Cheats like Drogba and Young are diving into the abyss
21:30 GMT, 20 April 2012
It is official. The Premier League can now compete with the very best on equal terms. Congratulations to all concerned. We can cheat as well as anyone.
Chelsea’s Didier Drogba proved to be so effective at feigning injury, wasting time and generally making a complete spectacle of himself in the Champions League victory over Barcelona, people were queuing up to slap him on the back.
Naturally, Drogba reacted as you might expect. He hurled himself to the ground, writhed around on the turf in anguish, and generally behaved as if several vertebrae had been shattered by the contact.
Act of deceit: Didier Drogba's behaviour made a mockery of the laws of the game
He did score what may prove to be the
vital goal against the Catalans. We should recognise that. But he was an
embarrassment for much of the contest.
This prompted people to ask afterwards
whether Drogba was a hero, or a cheat Well let me clear that one up
for you. He was a cheat.
Drogba undoubtedly is a formidable
performer. He remains Chelsea’s most effective weapon when he chooses to
be, as he demonstrated in the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham last
But if he behaves as he did at
Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, there is no ignoring the fact that
he expends an enormous amount of energy simply making a mockery of the
laws of the game.
The scoreline itself from the first
leg provided plenty of satisfaction. The important statistic on the
night said one goal had been scored and none conceded against the
European champions. In those circumstances, the fact that Barca had 79
per cent of the ball and made 782 passes compared to Chelsea’s 194 was
But some were attributing the victory to another measure, one that was quite bizarre when you stopped to think about it.
People were finding a genuine sense of
achievement in the fact that Drogba and Co — but mainly Drogba — had
surpassed Barca in the scale of deceit too.
He was lauded for wasting huge chunks
of time on the night. Some misguided commentators and various clowns
decided what Drogba had done was ‘good cheating’.
It was Barcelona ‘finally getting what
they deserved’ having previously marred many a sparkling display
through the years with histrionics from the likes of Sergio Busquets
and the despicable Daniel Alves.
This week Chelsea won that faux battle
and, since everyone else is doing it, that’s OK then. It’s apparently
acceptable. A phoney rationale is taking hold that advocates true
professionalism is doing what needs to be done for the team — and the
ends justify the means in top-flight sport.
Taking a tumble: Ashley Young attracted criticism for the way he earned a penalty for Manchester United against his former Aston Villa. Even Sir Alex wasn't happy
That is what football is becoming now.
It is a sham. It is performance played out by a team of actors trying
to con and trick officials at every turn.
We are becoming so used to diving, or
‘simulation’, we almost grow weary of condemning the miscreants. The
rulebook is dissolving before our eyes and nobody’s doing much about it.
Gary Neville admitted as much
recently. In the face of continual diving throughout the game, he said:
‘Gradually your thinking changes. You might say your morality weakens.
Certainly the value system you grew up with is challenged.’
But how you win should matter. If you
cannot acknowledge this fact you are signing up to the great hypocrisy
of football, where we only see cheating by the other side, never by our
own. If he’s ‘our hero’ and ‘your cheat’, the game becomes an endless
cycle of whining about whether one side was more dishonourable than the
In the end, there is no decency; just an endless procession of petty, snide infringements.
Serial offender: Barcelona's Sergio Busquets became infamous for his reaction to a brush off by Thiago Motta in the Champions League semi-final in 2009
To be fair, we’re pretty much there
already. Chelsea fans howled at Drogba ‘Get up man!’ like the rest of
the country during the first 45 minutes, but once he scored in injury
time, it didn’t matter. He was their cheat. And it was fine, because
Chelsea were ahead.
Over the past two weekends,
Manchester United’s Ashley Young has also been running into outstretched
legs and hurling himself through the air. There has been some
condemnation, but would fans be so outraged by Young’s antics they would
be ready to sacrifice the title Or would they shrug and say ‘Adam
Johnson did it for City the other week’ I think I can guess.
There are solutions, of course. They
remain the same as they have been for a decade or more; a review body to
look at controversial dives and hand out bans. And should a player roll
around on the floor, the referee only has to stop the clock and display
the minutes remaining on the screen. That way, the player is
squandering no game time, merely the public’s patience.
These measures are overdue. The
concept of sportsmanship is on the floor and it’s not faking it either.
We have to remember football is not a game — it is a sport. It should be
played with a vestige of honour, otherwise what’s the point And if
Chelsea are cheated out of Europe in the Camp Nou on Tuesday night, how
can they ever complain about it now
Bahrain ring of fire is no surprise
I'm not watching the Formula One tomorrow. I suggest you turn the television off, too.
See how the advertisers and sponsors like being ignored. Because that’s how the doctors and nurses thrown into Bahraini jails, convicted as ‘traitors’ merely for treating protesters injured in violent clashes with Government troops, are being dealt with as the amoral F1 circus trundles into town.
Centre of attention: There is anger across the world at the decision to stage this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix
This is a race that should not be
happening. I’ve said my piece in weeks past and nothing that is
happening now has been a surprise.
The Bahrain Government is
ridiculously selling the Grand Prix as being ‘for the people’, the race
has become a focal point for unrest and, as ever, it is ordinary folk
that find their safety is needlessly put at risk.
So far, four Force India mechanics
have been caught in a street clash involving petrol bombs and troops.
Two have gone home; the rest have extra ‘security’ and the team fled the
track yesterday before nightfall.
Unrest: Anti-government protesters continue to disrupt proceedings in the country
The Porsche Supercup racers, part of the F1 undercard, have also pulled out.
But Bernie Ecclestone and his Arab cronies are ploughing ahead. Their cash machine is working.
The crass slogan Bahrain’s rulers
(and their 10 public relations firms) have come up with to promote the
event: ‘UniF1ed — One Nation in Celebration’ is fooling no-one. Better
still, Ecclestone tells the media to leave Bahrain and ‘go to Syria’
I’ll bet it’s not the first time he’s
had that thought. Judging by his actions so far, the Syrian Grand Prix
can only be a year or two away. After that, North Korea perhaps
Chambers return does not inspire
Drug cheat Dwain Chambers is about to win a legal case and overturn a life ban from Team GB. This will allow the sprinter to compete for Britain at the London 2012 Games. We should introduce a new Olympic sport to honour this verdict — a race to hell in a handcart.
Fighting for his future: Sprinter Dwain Chambers looks set to get the Olympic nod
What a devastating blow to Team GB in
the week the 2012 boss and vehement anti-drugs campaigner Sebastian Coe
unveiled his Games slogan — ‘Inspire A Generation’. To do what Dope
their way to glory like Dwain The Court of Arbitration for Sport has
ruled Britain must come in line with the rest of the world and limit
drug bans to two years.
But I hope Chambers does the decent
thing. I hope he declines a place, saying he does not deserve to be
picked ahead of athletes who have spent their entire lives free from
And, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I must be on drugs.
Silence is golden
To mark the eight-and-a-half year anniversary of this page and to honour all the victims of this column, I would ask you to stand and respectfully observe a minute’s silence…
Thank you. I hope you used the period of quiet to reflect on one important question: Why are we always doing this
Disturbed: Chelsea were forced to release a statement apologising for the conduct of their fans during a period of silence at Wembley on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster
It has reached the stage where we
might as well hold a minute’s silence before every single football
match. Why not You can guarantee someone in the crowd will have been
affected by the loss of a friend or loved one at some point in their
lives and we can all pay our respects.
Do you doubt me In midweek,
Aldershot Town football club decided to hold a minute’s silence because
the mother of Swindon Town manager Paolo Di Canio had passed away.
Remembered: Tributes were also held across the world for Piermario Morosini who collapsed on died on the pitch in Italy
Obviously, any loss is a personal
tragedy and the customary condolences go out to Di Canio. To the man’s
credit, he just got on with his job and then returned to his family.
But the question is a wider one. Is a
death in Italy four days earlier, of an individual who just happened to
be the mother of a visiting manager who hails from Rome and is
currently working in Swindon, enough to hold a display of public
mourning in Hampshire, England
Greatly exaggerated: Mark Twain
Without meaning any disrespect to Di Canio, I would suggest not.
It is no longer enough to mourn and
reflect in private. The thought police, or some misplaced sentimental
convention, decrees that you have to make a display of caring, along
with a few thousand other people packed into a football ground.
Last week I warned of the
consequences of attempting to hold a minute’s silence for Hillsborough
at Wembley at the second FA Cup semi-final, since a minority of Chelsea
fans were sure to disrupt it.
After a long day drinking and
well-fuelled grievances about the late kick-off, I was sadly proved
If the minute’s silence is to mean anything it has to be
appropriate and relevant. Otherwise, how far back do we go
Today should we be marking the death
of King Henry VII; the passing of Brazilian football boss Tele Santana
and the demise of author Mark Twain
When the New York Journal prematurely
claimed Twain had passed away, he famously said: ‘Reports of my death
are greatly exaggerated’. These days, the aftermath would be too.