Sunday 27 September ~
Football is in crisis, and it’s much more serious than widescale greed, corruption and bankruptcy. I’m talking about emotions. They are completely out of control, and it’s all the fault of goal scoring. Players have to stop scoring goals, or the game will be doomed. Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor has admitted he was completely overcome when he scored against Arsenal two weekends ago, leading to his infamous goal celebration in front of the travelling fans. “I was running on emotion, and when that is the case it is very hard to control what you do," he said this week.
Meanwhile, Fulham’s Danny Murphy was able to explain why City’s Craig Bellamy slapped an intrusive Manchester United fan around the chops last Sunday. “His emotions were clearly running high after scoring two wonderful goals,” observed the sage midfielder, “but it was a silly error of judgment on his behalf.”
Hey Danny, you half-cooked amateur shrink, you can’t make judgments when you’re overwhelmed by emotion. As Adebayor went on to elaborate: “After you score a goal there is an instant high and that high can last a while.” And then? Oh, the comedown – the media coverage, the FA enquiries, the fines and suspensions, the opprobrium of those huddled masses in their 50-quid seats. In the short term, scoring that goal might seem like a good idea. But how many players carefully enough consider the long-term damage a goal might do, both to themselves and the game?
The solution is obvious. Players who cannot control their emotions must stop scoring goals (shouldn’t be a problem for Dimitar Berbatov) or be forced to curb their celebrations. It might seem like a great venture to run half the length of Old Trafford and slot home an injury-time equaliser just for the immediate gratification of seeing the look on Alex Ferguson’s face. But inevitably you overdo it and just can’t prevent yourself from belting an obstreperous fan already being held in an arm lock by a team of stewards.
These players need to watch footage from football’s halcyon days, when goals were greeted with a modest trot back to the half way line, a firm (but not too firm) handshake or two, and maybe a slight hop and a skip if they’d scored the winner in the FA Cup final, all the while thinking: “I mustn’t get too uppity, I’ll be back to fixing leaky pipes by Monday morning.”
Never mind extra officials on the edge of the penalty areas. What we need is a huge vat filled with ice-cold water in between the two technical areas, and half a dozen marshals dressed as hard line 17th century Calvinist clergymen who can grab the goalscorer the moment the ball is netted and, if he refuses to subdue his emotions, drag the culprit to the barrel and hold him head down by the ankles until he ceases to wave his arms about. For the fans it will be far more entertaining than some poorly choreographed sex act with the corner flag.
Emotions are terrible, dangerous things and have no place in a man’s game. We must root them out of football before the game becomes a platform for the kind of irrational behaviour one would normally see at the fag end of a hen night in Mansfield town centre. A gently murmured “Well played” will suffice to congratulate a scoring protagonist, who must react with calm dignity to the fact he has just earned himself and his team-mates a £20,000 win bonus and stuck one over an ex-club or a despised local rival.
The game’s authorities must not be provoked, the media must not be morally outraged, and the poor fans no longer taunted or lured into excitement. Unseemly screaming and self-expression must be banished to the realm of the teenage pop performance, otherwise we must board up the goals and play merely for the sake of pure and hearty physical exercise, producing real blood and sweat, but absolutely no tears. Ian Plenderleith