Feckless fans and fantastic F1
That's it. We can't take any more. We've had enough and, with all the elan of an old disenchanted idealist, we're saying farewell to our oldest, most passionate love: football.
Regular readers of this column will doubtless have a hunch that there have been problems in the relationship for some time. But convinced our many years enthralled by the sport, and the memories and happy times it’s given us, were worth fighting for, we stayed put hoping for a change in fortune and a return of the good times.
Alas, in a rare moment of clarity, it hit us with the force of a David Beckham piledriver - at 9pm on Sunday night to be precise - there would be no renaissance; our 30-year love affair with football was well and truly over.
To hear Chelsea fans chanting and jeering during the minute’s silence for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and Piermario Morosini made us feel sick to the pits of our stomachs. But as mind-numbingly revulsed and horrified as we were, we weren’t surprised.
Football, and by this we mean players, owners and fans, long lost it’s moral compass and any vague semblance of principles. In a game that rewards cheats, pays well for disloyalty and has no concept of behavioural standards, is it any wonder some complete and utter morons decide it’s OK to dishonour the death of 96 fans in one of the worst disasters to hit football, and the tragic death this weekend of a Italian footballer?
The game we grew up loving has become so tainted on the pitch that the lack of any decent human emotion or compassion off it is worryingly now almost understandable. For years referees have been treated to a weekly barrage of abuse from both managers and players. If a decision goes against their team expect to see John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Neil Lennon etc, etc, shouting vile abuse in the face of the man in the middle. In any other sport such aggression and lack of respect for the ref would not only be frowned upon but also result in lengthy bans.
Then there’s the diving. Ashley Young may be the current arch-diver-in-chief, but this time next week it will be another cheater and the same the week after that. Add to that the ridiculous sums of money the players get - numerous wads of cash which almost guarantee most footballers are detached from anything we can call reality - and it’s clear the sport has a serious image problem.
The recent pat on the back football gave itself after Fabrice Muamba’s heart attack shows just how bad the situation’s become. Apparently the sport showed itself in a great light because Tottenham fans were civilised in their response while the Bolton player was receiving CPR on the pitch at White Hart Lane.
But isn’t it slightly weird that this basically humane reaction was deemed so remarkable? How low has the game sunk that fans not directing abuse at a player while he’s close to death are applauded as if they are a bunch of Mother Teresas? Both on and off the football pitch, bad behaviour, ignorance and arrogance have become the norm. The players are just as culpable as the feckless fans who jeer during minute’s silences.
And while this week’s Champions League semi-finals may both be classics, please forgive us if some of our number don’t hang around to find out...
F1 AS ENTERTAINMENT FINALLY ARRIVES
We cannot believe we’re about to write this but here goes: we cannot get enough of Formula One this season.
For the past few seasons we’ve found the spectacle of speed as interesting as a Michael Schumacher interview.
If the winner of the title wasn’t predictable then the lack of overtaking in every race was. Which is why we’re so shocked this season. OK, so we’re only three races in but it’s anyone’s guess as to how the year is going to pan out and Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix was as exciting a race as there’s been for ages.
It was won by a first-time winner, saw world champions struggle towards the back of the pack, and at one time had as many as five cars battling it out for second place with just a few laps until the chequered flag.
It was edge of the seat stuff. The three GPs so far have had three different winners, the championship’s being led by someone whose best-place finish so far is third, and with Mercedes finally producing a fast car there’s the possibility of an all-time legend winning his 92nd race six years after his 91st.
And we say, long may this surprising state of affairs continue...