Oh Thierry Henry, what did you have to go and do that for? You, of all people. Despite being a life-long Spurs supporter, I have always been a great fan of yours; you were one of those rare and special footballers it was always such a pleasure to watch, no matter which team you played for. One of those players who, despite all the greed and arrogance in modern football, made me remember why I fell in love with the Beautiful Game in the first place.
But then, in a crucial World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland last week, you did a Maradona, and the poor old Republic unfairly went crashing out after neither referee nor linesmen spotted your blatant handball. And blatant it was too. Quite ridiculously so. You even compounded the offence with your comments after the game: “It was necessary to exploit what was exploitable”, you said, as if that somehow justified what was, without question, cheating. How could you?
However, Henry’s out-of-character double handball is not the first instance of blatant cheating in sport this year. In some cases, this cheating has just been childishly sad, as with the deliberate F1 crashes, while in others it has veered towards out-and-out fraud, as with the outrageous and notorious Harlequins ‘Bloodgate’ incident (and what with Quins being the rugby union side I support, this scandal made me particularly angry), and the recent Champions League match fixing arrests.
It is difficult to know how to remedy such examples of dishonesty, because if sportsmen and women – as with pretty much anyone else in any walk of life, unfortunately – think that there is the slightest possibility they might get away with it, they’ll try to do just that.
Don’t be daft….
Back in August, when the football season was still fresh and new and full of opportunity for your club (or something), I made a series of predictions about how the season would pan out. Problem is, I’m not the world’s greatest prognosticator, as you are about to see. I’m not Mystic Meg. In fact, I’m so bad at predictions that I’d make a drink-addled, third-rate, end-of-the pier crystal ball reader look as if she genuinely had the kind of second sight that laughs in the face of ‘tall, dark strangers’ and tweaks the noses of ‘mysterious admirers’, all the time while knowing where the bodies are buried. In a footballing sense, of course.
The truth of the matter is that I’m just a grumpy, cynically romantic, ever hopeful football fan – hopeful of one day actually getting it right, that is…
So let’s examine the evidence for my predictive incompetence, shall we?
UPDATE: THERE WILL NOW BE HIGHLIGHTS OF UKRAINE V ENGLAND ON BBC1 TONIGHT (SATURDAY 10TH OCTOBER) – TUNE IN TO MATCH OF THE DAY AT 10.15PM.
An Occasional Series of Short(ish) Rants and Ramblings about the Beautiful Game
Honestly. Who’d be an England fan? I ask (yet again) in all seriousness, as the latest installment in the long-running soap opera of supporting the national team rolls into town again late tomorrow afternoon. Or rather it doesn’t. Because, unless you are one of the (approximately) one million England fans who a) is prepared to actually fork out up to fifteen quid to watch the game on a tiny monitor, and b) has a fast enough internet connection, or c) is mad enough to pay the ticket prices demanded by the ‘selected’ Odeon cinemas who are showing the game, you won’t be watching the Ukraine v England World Cup qualifying match tomorrow; not even in the pub, which fact alone is enough to make me weep into my pint – if I wasn’t actually drinking a cup of tea instead.
For a change, this isn’t Sky depriving your average England fan of her fix of qualifying matches and friendlies, despite the oft-bemoaned fact that their sports packages (plus the equipment, plus installation…) are financially out reach for many. Tempting as it may be (and tempting as it always is), this is not an anti-Murdoch rant – for a change, ol’Rupey-baby isn’t responsible for this particular balls-up.