Saturday 22 October 2016

Comment: Carneiro's exit proves dinosaurs still walk among us

Oliver Brown

Published 24/09/2015 | 02:30

Eva Carneiro is set to leave Chelsea
Eva Carneiro is set to leave Chelsea

That Eva Carneiro sees no future for herself at Chelsea, having had her reputation traduced by the one man meant to protect her in the public sphere, is nothing less than the gravest setback yet in women's torturous and protracted struggle for acceptance in English football.

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It is a wretched moment, compounded by the crassness with which Jose Mourinho has handled this sorry episode. Dr Carneiro was one of a vanishingly small number of women to hold a position of seniority within the game. In itself, that offered a grim statement upon football's culture of self-congratulation for its token efforts against sexism. Now she, too, has been exiled.

The dinosaurs still walk among us. We like to assume that we have shelved the bovine excesses of Ron Atkinson, who produced a canonical text for sexists everywhere by arguing in 1989 that "women should be in the kitchen, the discotheque and the boutique - but not in football".

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Read more: Kevin Palmer: Eva Carneiro's row with Jose Mourinho is not an issue of sexism

We console ourselves that we have moved on from the era of Richard Keys and Andy Gray, whose off-camera expressions of chauvinism tended to come in bumper-sticker form. "Do me a favour, love." But while these old fossils have been officially ostracised - Atkinson to a dotage of playing golf in Portugal, Keys to a routine of producing Alan Partridge-style videos about his giant house in Doha - their attitudes endure.

Carneiro suffered more than most. She only needed to set foot on the pitch at Old Trafford last March for some supporters to scream that she was a "s**g" and to tell her to "get her t**s out for the lads". Their behaviour is so prevalent that it becomes almost wallpaper noise at our grounds. Many of the pious reactions by men to the indiscretions of Keys and Gray were an extreme example of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God hypocrisy. All of which brings us to the crowning folly of Mourinho, who rounded on Carneiro for rushing too hastily to treat the stricken Eden Hazard, by describing her as "naive".

Read more: Confirmed: Eva Carneiro taking legal action against Chelsea

It was horribly familiar, this smug insinuation that a woman, bless her, was incapable of comprehending a man's world. It sounded as if Mourinho was just another blinkered bar-stool philosopher on the Fulham Road.

As Sierra Williams wrote recently in the London School of Economics' Review of Books: "If I am in the pub with my boyfriend and his friends and express an opinion about football, it is disregarded immediately." Mourinho has exercised the very same hauteur.

And no, it is not enough to mount the ludicrous defence offered elsewhere that he cannot possibly be sexist because he happens to have a wife and daughter.


For he has casually impugned the integrity of a doctor guilty of nothing besides discharging her Hippocratic duty in attending an injured player.

Mourinho is also being investigated for a complaint by a fan, allegedly backed by video evidence, that he called Carneiro a "filha da puta" -Portuguese for "daughter of a whore". Mourinho, for his part, has denied using that phrase, claiming instead that he used the words "filho da puta"- "son of a b***h".

Whether the accusation ends up being proven or not, Mourinho's role in forcing out Carneiro constitutes his most egregious conduct yet. And this, given that we are talking about the same man who has poked an opposing coach in the eye and ridiculed Rafael Benitez for being too fat, is against some fairly stiff competition. For it is the precedent set by Carneiro's sad exit that is genuinely alarming.

As the Women in Football group acknowledged, in a strong statement: "She had already been the target of frequent sexist abuse from opposition supporters. We believe that Dr Carneiro's treatment and ultimate departure from Chelsea sends out a worrying and alienating message to the already small numbers of female medical staff working in the national game."

Carneiro, for her part, has been scrupulously quiet throughout the whole farrago. Since August 8, she has surfaced only to post a message on Facebook thanking the public for their "overwhelming support". Even this, though, was a red rag to a bull in less enlightened quarters. Ralph Rogers, her predecessor at Chelsea, had the nerve to denounce her as a cheerleader and a celebrity doctor for daring to suggest that she was bigger than the manager.

It was all hectoring nonsense of the worst kind, a bullying reaction to a woman voicing gratitude for some solidarity in what was surely the loneliest job in football. How do we suppose Rogers would like it if he swapped places with Carneiro, even for a week, to be crudely objectified at every turn? Football is one of the few environments where women can endure such a shabby ordeal as Carneiro's and still be faced with a conspiracy of silence.

In 2011, two young builders were sacked by a firm in Hertfordshire for wolf-whistling at a woman as she walked past. The example of that case has yet to filter through to football, where an eminent doctor is assailed by any amount of unprintable innuendo each time appears on a pitch, but is expected to let it all wash right over.

It is intriguing that Jon Fearn, the other medic castigated by Mourinho, remains on the payroll at Stamford Bridge, while Carneiro beats her retreat. Why should only the woman's position be untenable here?

Her departure from a job she loved appears one with no just cause, as she considers whether to mount a case for constructive dismissal. Her loss to Chelsea brings deeper shame upon the sport than it would ever care to admit.

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