Ok, is it me or are some sports stars getting too big for their own boots? Perhaps I’m just an ageing old fool (cue private giggling from SKINS’ staff) but I really feel that many modern day ‘heroes’ are losing it and are in danger of bringing their sport into disrepute.
Of course, there’ll be many out there who’ll say it’s been going on for years, but I reckon it’s worse now than ever before.
Take the England and Manchester United footballer, Rio Ferdinand. At the age of 34, he’s had an excellent career in playing terms but bugger me, his on-field and off-field antics and his “it’s all about me” attitude, get right up my nose. A couple of weeks ago, he stood toe-to-toe with a Turkish referee and sarcastically applauded in his face because he’d sent off a Manchester United player in a Champions’ League game. Ferdinand clearly thought the ref had lost his team the game but whether he did or not is irrelevant. Ferdinand’s pathetic gesture sent out completely the wrong message. “You’re only a referee and I’m a highly paid footballer therefore I am better than you.” It’s a message that is becoming more and more prevalent in Football.
No regard for authority and no sense of self-discipline. No idea of how to behave, no understanding of the meaning of the word ‘class’.
This week, Ferdinand created more headlines by pulling out of an England squad for two World Cup qualifiers because he says he isn’t fit enough, even though he played 90 minutes for United in their game last Saturday, (March 20th). I have no issues with the principle; it happens.
But there is more to this than immediately meets the eye. In 2012, Ferdinand was left out of the England squad in favour of a player who was the subject of a racism charge against Ferdinand’s brother. Media coverage of this week’s withdrawal has suggested this might be Ferdinand’s way of exacting revenge on the manager of the England team who made that decision. Given other examples from his career you wouldn’t rule it out, especially, when you read another report in England that suggests Ferdinand will instead fly a fifteen-hour round trip to appear as a TV pundit on the first of England’s games for a TV station in Qatar!
So he can’t fly two hours to Northern Italy as part of a squad, even if it’s just to support his national team-mates for a game against San Marino, but he can fly half way round the world to talk about it? Not bad for a bloke who’s supposedly protecting a dodgy back is it? I’m pleased to read in the UK media that this is now seen as the end of his England career. He doesn’t deserve the honour that comes with wearing the white shirt.
On the subject of footballers, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez isn’t exactly a modern-day role model either. He’s gained a reputation as a ‘diver’ (he’s not alone but he’s probably the worst offender) but he also recently scored a most blatant handball ‘goal’ in an F.A. Cup match.
As a result, it denied a small non-league club the chance of a money-spinning replay they thoroughly deserved. It wasn’t a reaction that he could claim was instinctive rather than pre-meditated either. It was blatant cheating. With cameras all around the ground and viewers all around the world, wouldn’t you think that the players themselves and possibly their employers or even the sports’ governing bodies would be saying: “You get paid enough, so do the right thing!”?
You may remember Suarez used his hand to good effect in the World Cup in 2012 too. His last minute handball on the goal line, denied Ghana a winner in their quarter final tie. Ghana missed the penalty, eventually went out (ironically) on penalties and Suarez and his mates celebrated as if they’d won the cup itself. Where is the spirit or the honour of the game? Suarez has a reputation he shouldn’t be proud of and it’s simply not possible to judge a technically gifted player solely on the number of goals he’s scored. It’s sad.
But before anyone in England thinks I’m just a loud mouth Aussie (actually I probably am…) with a beef against English sport or the players who adorn it, read on.
Aussie cricket vice-captain Shane Watson was one of four players suspended from a Test match in India by his coach this month because he failed to prepare a presentation on team failings. The coach, Mickey Arthur had invited everyone in the team to present three things that they could do to reverse the current form; a move you’d have thought would’ve delighted all players who were being offered a chance to have their say.
Instead Watson and his three cohorts ignored the request. Bare faced belligerence at it’s best, I’d say. If Watson didn’t like being set a bit of ‘homework’ then for Gawd’s sake have the guts to talk about it with ‘teacher.’
Suspension was hardly a punishment either. Watson went home to Australia for the birth of his first child and is now back with the squad with the ‘misunderstanding’ straightened out. Incredibly now with skipper Michael Clarke injured, Watson has returned to the team as Captain. On the face of it, it actually seems as if Watson is being rewarded for ignoring his coach.
Surely, there are times when we have to suffer the short-term feeling of defeat for the long-term benefit of the sport? I applaud the determination of any managerial staff to make tough calls, or impose tough sanctions for the long term benefit of the culture.
So, there you have it; three recent examples of sports-star hell. Whoever, you are, cricketer or footballer, English, Uruguayan or Australian, step up to the plate and show some spine.
You’re being paid enough but more importantly you hold a position in sport and therefore society that deserves to be respected.
Is there a sports star whose antics have got up your nose recently? I’d love to hear about it and I’ll compile a league table of the famed and shamed from your replies. As usual, best ones get some SKINS kit.
Congrats to Jeff Barnes and Imac for winning the SKINS kit for comments on my last blog re technology.