Thursday 21 November 2019

David Kelly: 'Soccer is often drunk on the fumes of hypocrisy in its attitude to drink-driving'

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Fired: Derby sacked Richard Keogh. Photo: PA
Fired: Derby sacked Richard Keogh. Photo: PA
David Kelly

David Kelly

Football is a beautiful game but it has an ugly side. Quite simply, it is drunk on hypocrisy. No different, perhaps, to the broader society that infuses it; most of us are culpable by association.

Football long ago cast aside any pretence towards morality; increasingly, money has alleviated that particularly guilty debt.

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Richard Keogh may well be pondering the financial cost of his sport's moral ambiguity as he starts writing the legal cheques for a protracted battle to seek his re-instatement with Derby County.

He has already had a high price to pay in discovering what the rest of us already know when it comes to the attitude of football towards the crime of drink-driving.

Derby, as you may have heard, have already allowed two convicted drink-drivers to remain on their substantial pay-roll despite causing an accident which grievously wounded the aforementioned Keogh, their club captain.

One of them, Tom Lawrence, has also represented his country in the intervening period, Welsh manager Ryan Giggs confirming football's sordid moral code days before a magistrates' court delivered their rather more astringent assessment.

The good men and women of the court bench held less authoritative sway than those sitting on the managerial bench it would seem.

"It was a footballing decision," parroted Giggs, wanly, as if the sport secretes some semblance of ethical superiority compared to say, something so trivial as a "life decision".

Lawrence was available to play and that's all that mattered; Keogh's chief misfortune was that he was not able to report for work, like the two loyal colleagues who left him writhing in agony in the back seat of a car.

Keogh's crime - in football, of course, for he was not convicted of a legal crime, whatever your distaste for his moral actions - was not being as indispensable as either of his team-mates.

Or indeed as essential to his team's defence as Arsenal's Tony Adams once was when he drunkenly crashed his car into a wall before spending a sabbatical at Her Majesty's Pleasure before resuming his career, mercifully repentant and sober .

In most other industries, Adams' career would have been terminated and his career choice diverted. But this is football, not life. And football makes its own rules. And those who follow it, whether closely or from afar, unwittingly comply.

The Welsh and Derby fans who cheer their heroes are no different from those who once whooped and hollered in delight whenever George Best dazzled on mud-splattered pitches of yore.

It is all too convenient to forget the worst excesses of someone's real life if they can somehow manage to demonstrate the best of themselves in the field of sporting endeavour.

And that goes for Tiger Woods as much as it does for Darron Gibson (who has managed, with rather less success, to endure two separate drink-driving convictions).

We are all guilty of such craven loyalty.

From Yaya Toure, the non-drinking Muslim who failed to notice the taste of Brandy in his Diet Coke before getting behind the wheel of his €90k Audi, to the recidivist Jermaine Pennant, football retains a bottomless pit of barrell-scraping clemency for its drink-drivers.

Hugo Lloris, a French World Cup winning captain and Spurs' skipper, breezily maintained his eminence despite being done for drink-driving at the start of last season, the goalkeeper barely able to speak when stopped in his vomit-stained car.

The club - in whose multi-million euro new stadium 10,000 pints of beer can be poured every minute on match-days - stood by the player who, when arrested, was incapable of standing by himself.

Liverpool star Roberto Firmino, like Lloris and Toure, was also indulged by his club manager - such a trio of empathetic souls indeed - and as Dylan once said, the newspapers, they all went along for the ride.

"Firmino shrugs off drink drive rap to fire Reds into second spot", they roared when he scored three days after being caught drink-driving in late 2016.

"He was the best man in training so there was no way I was going to leave him out," said Jurgen Klopp, like Pep and Poch, deferring to the unwritten code of immoral superiority.

As the headline proclaimed above the image of a celebrating Firmino: "The drinks are on me!" Maybe we're all blind drunk.

Irish Independent

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