This is a United blog. I’m quite aware of that. We are also in the midst of the international week which, thankfully, is coming to an end. [Almost feels like a birthday present] But sometimes, even events that transpire during a spell of supposed irrelevance, such as yesterday, can turn out to be pertinent and worth discussing in a shrine — such as this site — so engrossed in red-tinted worship.
So bear with me this once.
I had the pleasure of being at work, unable to partake in the drama that was the Ireland-France world cup playoff match. My sympathies are with the Irish, who are out thanks to, what could be mildly put, an unfortunate incident.
I did however pore through twitter, where I’m quite active. [Stop snickering at the back there! What?! You’re not on twitter? Well, you should. And when you do, you should do the right thing and follow me; byte-sized pearls of wisdom, and immortal quips, I can guarantee.] And amidst the streams of frustration, sadness and anger was another wave — a tidal wave of moral indignation. “Henry is a cheat!” “Thierry Henry has tainted everything because of that.” “Henry u r a fkin twat! @#$#)*,” said another quite eloquently.
But such hysteria is acceptable to a degree. It’s a part of the game; passions are heightened because of the occasion. There’s a lot of pain for most Irish, and fans of the Ireland team, and it’s quite natural for anyone to fall into that depressing chasm.
I also observed a fair number of journalists on twitter — English journalists mainly. You saw a similar thread of thought not too different from fans. Of course, they are, after all, like us — passionate football people; love some or loathe some. But the least you’d expect is for them to collect their emotions, lock it in a basket in some mental recess — keeping just an ounce of it — while gathering that thing called perspective and write a piece that doesn’t centre on the demonization of a footballer. Everyone, from Henry Winter in the Telegraph to some on the Mirror have gone for it.
The vocal majority conclusion, or so it seems, has been this: Thierry Henry, while auditioning for the French national volleyball team, has tainted everything that he achieved as a “footballing legend” forever consigning him to the ranks of footballing villains.
Of course, if I would briefly put on my red-tinted glasses, we as United fans would know fully well that Henry is far from one of our favourite players. I wasn’t particularly fond of him, for all his brilliance for Arsenal. And I think it’s not just because he was an Arsenal player. What shocked me about the widespread media reaction to his act of cheating wasn’t their general hysteria over it, but their conclusion that this incident particularly destroyed his reputation. What, then, of his blatant dive to earn a free kick against Spain in the last world cup? Was it because it was against the Iberians that it wasn’t tainted enough? Does it have to be against one of the teams on which the glare of the English speaking media are firmly trained to earn a despicable taint? This, of course, doesn’t include the wide litany of reasons United fans would give to explain why Henry was a twat, but let’s leave that aside for now.
It’s not right that Thierry Henry cheated. It’s terrible, in fact. Everything about those series of events feels awful even in highlight reels. The result is terribly unfair, and will doubtless spark off another series of debates on the need for technology [as the cynic in me would say only as far as the club season resumes in the weekend.] But, this self-righteous indignation — of demonizing anyone because they weren’t confirming to their moral framework, dismissing, in a fit of rage for sure, everything a player may have or have not done because of an incident is something they need to get out of. It’s deflecting blame from real issues. Ronaldo was vilified for a wink [while Rooney was overlooked for actually stamping on Carvalho’s crotch], Eduardo was treated like a terrorist for a dive but when his leg was broken in two by a horrific (potentially career ending) tackle by Martin Taylor — the tackler received more sympathy on the lines of “oh, he’s not that bad as a person.”
Diving is as bad as thuggery on the pitch. I would actually argue that where diving cons the referee, thuggish, cynical tackling could potentially end careers. Nonetheless, the moral compass will continue to scream whenever a player cheats, and invoke sympathy for thugs. There are the usual thoughts on Platini and Blatter, for instance, to have rules in place to stamp out both ugly sides of the game. But, as much as we would like to introduce video replays it’s hard to strike a balance, disrupting the pace of the game, in our bid to try to get every decision right. But, as much as Platini’s faced stick, his proposal of having referees near the goal would have spotted this particular incident. But that’s besides the point.
My point? Well, there wasn’t one particular point in this rambling piece. I think I tried to cover a few issues that have irked me several times in the past.
Meanwhile, discussions between Arsenal fans stoutly defending Henry as an Arsenal great to United fans will have moved the discussion towards who was the more honourable diver. “Hey, at least Henry admitted it was a handball,” said one. Indeed. Quite moving.
PS: For those of you scratching your heads going WTF, at this post, fret not. Regular service will resume — United related service, I mean. It’s a momentary lapse… of topic.