Sport Soccer

Sunday 21 January 2018

F-words? What about futile, finicky, flawed, fatuous?

Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

E veryone has had their say at this point. For reasons which escape me, Superintendent Mark Payne of Wolverhampton was quoted last week saying that if Rooney had acted on a Saturday night in the same way as he did last weekend, "I'd have expected my officers to lock him up".

One can only assume Patrice Evra would be sharing the cell also following his challenge on Ramires in the final minutes of Wednesday night's Champions League game at Stamford Bridge.

In fact, I imagine a lot of what happens on a football field wouldn't be accepted anywhere on a Saturday night.

The English FA has never punished anyone before for swearing on camera, but they have put themselves in a position where they are going to look either foolish or out of touch. Without a precedent on which to base their decision, Rooney was charged with breaching the prohibition on using "insulting, abusive or threatening language".

One of two things will happen here. As I expect, the two-match ban on the Premier League's most famous player will almost certainly be the last of its kind. Alternatively, if it is used as the standard by which all future decisions are made, there will be multiple bans every weekend. Either way, a new level of hypocrisy and bullshit has now been reached.

The argument that the word 'fuck' is so offensive that its use should be outlawed cannot be made in any discussion relating to football. I have never been at a game nor played in a game in which the word was not used. I do not recall anyone before complaining about its use, nor would I listen if anyone bothered to do so. It's like going to an Ireland game and objecting to the players wearing green. It's that ridiculous.

Apparently, though, it's all to do with respect. If the FA wanted to prove that their RESPECT campaign is anything other than a hollow and pointless PR exercise, it has had its fair share of opportunities. However, multiple incidents of players cheating and diving in front of the cameras have been overlooked. There has been plenty of footage shown on television of players swearing at match officials and at each other. But they've decided to get tough this time, and in doing so they look like idiots.

Let's think of the kids, though, because he said what he said when many of them would have been watching. Rooney is of such a high profile that children everywhere will mimic his every move. I heard that point made several times last week. It's the same logic which suggests that no child in America ever heard or used bad language before they listened to songs by Eminem. But if the FA considered Rooney's status in any way in their deliberations, it is now guilty of giving preferential treatment to the less talented players by insisting higher standards of conduct among the very best.

On almost every occasion in which I swore during exchanges with match officials, managers, team-mates or opponents, I assume there were plenty of people of all ages who could hear exactly what I said. If I was too far from the touchline, it wouldn't have been too hard to lip-read much of it either. After missing a sitter against Saudi Arabia in the Under 20 World Cup finals in Nigeria, the Eurosport cameras were focused on me as I looked to the sky in anguish and shouted "fucking hell". There were

very few at the game, so with such little noise being created in the stands the microphones picked it up also. I could give a dozen more examples of this (I was a great man for missing sitters, you see), but the point is an obvious one.

People use the word fuck every day. If some expect higher standards from those they admire, then maybe professional footballers aren't the ones they should be admiring.

Manchester United chose to accept the charge, but their appeal against the length of the ban was unsuccessful. As a result, Rooney will miss United's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday. All because he said the word fuck.

Alex Ferguson was asked in a live televised interview after a home win over Chelsea in November 2005 whether the pressure he was feeling that afternoon was greater than at any time during his reign at Old Trafford. The only reaction to his "that's utter bollocks" reply was a sheepish reminder from the reporter that he should mind his language as there were children watching. In terms of precedents, the FA need not have looked any further.

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