The Suarez goal at the end of today’s game brought a strange reaction in me. It was not one of violence, spit or swearing but a simple, emotional sigh. It did not stir up the blood pressure but triggered a series of thought processes that led me to the conclusion that this is simply the way football has been and will be for many years.
Liverpool should have suffered two red cards and yet received none. Six minutes of added time when there were four substitutions and two goals in the second half simply did not add up. The schoolboy-ish excuse that they were at their home ground may have affected it some extent. Of the two reds, Sturridge’s challenge which could have left our player with a broken ankle was arguably the worst… Suarez’s bite was more symbolic rather than the first course of his afternoon tea. What irked me more was how Suarez then pretended that nothing had happened and protested his innocence so vehemently that the referee then seemed to simply not believe Ivanovic’s accusations. I mean come on – when has a player ever bitten another player on a football pitch? Oh, apparently Suarez did while at Ajax....
The fact that neither manager wished to comment on the incidents shows how those who are supposed to be leaders have their hands tied. What are the positive consequences of criticising a player? Our manager perhaps still has too much connection with today’s home side and fears the possible disappearance of belongings in the homes he owns within the vicinity of Anfield should he say something negative.
For the Reds the risk lies in the value of Suarez if it is made clear that the club wish to transfer him for negative reasons. Balotelli is an example – a player one Manchester City fan I spoke to at Wembley last week thought was the best player he had seen in a light blue shirt. He was sold for under £20 million, scored on his debut for Milan and then was caught smoking inside a train toilet! With only a certain amount of wages that a club can deduct for poor behaviour players have the power.
It brought bigger questions about football in general. Once a professional’s career has been established then he is in control. Having personally suffered job turbulence recently I only wished that I could have a four-year contract where even the most ridiculous unprofessional conduct goes relatively unpunished. In most normal careers even serious speeding fines can lead an individual to struggle to find work, let alone keep it. We can all forgive a person making a mistake but when we see continual misconduct what are we supposed to think?
There is a purity that is missing in football and this needs to be addressed. Poor behaviour at the most supposedly respected clubs in Europe does not help. Then FIFA is a body that few look up to when it comes to finding good examples of conduct so where do we begin? It is also hard to type this without feeling hypocritical considering some of the on and off the field antics of some players at the football club that I love. However, in recent years the myopic, partisan nature of my support (at one stage I refused to watch televised matches of any team unless it involved my own club) has diminished when I realise that Chelsea itself is not perfect either on the pitch or the terraces.
There is simply so much at stake these days that players could easily exchange roles and become professional actors. Surely this sport can be seen as a form of art considering we are all allegedly searching for beauty in football? Do we wish to reach a stage where authorities have to step in and take retrospective action on every single bad incident until football returns to being played in the correct spirit? The original team that tried to set such an example, Corinthian Casuals now play in the Isthmian League which is perhaps the best reflection of how football has developed in a world where we are supposed to be advancing as a human race.