. Never mind his breath-taking brilliance, his ability to deftly dodge despairing defenders and dance around the dumbfounded goalkeeper to neatly nestle the ball in the net. We love him because he slithers and wriggles out of scything tackles, leaps away from lunging legs, and jinks through juddering challenges. None of this namby-pamby, pathetic play-acting and posturing for him.
Just real honest football; the contact sport that we played when we were kids, when you were allowed to tackle.
But seemingly every day we find dishonesty and, let us be honest, out-and-out cheating more and more difficult to stomach or accept. So we should take the only action available to us – turn our backs and stop watching.
Respect is a FIFA/UEFA buzzword. No more, no less. It’s all posturing and no guts or gumption. It’s all big talk full of empty words.
As we watch a new season begin to spread it’s wings, will we be witnessing more players flying after ‘contact’, or will we actually see a mentality of respect finally get off the ground?
Now, whilst all players should be held accountable for their actions and their behaviour, and be punished for their transgressions and wrongdoings, the ability and willingness of the referees to fulfil their responsibilities should be examined with precisely the same standards.
At half-time in the game between Austria and the Republic of Ireland last week, Robbie Keane could be seen trying to engage in conversation with the referee. The general consensus is that he was endeavouring to discover why John O’Shea had been issued with a yellow card for a challenge which was almost a mirror image of a tackle moments earlier by an Austrian defender on an Irish player which had not resulted in even a free kick.
Keane pointed to his Captain’s armband repeatedly to indicate his position and also removed his team-mates from the situation so as to hold a captain’s conversation with the official and clarify/question the decisions. He did so calmly and evenly, but thereferee showed him a yellow card.
Respect is a two-way street, and respect must be earned regardless of which direction in which you travel upon that street.
If the players and the officials will not show respect for each other, are FIFA or UEFA really going to show some teeth and pick up the pieces of that particular collision, or will this ‘Respect’ campaign end up in a smoking pile of ruin?
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