Geoffrey Wheatcroft hits ‘cheating’ footballers with Jessica Ennis
IN today’s article attacking football and footballers, tells Guardian readers beneath the headline “From Jessica Ennis to Joey Barton. Could a contrast be more ghastly?” that athletics is so very noble. He might have compared and contrasted drugs cheat Dwaine Chambers to likeable Phil Neville or cycling diver Philip Hindes and Craig Bellamy, the charitable firebrand who joked: “If I ever wrote an autobiography – and I won’t – it would be called Don’t Google Me.”
Wheatcroft wants to focus on the graceful, shaggable and, most vitally, successful Ennis:
We are now obliged to return from the “Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not” of Shakespeare’s words invoked at both opening and closing ceremonies to that pandemic and apparently incurable social disease known as Association Football. We return from the loyalty and fair play of our cyclists, rowers and runners to that vast carnival of cheating, brutality and avarice known as the Premier League. We return from one vision of our country, personified by the decency and charm of Brad and Jessica, Laura and Mo, to that other isle, full of the noises made by John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Joey Barton.
…football is omnipresent, omnivorous, omnipotent and interminable. It used to be known as our winter game; it now exactly matches the English winter in Byron’s sardonic definition, “ending in July / To recommence in August”. The European tournament seems only the other day but, in case you hadn’t noticed, the Premier League season begins .
At the Olympics we saw again and again not only great athletic feats, but great sportsmanship.
Do not see drugs cheats, bitter losers, arguing players, tears of defeat, appeals over scoring and rows over flags. Do not see the sublime skills of Robin Van Perise, the graft of hundreds of teenage players and England playing with vigour at Euro 2012. Wheatcroft sees only what he wants to see. He wants you to share the monocular view:
Has any Premier League player ever got up off the ground and told the referee that he hadn’t been fouled? Don’t be silly.
The answer would be ‘yes’, Wheatcroft. They have. I once saw Newcastle United’s Alan Shearer telling the referee that Ray Parlour had not fouled him only to see the Arsenal player red-carded. Parlour took his wrong decision and walked off. In 1997, Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler fell in the penalty box, apparently tripped by the Arsenal and England goalkeeper David Seaman. Fowler told the referee “No, no”. He said he just tripped over.
And on it goes. The fact is that there is more of light shone on football because it is – get this – more entertaining and better supported than athletics. And bad boys and bad behaviour makes for bigger and better headlines. Think not of the few knobs who occupy the front page, but of the hundreds of other footballers who just turn up, are loyal to their wives and fa iles, save their money and get on with it…