Kevin Palmer: Eva Carneiro's row with Jose Mourinho is not an issue of sexism
It was hard to defend Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho as he reprimanded club doctor Dr Eva Carneiro for doing her job last month, but the desperate attempts to turn her exit from the club into an issue of sexism have been misguided and unnecessary.
Six weeks on from the incident that saw Mourinho explode on the touchline as his medical duo of Dr Carneiro and Jon Fearn responded to calls of referee Michael Oliver to treat Eden Hazard on the opening day of the season, the debate over one of the more curious episodes of Premier League folklore rumbles on.
Sexism has been the driving force behind a story that no one emerges from unscathed and on the day when it was confirmed that Dr Carnerio is leaving Chelsea and is reportedly planning to launch legal proceedings against the club, the firestorm Mourinho started in typically aggressive refuses to go away.
The Chelsea boss has not got through a pre-match press conference since without being asked about Dr Carneiro and her future, with the explanation for the over-reaction from Mourinho hardly forthcoming in the weeks since. How he must regret sparking a storm that could have been handled with so much more class.
Yet from the moment Dr Carneiro took to Facebook on August 9th to thank her supporters for their support in his battle with her boss, her position on Mourinho’s frontline became untenable.
Even if you disagree with your boss and even if you know he is in the wrong in a dispute at the workplace, you cannot turn to social media platforms to serve up coded messages that have to constitute breaches of loyalty at the very least.
Mourinho tends to present the ugly face of football far too often, but there is no room for a ‘celebrity doctor’ on the bench for any Premier League team and that may be why the Chelsea manager started the chain of events that has led to the confirmation of Dr Carneiro’s departure from Chelsea.
Online videos of Chelsea fans chanting the name of the glamorous doctor will not have been well received by Mourinho, who likes his backroom staff to remain in the shadows as he takes the blows as the front man of his club.
When you work for Mourinho, your job is to be anonymous, with attention seeking antics on social media not a pastime his trusted assistants Rui Faria, Silvino Louro, Jose Morais and Steve Holland would indulge in.
So the idea that a member of staff he inherited who has half a million fans on Facebook and more than 11,000 followers on a Twitter account she hasn’t even sent a message from yet was always a recipe for disaster.
That aside, the reality must be that if anyone on Mourinho’s backroom staff posted a message on their Facebook page a few hours after a high profile fall-out with the Chelsea boss, they would find themselves put on gardening leave as well, with their gender not a factor in the ruthless decision making process followed by the serial winner running the club.
Mourinho works to simple rules with those welcomed into his inner circle; you are either with me, or against me.
If it is the latter, this fiery Portuguese tactician has a habit of turning you into an enemy very quickly. Just ask Andre Villas-Boas, who was once a member of Mourinho’s think tank and then became an outcast the moment he opted to leave.
So Dr Carneiro’s crime here is not being a woman, of course it isn’t. Her demise is a direct result of her decision to shatter her loyalty to Mourinho, which makes the attempts to use this as a case to highlight the poor treatment of woman in football more than a little curious.
The Women in Football group have lapped up widespread coverage as they attempt to portray Mourinho’s treatment of Dr Carneiro as a sexist issue, while female Football Association board member Heather Rabbatts expressed her “sadness and anger” at the news of Carneiro’s departure.
In truth, the sexism argument carried little weight until reports emerged last week accusing Mourinho of using “abusive, sexist language” towards his now former doctor, yet it seems that investigation will not lead to any charges being placed on Mourinho.
That should have been the end of the sexism aspect on this story and the tragedy for Mourinho must be that if he wanted to get rid of Dr Carneiro, he should have made the call to change her role at the club without offering the public and the world’s media a chance to look for a conspiracy theory for why she had been reassigned.
Such a course of action would have meant the circus of the last few weeks could have been avoided, but instead it has sparked a nasty tale that has been fuelled by unnecessary conspiracy theories.
“She is a pretty young lady and if this was just any other physio here, would this be back page news? I don’t think so,” declared former Manchester United and Ipswich striker Alan Brazil on talkSPORT radio last month and while his views were offered up in typically laddish fashion, the essence of his argument had relevance.
Chelsea and Dr Carneiro will doubtless come to an agreement to terminate a story that never needed to be as high profile as it has become. All involved should learn lessons from the mistakes they have made.