Thursday 23 May 2019

Anti-Ramos crusaders forget that we all love that kind of skullduggery when our boys do it

Real Madrid's Garcia Sergio Ramos. Photo: Nick Potts/PA
Real Madrid's Garcia Sergio Ramos. Photo: Nick Potts/PA
Eamonn Sweeney

Eamonn Sweeney

Don't you just love the petition calling for FIFA and UEFA to 'punish' Sergio Ramos? As I write this 514,066 people have signed it. Sorry, Akbar Makhdumov and Simran Shreshta have just signed, 514,068.

The petition is quite endearing really. Started by one Mohamed Salah Abdel-Hakeem - presumably no relation - it accuses Ramos of "acting that the Liverpool players fouled him falsely," notes, "instead of winning matches fairly, he uses tricks that defy the spirit of the game", and hopes that UEFA will start "using video recordings to keep the spirit of the game."

He hasn't specified what punishment he'd like. I'd suggest something appropriately Liverpudlian: Ramos  could be made to watch an entire box set of Bread or be forced to listen to Ringo Starr's solo albums. Or maybe they could get Jamie Carragher to spit at him.

In fairness the wording of the petition is pretty restrained compared to some of the guff emitted in the past eight days. There's no denying that Sergio Ramos has a strained relationship with the Corinthian ideal. Most of us expected he would have a dig at Salah before too much time had elapsed, though not that his skulduggery would be so spectacularly successful.

Yet it's hilarious seeing Irish people indignantly clutching their pearls when they've virtually canonised Roy Keane for the same kind of behaviour. When we recall the legendary victory over Holland at Lansdowne Road it's Keane's foul on Marc Overmars, rather than Shay Given's saves or Jason McAteer's superb goal, which is selected as the day's memorable moment.

Liverpool fans have always celebrated the deeds of their own hard men, from Tommy Smith to Graeme Souness to the aforementioned Carragher. More recently they idolised Luis Suarez, a man who did for sportsmanship what General Franco did for Spanish socialism. We all love this kind of thing when our own boys do it.

That old nonsense about a player having some duty of care towards 'a fellow professional' reared its hypocritical head as well. The truth is that anyone who has watched more than a handful of soccer games knows players will do almost anything to a fellow professional if it helps to win the game. That's the nature of professional sport. It's why anyone looking to extract moral lessons from it or use players as role models is a fool. The ethical standards at the top level of most sports would embarrass even the Wolf of Wall Street.

All that crying and apologising from Loris Karius was a bit de trop as well. The only way he can atone for his mistakes is by playing better next time, if he gets the opportunity. My favourite sanctimonious suggestions of all were that his team-mates had, by not consoling Karius at the end, betrayed the spirit of Liverpool because, like, You'll Never Walk Alone.

You'd think 'You'll Never Walk Alone' was actually a solemn and legally binding statement of club principles rather than a song which Liverpool fans started singing because Gerry and the Pacemakers recorded a ropey version of it back in 1964. The song originally came from the Broadway musical Carousel and is sung to console Julie Jordan after the death of her husband Billy Bigelow. Billy has just tried to commit a robbery but made a balls of it and stabbed himself to death instead. So, thanks to Karius, we did see the real You'll Never Walk Alone spirit in Kiev.

It has been suggested that people should go easy on Karius because he's a German goalie and so was Robert Encke, who killed himself because he was depressed. Of course people should go easy on the lad. No player should get abused for making mistakes.

But the frightening thing about depression is that it can strike anyone. It may well be that one of the players from the final woke up on Sunday morning in the grip of a horrible depression but it's as likely to have been someone who played well and won as someone who played badly and lost. Depression (a serious illness) and disappointment (an emotion) are not the same thing.

Now we move on the World Cup finals where further opportunities for world-class sanctimony and silliness await. The petition is up to 514,492 now by the way. Mauricio Ramos Munoz (presumably no relation) and Akmal Afzal have just signed. Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men?

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