Cesc Fabregas scores in the 84th minute against AC Milan at the San Siro
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Football pundits and commentators in the English media line up to find excuses for horror tackle on EduardoPublished February 25, 2008 Arsenal , Football , Sport 2 Comments
I am not at all surprised that Martin Taylor’s horror tackle on Eduardo (warning graphic content), during Birmingham City’s fortunate 2-2 draw with Arsenal, is being minimised or even dismissed by numerous football pundits in the media. Alan Hansen provided a good example of this attitude with his comments on Match of the Day. (Admittedly, I have little respect for Hansen whom I consider to be one of the biggest fools on television.)
Instead, sections of the media have decided the most worrying aspects of Saturday’s game were Arsene Wenger’s post-match rant calling for Taylor to be ‘banned for life’ (despite the remarks being clear hyperbole and Wenger withdrawing the comments), or William Gallas’ petulant behaviour after the game, when he kicked an advertising hoarding and sat in the centre of the pitch in a foul mood.
As Peter Gill of Football365 noted, what has been totally glossed over, apart from the horrific tackle by Martin Taylor, are the appalling comments from Alex McLeish, Steve Bruce, Stephen Kelly, James McFadden, Liam Ridgewell and Sebastian Larsson, who have all sought to excuse Taylor’s attack on Eduardo. Kelly and McLeish were particular disgraceful in their comments, calling Martin Taylor’s red card ‘harsh’. Harsh? Perhaps they haven’t seen the images of the tackle up close? Or perhaps this just shows the extent to which the game has become ‘lawless’ and these people — all professional sportsmen or managers — ought to look up the laws of the game.
The television commentary was just as bad, if not worse. Sky anchorman Richard Keys was more concerned with Gallas’ emotional outburst and the fact that Arsenal had dropped points, rather then mention the assault by Taylor on Eduardo. As the Guardian’s minute-by-minute text commentator noted:
It’s quite revealing that [Richard Keys] has slipped into more of a sanctimonious funk over Gallas’s minor tantrum than he did about the horror tackle which could easily have ended a talented young player’s career, but that’s the way it seems to be.
Then there was Sky pundit (and former Arsenal player) David Platt shockingly dismissing the incident and even suggesting that Taylor’s hack at Eduardo didn’t even merit a yellow card! Match of the Day and Score on the BBC weren’t much better, with (ex-Sp*rs) player and BBC reporter Garth Crooks (backed by Gavin Peacock) suggesting Eduardo was a ‘victim of his own pace and skill’. I don’t have words to describe how absurd such comments are.
But Crooks’ deranged comments ought to help lead us to the real point of discussion. It’s not about Taylor’s malicious intent (or lack thereof), or his superb off-field character (and much credit should go to Taylor for trying to visit Eduardo in hospital). I actually agree that Taylor did not intend to break Eduardo’s leg, or even to injure him seriously. The point is, or should be, about an attitude in the English game which seeks to justify vicious assaults in the delusion that ‘getting stuck in’ to the opposition is ‘part of the game’. Take another look at the attempted tackle by the Birmingham City defender: Taylor is clearly showing his studs to Eduardo’s shins. This certainly suggests that the Birmingham City player was out to ‘rough up’ Eduardo. While most of the time such challenges do not result in serious injuries, it was only was a matter of time before something like this would happen. Such reckless challanges can end a career or even result in lost limbs. As Patrick Barclay, who appears to have broken ranks with the media coverage, points out:
More than three years ago, I wrote that the refereeing regime headed by Keith Hackett, himself a former official at England’s top level, was too permissive and that dangerous tackles were being inadequately punished in the interests of “managing the game” so that dismissals were kept to a minimum. As soon as this season started, it became evident that the tendency towards violence was escalating. Moreover, some of the worst challenges were not being punished – one by Reading’s Stephen Hunt on Gelson Fernandes of Manchester City springs to mind – and eventually the referees had little alternative but to get tougher on tackles deemed “out of control” and therefore reckless.
There is also a mild and unstated xenophobia at work here. The English sports press have often glossed over the duplicity of English football players, especially the stellar names, because of the myth that only foreigners cheat and dive and British (and specifically English) footballers are an ‘honest’ bunch. Afterall, who can forget Neil Lennon’s vicious assault on Alan Shearer’s boot with his head? Or Michael Owen’s guidance on ‘simulation’ (otherwise known as diving to con the referee into awarding a penalty)? Or how about Gary Naysmith’s cowardly act of deliberately lying in the way of a Steven Gerrard slide tackle?
The hope is that Eduardo makes a full recovery from this injury, and the incident opens the eyes of anyone attached to the game: players, managers, fans and journalists, but most especially the authorities who run the game.
I think it’s good for football that these small clubs get a chance to prevail on the big stage once in a while.
Congratulations to Egypt for retaining the African Cup of Nations last night. They beat Cameroon by a single goal, coming in the 77th minute. Mohammad Zidan’s pass was converted by Mohamed Aboutraika. Egypt have now won the competition a record six times.
If so, you might remember Nii Lamptey:
Even Pelé himself said it. Nii Odartey Lamptey, player of the tournament ahead of Alessandro Del Piero and other future stars in the Under-17 World Cup of 1991, would be ‘the next Pele’. The world’s most famous footballer had first seen him play in the Under-16 finals in 1989 and after two sightings gave his verdict: ‘Lamptey is my natural successor.’
With 38 senior caps for Ghana by the age of 21, a sensational first season in Europe after making his debut aged 15, and an even better season as top scorer for PSV Eindhoven while still a teenager, Lamptey looked as though he might prove Pelé right. It was not to be, though, and surely Pelé would never have said any such thing had he known of the horrors the boy had already suffered in his childhood. And nobody could have predicted that, far from becoming a world-class superstar, Lamptey would suffer personal tragedy as he was shunted from country to country, continent to continent, in his unfulfilled career. Only now, at the age of 33 and with new goals in his life, is Lamptey prepared to talk about the pain and sorrow he has endured.
Surprise, surprise. An Arsenal player does a bit of overacting on the football pitch, and James Lawton, the Indy’s chief sports writer, devotes an entire article the following day to attack Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and the players for bringing the game into disrepute.
Was Cesc Fabregas’ reaction to Mikel Arteta’s elbow over the top? I think it most certainly was — Fabregas rolled about seven times as though he had been punched. Nonetheless, Arteta’s rightfully sent off for raising his arm and hitting an opponent.
But why is it that Lawton needs to wait for an Arsenal game to express his outrage? I read the Indy every weekday for over four years, but cannot remember a time when a dive by that expert in diving Cristiano Ronaldo or England’s “boy wonder” Michael Owen (who has admitted to such ‘simulation’) was attacked by Lawton. Indeed, in that Everton-Arsenal game, Phil Neville quite clearly stuck his leg out to con the referee into thinking he had been fouled — yet not a single word from this pompous sports moralist. Yet, we shouldn’t be surprised at all: Lawton has used the downsides of Arsenal and their manager on numerous to highlight the flaws in the contemporary game (mocked by this Arsenal fan).
But at least Lawton doesn’t revel in the ugly English trait of blaming foreigners for such antics and conveniently glossing over foul play and cheating by one of ‘England’s heroes’ (e.g. Alan Shearer’s disgusting attack on a fallen Neil Lennon). A quick scan of the major media outlets shows that all reports of the Everton-Arsenal game do not mention a single word about Phil Neville’s clear dive. Had it been a foreign player, we would have not heard the end of it — certainly the kangaroo court that is Sky Sports would have initiated a trial, found him guilty, then sentenced the player to be hung from the nearest crossbar.