Sunday 10 May 2015

Rational Ref: Chelsea's masters of the dark arts highlight a win-at-all-costs mentality

Chelsea's masters of the dark arts highlight a win-at-all-costs mentality

Chelsea's siege on Kuipers shows intimidation and bullying are acceptable in quest for glory
In sport what is more important: playing the game or playing games? Nowhere else but in soccer is this distinction more apparent, with plenty of cheating and gamesmanship instead of genuine sportsmanship and model behaviour.

Chelsea's siege on Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers during their Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain last week comes as no huge surprise. It is simply the logical consequence of the ugly, unethical and underhanded approach that has been allowed to fester and flourish to alarming levels.
The dark arts—comprising cheating, provocation, intimidation, faking injury and childish behaviour—is now so endemic it is considered the main source of entertainment, with media reports barely touching on the final score and team performances.

In one camp, John Terry, Jose Mourinho, Gary Neville and others believe the dark arts are entirely acceptable, whereas the likes of Graeme Souness, Jamie Carragher and most referees prefer a cleaner, honest and straightforward approach. Spectators will probably support whichever camp so long as it benefits their favourite team.

 Zlatan Ibrahimovic gestures to the referee after a tackle on Chelsea midfielder Oscar, who appeared badly hurt, but was on his feet moments after a red card was issued. Photo: AFP   

Chelsea captain Terry defended his hounding of referees, saying: "Every other side is as bad as each other."

"It's part of the game. Once they're charging the ref, the only thing we can do is respond. You can't as a group of players let them surround the ref, trying to get our players booked. Once I go [to influence the referee], four or five go with me. It doesn't look good, but that's part of the game."

Mourinho, obviously, backs his captain since he instils this kind of attitude in all the teams he has coached. As a manager, he upholds his reputation as the master of dark arts, with eye gouging a particular speciality.

In contrast, Souness labelled Chelsea players "pathetic" for their antics. Souness, who cemented his reputation at Liverpool as a tough but honest player, harks back to the old-fashioned era when sportsmanship and camaraderie took priority over rivalry and winning at all costs.

However, in the modern era of professional athletes and ludicrous salaries, the game's values have become ridiculously warped.

When Oscar was apparently seriously injured in his clash with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, notice how none of the Chelsea players showed any genuine concern to the well-being of their Brazilian teammate.

Not one of them went to see how Oscar was because they were all focused on pressuring the referee. Oscar was exaggerating the seriousness of his injury and as soon as Ibrahimovic was sent off, he was back on his feet as if nothing had happened.

Suppose you and a friend are involved in a car crash with another driver, what would be the natural reaction? Would you be jumping and screaming at the traffic policeman to reprimand the driver causing the accident or would you be more concerned about your friend?
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, a 'master of the dark arts'? Photo: AP

Chelsea's behaviour reveals the sad, twisted values that have taken over the game, where gaining a favourable decision is more important than the safety of teammates and fellow professionals.

In a match I refereed recently, two players jumped up for the ball and collided in a fair challenge, with one player apparently coming off worse for wear. Because he screamed loudly and made a big fuss about having an injury to his face, I whistled to stop play so he could be checked.

When I told him there was no foul, he became even more animated and miraculously forgot about his so-called "injury".

As a referee, I was more concerned about his safety. However, this player was all about getting a free kick for himself and a card for his opponent.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard summed up the game's warped value systems by saying: "I think it's normal when you play games at that level. Players and managers want to win so much - players will try every trick in the book to try to get over the line and win matches.

"We've all been guilty of it throughout our careers by not always abiding by the rules."

The only way to appreciate this sentiment is that if we have all been taught to value only the destination and not to care about the journey in the "beautiful" game.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 March, 2015

1 comment:

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