This past Wednesday night, football witnessed another cringing and outright embarrassing moment. This moment wasn’t a giant being knocked out by a high flying minnow, because we all love that. The moment was when a young boy employed to do a single job- throw the damn ball back- took inspiration from some of his heroes on the field and rolled around on the ground in a manner that would make many stage actors proud. The player’s reaction was not justified either, and he is rightly facing action as well. This has ensured another debate in the footballsphere. The title to this article has been inspired by a tweet from the official account of Chelsea which you will see a little later.
Now do you blame the boy? He’s an adult, he’s a kid, not an adult, not a kid. Whatever the case. Irrespective of whether he was 12 or 32, why did he dive onto the ball, and stay there? His team were close to one of the greatest nights in their history, a first major cup final appearance, a couple of minutes to hang on to a stunning result and achievement, what to do? Hold onto the ball, lay on the ground, play act a bit further on impact, wind the clock down and wait for the whistle? Sound familiar? Yes, we (the fans), the ball boys, younger players, experienced players, tall players, short players, European, Asian, African, all players in the world have now accepted play acting as a part of their game. It is expected. You see an opposition player roll on the ground with 5 minutes left against your team and you go nuts. 2 minutes later the game is turned around, your team lead, it’s stoppage time- and your player does the same, and all is forgotten. 2 wrongs make a right? And no this isn’t restricted to the Suarez’ and Bale’s of the world, its everywhere.
This is no justification on the part of the ball boy though. He probably has no regret of his actions. The Twitter Spies dug up his account, posted it all over, news agencies have his name as well, and the guy went from a couple of hundred followers to over 100,000. To put that into perspective, Swansea’s official twitter account has about 78,000. We might actually have him retweet this piece! What makes this even more awful to bear is the fact that the boy had posted hours before the game on twitter the suggestion that he was “needed for time wasting” (his words). No we are not going to roll out the ‘He planned it all along’ song, but you can see the mentality present in football today.
There are obviously different interpretations for the incident, depending on whether you’re looking through blue tinted glasses, or just looking. Chelsea had a very poor attempt at defending the incident through their twitter account, it has been deleted now though. Discussion of that side is for another day. But many would say that they too would have ‘wrongly’ done the same thing if a ball boy was being a nuisance, as Graham Hunter rightly pointed out.
Based on these recent events, and those that occur everyday in football, one really has to ask the question “Has football gone mad?” Its future as we know it may never be the same. Commercialization is another evil but it has captured almost every bit of society, and with much of the world encapsulated in it, no one’s really complaining. But the bigger evil is on the football fields and in footballers. When you’re a kid playing football, you don’t think of wasting time and playing the clock down. You always want the ball at your feet and the goal at your mercy. That’s what you expect of the players as well. As you grow older you realise you need to play smart, ball retention, backward passes, forcing the opposition to work. All these aren’t beautiful, but they’re effective. And it doesn’t have to be beautiful. You just don’t have to be erratic. Things however, have gone a step too far.
Think about it yourself, with your team leading a rival by a single goal, a minute left, player falls on the ground, holds the ball, and his leg, screams in agony, you would cheer, wouldn’t you? I know I would. But that has happened to football, it has done it to us. The route football is traversing is punctuated with simulation and play acting. It was met with animosity, but that has definitely receded in recent years.
What can be done about it though? How hefty a fine or lengthy a ban can be given for such incidents? Hard tackles are treated like murder, and screamed at by fans. Any increase in level of punishment for the former wouldn’t be welcomed either. 3 game ban for rolling around too much? Nah, that would never be accepted.
A change in the mentality of the players, their approach to the game can be considered. Young players seem to be more “honest” but when they hit 23-24, something happens. Something along the way takes them to the ‘dark side’. Influence from the senior players? And at a point, they’re all into the antics. I’m not suggesting everyone dives, but everyone does simulate. Yes everyone. That’s just how it is. Think of what goes through the younger players heads if a ball boy can waste time.
Now I’m not suggesting any revolution. No revamp and rethinking. As fans, there is only one thing that can be done. Accept it. Like cowards not willing to voice their opinion or stand against the powerful regime, accept it and move on. Solely because its too late. Such time wasting is far too ingrained in today’s game to really do anything about. Really, think about it, say as a Liverpool fan you see Bale falling over and just rolling around and the referee letting it happen, you abuse him, insult him, and absolutely scream your head off. Few minutes later, Suarez does the same, would you complain? No, you wouldn’t. That is football, that’s just how it is.
Featured image via the national.ae