The Football AssociationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Ëœrespect agendaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ is long overdue. The treatment of referees at every level of the game has been disgraceful for some time and is allegedly getting worse. Just take a second to read this excerpt from an article I read the other day:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The referee was hooted and cursed every time he gave a decision, and one of the spectators went so far as to threaten to throw him into the pond. Immediately after the game he was snowballed, in addition to which mud was thrown at him and he had to seek protection from the violence of the spectators. He took refuge in the pavilion for some time, but when he went towards the public house where the teams dressed, he found that there was a large crowd waiting for him and he was again roughly handled, his hat being knocked off and he received a blow on the back of the neck.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Awful scenes in local football, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll agree. Things have gone too far now and are so much worse than they were in the halcyon days of the past that people of my generation and older and politicians of all persuasions continually harp on about. You know, the days when kids could play on the streets and there was no violence and everyone was chirpy and happy.
Well, as youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve probably guessed, that excerpt is not new. In fact, it is not even quite old. It comes from an article entitled Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe new football maniaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ which was written in 1892. Yes, it would seem that referees have lacked the necessary respect and protection for at least one hundred and sixteen years. Not just a modern day problem then.
This is a problem in society generally, not just in football. There is far too much negative spin put on what happens today and the days of the past are looked upon through ridiculously rose tinted glasses.
I watched a programme recently that showed highlights from the 1970 FA Cup Final replay between Leeds United and Chelsea at Old Trafford. Not only was the pitch an absolute disgrace, the two teams conducted a violent battle with each other the like of which would see both clubs banned for life in the modern climate.
The level of violence displayed by the players in the form of dangerous tackles and body checks, amounted to nothing short of assault. It is no exaggeration to say that at least five players from each side would have been sent off in the first twenty minutes of the game if it had been played today. In fact, it wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have been played today because the pitch would have been deemed to be dangerous and unplayable.
So there we have it. Referees being assaulted by spectators in local football back in the nineteenth century and players deliberately attempting to seriously injure each other on a dangerous pitch back in 1970. I wonder which Ã¢â‚¬Ëœold daysÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ it is that people wish football could return to?
In 2008, certainly in England, violence towards a referee at any level is rightly treated as the most serious of matters in the game of football. It is also viewed as a perfect example of how our society has degenerated into the lawlessness and anarchy that the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœyouth of todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ have caused. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not defending that sort of behaviour, but it can clearly be seen that it is not a new problem.
Bad tackles in the game at the highest level recently have caused outrage. The Eduardo injury last season brought the debate to a head and the authorities are rightly doing what they can to rid the game of these dangerous tackles. Again, I do not fall out with the desire to clean up the game, but I do fall out with those who say this is a new phenomenon. There were twenty tackles in that 1970 Cup Final that were every bit as bad as anything I saw last season.
If a situation occurred this season whereby in a local football match hoards of spectators chased after and assaulted the referee after a game, it would make front page news in every newspaper and the likes of the Daily Mail would be predicting the beginning of Armageddon.
In reality, we have seen that this type of thing was happening over one hundred years ago and the only difference was that the mass media didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exist to tell us all how dreadful the world was becoming.
Football today is faster, more skilful, more exciting, more powerful and less violent than it has ever been. Instead of concentrating on the bad things, which are not as bad as they have been before, we should be celebrating the good things.
Of course, the Daily Mail wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sell so many papers by saying, Ã¢â‚¬ËœViolence on the decrease. Players and spectators better behaved. Great game being played brilliantly for the entertainment of millions.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Maybe it is time that the football supporters who know the truth started to fight back. Maybe the likes of Sepp Blatter, instead of spouting offensive bile about slavery, ought to start telling the world that the game he is supposed to be the head of, is actually a great game that has sorted its act out to a large degree and is a better product than it has ever been.
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