Playground antics add colour to game
Published 25/01/2010 | 05:00
DURING a recent match, an argument broke out after a particularly strong tackle and, taken out of context, it's hard to believe the subsequent conversation was between two men in their 20s.
"Get up you cheating ****," encouraged the tackler.
"F*** you, you fat *****," responded the opponent as he got up.
"Your Ma's a fat *****," was the tackler's final word, only heard by those in the immediate vicinity.
Stung by a riposte he probably hadn't heard since the school playground, the pole-axed player was speechless as he jogged away from the incident with a slight smile as though he wished he had thought of it first.
Childish Humour 1 Adult Thinking 0.
"Tu Madre" might be a phrase Gary Neville could take with him into Manchester United's Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City on Wednesday given that, as he admitted after his outburst against Neville, Tevez doesn't fully understand English.
At least, Neville could have the defence of his words being lost in translation -- a tactic used by Tevez's agent yesterday -- as opposed to last Tuesday's expression which is universal to every language.
Since the childish one-fingered salute towards a man who used to celebrate his goals by sucking on a soother, Neville has been accused of everything from incitement to hatred to sullying his own legacy, something which would be quite an achievement for a player with eight league winner's medals.
It took two days for footage of Neville's gesture to be found and, at the time, the thousands of City fans were too busy celebrating Tevez's goal to notice the actions of an opposition substitute. Yet neither of these issues has been raised in the race to condemn the United captain.
His was an act which most children on their way to school will see regularly from morning commuters -- but if somebody's child does it to them next week, they'll probably blame Neville. Kids are very easily influenced, you see.
Neville's previous misdemeanours of celebrating in front of Liverpool and Manchester City supporters where wheeled out as part of the prosecution's case, but the incident with Tevez was never going to encourage trouble simply because it was the type of argument between two players which happens dozens of times throughout a game.
It's not behaviour that should be encouraged but using this as a yardstick for suspension would leave teams with no players left if everyone who called another player a derogatory name, spat or celebrated a goal a little too strongly was banned on the grounds of setting a bad example.
Each of those things, like Neville's actions, are childish but then that's part of the appeal of football and sport in general.
Investing emotional interest into a group of men you've never met, who come from a place you don't live and earn money you never could, makes no sense when taken logically but if life was simply a loop of get up, go to work, eat, go to sleep, repeat, what would be the point?
Those who support local teams at least have the geographical reason but the loyalty which they have to their locality is rarely shared by managers or players.
When playing or watching, there is nothing else in that moment that matters other than where the ball is going. It's a release; an escape from being screwed by levies, squeezed for a mortgage payment or wondering what if your job's safe, assuming, of course, that you still have one. When the final whistle goes, there's plenty of time to be worried about such grown-up issues.
In the days after Thierry Henry handled the ball against Ireland, there were hundreds of people waiting hours in hospitals throughout the country who cared more for a ward than a World Cup place.
Yet even those who make their name and money from hearing other people's problems put aside preying on those emotions to castigate Henry. Marches were held, boycotts were planned and appeals were made, and all the while, the patience of the patients reached breaking point as they waited on the trolleys.
Even players attempting to involve themselves in real-life situations can't escape the bubble of their on-pitch actions.
After last week's victory against Bolton, Arsenal players William Gallas and Bacary Sagna held a banner which read: "Football fans don't forget about Haiti", but the only hating going on was for Gallas.
His tackle on Mark Davies was poor yet his commendable act along with Sagna at the final whistle barely merited a mention. Damned for not caring about the world around them, it seems players are ignored when they do.
Such worldly issues won't be on the agenda when City and United clash in a local derby on Wednesday. It seems likely there will be controversy and, from whichever side emerges victorious, some adolescent gloating against their neighbours.
If a last-minute winner is scored and Old Trafford erupts in a fusillade of emotions as it did when United won 4-3 earlier in the season, those who believe it's time that football grew up might try tell the thousands lost in childish celebration to keep the noise down.