There comes a tipping point in every man’s life when he just cannot stomach the shameless abuse of the Corinthian values of sport any more – I may have reached my ‘Falling Down’ moment.
Like 24m people, I watched nearly three hours of stomach-churning drama that reached its denouement with the swing of Eric Dier’s right boot to set-off pandemonium. It was a moment to lift the spirits of even the most stone-hearted Grinch. Yet as hangovers subside, the only sour note of a wondrous tournament has been the flimflam, chicanery and OK, downright shithousery of players who should know better. Last night was no different.
Full disclosure, I’m a rugby man but not to the detriment of football, which I live and breathe through my 38-year love affair with Liverpool.
I developed a fondness for the game through a North Walian schoolmaster and consider my footballing zenith being thumped 4-1 by Wayne Rooney’s De la Salle school – the lairiest, most gifted bunch I ever had the good fortune to meet.
Anyway, as a confirmed admirer of the ‘beautiful game’, I have ogled over goals this past month, my favourite being the technical brilliance of France’s Benjamin Pavard’s sliced drive that was a chef d’oeuvre in its execution and could happily sit alongside Degas, Monet and Cezanne. And yet rolling around in the fashion of an over-indulged child has to stop. It’s not funny anymore. Radamel Falcao was at it last night but chief protagonist in this theatre of over-acting is Neymar, the prodigiously gifted Brazilian who at the slightest touch takes to rolling around as if in a barrel, squealing and holding whatever part of his body is in pretend pain. Get a grip, man. Gather yourself and get on with the game!
I’m not sure where this duplicitous, unseemly part of football came from. I’ve interviewed Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris who spoke in reverential tones about Norman ‘Bite Yer Legs’ Hunter and was handed down stories of Tommy ‘The Anfield Iron’ Smith’s bone-rattling tackles for Liverpool in the 1960s. There was none of this pathetic subterfuge. These old boys must be face-palming in embarrassment.
It’s not a foreign disease, either. After a free-kick was awarded last night, Wilmar Barrios planted his head into his chest and upwards to give Jordan Henderson a minor knock to the jaw in an act that merited a red card. The six-foot plus Henderson didn’t let the ref do his job in controlling a narky, spiteful game and went to ground for two minutes, clutching his forehead dramatically. The plague, it’s catching…
So, what to do? For all the ‘respect’ campaigns in football, the lack of regard for the referee, who routinely has players covering him in bile and spittle, has to be regained from the grassroots up and firm sanctions must be implemented for ‘simulation’, otherwise known as cheating.
Having footballing icons deified by millions of impressionable youngsters acting up isn’t helping, in fact, it’s setting a rotten example. It can’t go on.