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

Comments (5)
Comment by Braindown 2009-09-16 13:48:14

I once remember Trevor Morley getting some serious abuse from my fellow Swindon fans whilst he was playing for West Ham at The County Ground.

He came over to receive a throw in right in front of us and someone near me hollered "Hey! Morley, been stabbed recently?" referring to Trevor's unfortunate assault at the hands of his wife. Trevor’s face completely dropped and he looked quite upset, he shook his head and wheeled away after the ball.

I was horrified, this went waaaay beyond amusing terrace banter, it was brainless and nasty.

He scored later in the game and I must say it’s the first (and probably the only) time I've actually been pleased to see an opposing player score.

But he didn’t run over in the loudmouths direction or make any provocative gestures; he merely jogged past with one arm aloft.

I think I actually clapped.

Comment by Lincoln 2009-09-16 14:48:38

It's difficult as I can see this from both sides. The rational side of me was quite happy when a fan accused Robert Fleck of passing his time in a manner that might cause blindness (using a different phrasing) and he responded by putting his hand in his shorts and saying 'but it feels good', or something along those lines. He handled the banter in amusing manner, perhaps previously playing in Glasgow gives you a certain ability to cope.
However, as a Lincoln fan, I felt angry as Peter Gain tore passed the away fans at a Peterborough game after scoring a goal celebrating by pointing at his name on his shirt and generally being a bit of a prat. As fans we had the last laugh because Ryan Amoo saw to us winning 2-1 and ruining Gains pre Christmas celebrations, however as a fan you have to rely on your team to correct the slight for you and do something that actually hurts the player. Being a Lincoln fan this is not always assured.

Comment by fbrazolin 2009-09-17 00:26:38

Why have I heard the word "Dunga" repeatedly echoing inside my head while reading this piece?

Well, perhaps because our manager prefers to fight against boring fans instead of celebrating when Brazil score a goal...

Comment by ian.64 2009-09-17 07:58:38

I'm probably wrong here, but the more high-profile the game, clubs and fans, the higher the drama-queen quotient, the more aggravated the circumstances and more emphatic the news value of such situations becomes.

The recent Forest-Derby match happened in the Championship and that only got so much news coverage. The Man City-Arsenal match suddenly not only involves everybody acting as if they're in an opera, but suddenly raises a national debate of such proportions that everyone's still banging on about it.

Thinking about it now, I think that the rarified atmosphere of the shenanigans of the big clubs has been magnified so much that all eyes and discussions turn towards them for every incident and situation that occurs. Players dive in important matches, but only Eduardo provokes ire. Players goad opposing crowds, but only Adebayor sets alight raucous national debate.

Personally, I wish that the media would just f*ck off and go and contemplate the fact that not all football life occurs at the Premiership summit.

Comment by es_vee 2009-09-18 13:29:27

I think calling the conduct of the Hartlepool fans that day a 'sensible approach' is extremely irresponsible - fact of the matter was that Hodgy was severely abused, spat on, hit with a coin and Marco Gabbiadini was punched in the face. Their conduct and the failure of the Hartlepool stewards to control them was shocking, and deserved harsher sanctions than they received.

Admittedly that particular anecdote could have been from a different match. But its still misleading to infer that Hartlepool supporters were always sensible and rational towards Hodgy, and didnt overstep the mark.

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