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Has The Beautiful Game Turned Ugly?
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The coloured U21 Inter Milan star, Mario Balotelli, sped down the left wing, chasing a ‘hopeful ball’ from a team mate. Just before reaching the touch-line he slipped on the uneven surface and tumbled in front of the home fans. The opposition Juventus fans shriek with delight and suddenly a racist chant echoes around the ground, “A black Italian does not exist”, they sing. Mario hangs his head in shame and tries to get on with the game, the cruel words of the Juve supporters still ringing in the Italian’s ears.

Racism is not a new concept and neither is it restricted to the game of football but there is a case for saying that it has worsened dramatically. Racism in football can come in many different forms. It might be a sneaky, unnoticed comment from an opposition player or it can be more obvious, such as racist chants or sectarian songs from thousands of supporters in the stands.

The level of racism nowadays poses the question, why? I believe that there are many different answers. For example, young football supporters see their favourite players, players whom they look up to, week in week out showing signs of racist behaviour. An example of this is the situation with John Terry, the Chelsea captain and ex-England captain accused of making racist remarks towards QPR’s Anton Ferdinand#. For me this is why racism is as big a problem as it is. These players are meant to be professionals as well as adults and they are drilling this racist way of thinking into young children’s minds.

Being a young football supporter and player, I can also see the many good sides of football. Football brings people together. Football brings different social backgrounds together. Football brings countries together. Football is part of people’s lives. Admittedly I see a lot of inter-racial hugging and camaraderie on the pitch too. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being involved and included. This applies to any situation, but when you are involved in a crowd of 30, 000 people all singing and watching the game you love, that is something else.

Another problem - this one undoubtedly growing - associated with modern football is disloyalty. Players are required to sign a contract when moving to a club and are expected to stick with the team for the number of agreed seasons. However, more and more players are turning their backs on the club and, ultimately breaking their word. A classic example of this is Carlos Tevez who signed a 5 year contract with Manchester United and left after a year to sign for their local rivals, Manchester City.

Tevez, who is on £250 000 a week at City, chooses when he can, or cannot be bothered playing whereas Doncaster’s Billy sharp, who is on a tiny fraction of Tevez’s pay played proudly and scored for his team just hours after the tragic loss of his two day old baby son. After scoring he celebrated by lifting up his football shirt to reveal a top with the words ‘that’s for you son’ across his chest. It is clear that we need more positive role models such as Billy Sharp in the game. This may regain some of the

honesty and good sportsmanship shown by players of earlier generations such as England’s Bobby Moore who was not only one of the best defenders the world has ever seen, but an excellent sportsman and a professional young players can look up to.

Cheating in football (in particular diving), has grown like a cancer and taken the meaning out of the name ’the beautiful game’. How often do we see a player go to ground far too easily, with the facial expression of someone who has just been picked off by a sniper rifle, following minimum or sometimes even no contact from a defender? The answer is, far too often. Players are instructed by managers and other players to ‘dive’; pretend they have been fouled, in order to win a penalty or free kick for their team. Diving is now backed by commentators and big names in football such as Alan Shearer who justify cheating with expressions such as ‘maybe if he had gone down there he would have won something’ or ‘there was the slightest contact so the player had every right to go down’.

This sort of accepted behaviour is definitely a contributory factor on the increase in cheating in the modern game. I think that stronger punishments for players and managers caught cheating and a change of heart from commentators and pundits could have a very positive impact on the game.

Football lays claim to the name ‘the beautiful game’; however, there is nothing either aesthetically or ethically pleasing about the way things are going.

Alexander Duff


Street Talk

A wonderfully concise and well crafted essay on the many problems facing football at this present time; but also one that offers the possibility that football may rediscover its possibilities for doing some good.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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