Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Alan Green: 2013 is time to rid ugly side of beautiful game

Mario Balotelli has not played since a disastrous performance in the Manchester derby on 9 December
Mario Balotelli has not played since a disastrous performance in the Manchester derby on 9 December

I am really hoping that 2013 is the year I start to fall in love with football again because there’ve been too many signs of late to indicate that our ‘relationship’ is breaking down.



It could be that I am merely unfortunate in directly witnessing too many ordinary games, games I’ve more or less forgotten when my car passes through the first set of traffic lights on the journey home.

I left the Hawthorns the other Sunday after enduring the turgid spectacle of West Brom against West Ham, about which there was next to nothing to say in a positive light.

I remembered how, many years ago, a SKY executive — I’m not sure he was actually offering me a job — implored me to “always accentuate the positive.” I told him my role as a commentator was to tell the truth not to act as a propagandist …

And this IS the truth about the Premier League I see week in, week out: it isn’t remotely as good as it thinks it is, telling everyone it’s the greatest league in the world.

Much of the holiday goal-fest and the excitement and drama we’ve seen this season has been provoked by woeful defending: ask Ferguson.

And there are the under-whelming, over-paid footballers that populate it. Mario Balotelli, allied by his lawyers, warns his ex-girlfriend that he’ll sue if she says anything that damages his image. As if he needs any help in that regard!

Even the best moments can be sullied by selfish, oafish behaviour. Was there a more distasteful sight in 2012 than seeing the suspended John Terry suddenly emerge on the pitch in Munich in full playing kit — wearing, for heaven’s sake, shin pads! — to join in Chelsea’s Champions League celebrations? But there was worse to come from him …

What made me think his racist behaviour was worse than that of Luis Suarez? Perhaps because Suarez, lost in ‘translation’, admitted what he’d said, thinking it was innocent in a South American context whereas Terry, with video evidence showing the contrary, said he’d done nothing wrong.

And STILL says that, despite getting half the punishment accepted by the Uruguayan.

Still, Terry is a former England captain — shame on those who chose him — while Suarez is another pesky foreigner. In no other area did the Football Association confirm more that they’re not fit to run the game.

But then the FA is hardly worse than UEFA, so ashamed of its OWN punishment for the Serbian FA after the Under-21 debacle that they’re overturning the verdict.

Or FIFA with its despicable head Sepp Blatter about whom I’d need three columns to list the ways he offends.

Sadly, I see so much in today’s game that makes me want to reach for the sick bucket, so many ways it has to improve for me to ‘love’ it again.

How about, to stay ‘local’, getting the FA to enforce this Respect campaign it so frequently only talks about? Where is the punishment required for West Ham fans for their ‘hissing’ sounds directed at Spurs?

What about protecting referees from the verbal abuse they take and offering them the means, through video technology and re-deployment of the ‘4th official’, to get more decisions correct?

What about consistency in disciplinary areas? What’s wrong with retrospective punishment for offenders? When will ‘pushing and pulling’ in penalty areas be acted on?

When will fans stop thinking that being in a football ground gives them a divine right to stand — no, I WON’T go back to standing areas — or to behave in a way they wouldn’t be allowed to on the High Street?

I know I’m asking a lot but I can dream. 

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