Wednesday 16 September ~
Is everybody in football getting a bit too easily offended? Emmanuel Adebayor's explanation for leaving Arsenal might suggest so. Apparently the rot set in when Nicklas Bendtner repeatedly flaunted club rules and wore trainers in the dressing room. Now some might admire the young Dane's distaste for those annoying flip-flops that athletes love but sane people save for their holidays. Not Emmanuel though – a row ensued after he objected strongly to Bendtner's flagrant disrespect and told him to get them off. Arsène Wenger judged against Emmanuel and it ended with a reluctant parting of the ways.
Adebayor was so offended that he even warned that if the same thing happened again at City he would fight someone. Imagine the outcome if Craig Bellamy insists on sporting some new pumps. Of course Adebayor isn't the only easily offended person around. Back in the spring Cristiano Ronaldo paused on his way to an Elton John concert to attack a photographer's car, claiming that the man had been outside his house, "eating yoghurt and taking photographs". We also have a host of managers, with Alex Ferguson at the vanguard, who refuse to speak to the sports department of the BBC because of allegations made in current affairs programmes. None of the libel actions threatened by Harry Redknapp, Kevin Bond or Sam Allardyce has materialised but the silence continues except in Harry's case where a move to Spurs made him all talkative again.
It would be bad enough if it was only the spoilt millionaires getting all precious but the fans have joined in too in a frenzy of pot versus kettle complaints. Many Arsenal supporters who apparently see no harm in chants about the supposed sexual preferences of Ashley Cole or Sol Campbell are distraught when some sections of Old Trafford disparage Arsène Wenger in a similar fashion. The United fans are rightly offended by Munich chants but seem to think singing about Koreans eating dogs while Scousers tuck into rats is fine. Abuse is dished out on both sides and umbrage hypocritically taken on both sides wherever a rivalry exists.
A new feature though is the demand for postpartum badge kissing. It seems that the need for oaths of allegiance is growing in inverse proportion to the level of loyalty in the game. As the unavoidably mercenary nature of professional players has become more apparent the need for reassurances to the contrary has grown. Now even celebrating a goal against a previous club is widely seen as unacceptable by outraged fans. I can't believe that anybody really feels angry enough to invade the pitch and assault a player who moved for a bigger pay cheque. The failure of the enraged mobs to make it over the tiny fences or past the small numbers of pitch-side stewards would suggest that it's all posturing – as hollow as the professed commitment of their former heroes proved to be.
A few years ago I watched David Hodgson, then Darlington manager and never a favourite of mine, walk to the visitors' bench at Hartlepool's Victoria Ground. As he neared the touchline a ballboy went to go past him and a Pools fan shouted, "Stay away from his Werther's Originals son". Most of the people in our section of the paddock laughed, the ballboy looked confused and Hodgson shook his head, smiled wryly and got on with his job. The admittedly unpleasant joke was treated as just that and it wasn't repeated. Maybe the young Hodgson got the same motherly advice on name calling as me – "They're just showing off. Ignore them and they'll soon stop it." But with almost everybody connected to football now teetering on the brink of apoplexy, this sensible approach seems unlikely to be adopted any time soon. Ed Parkinson