1 February 2010

The Beautiful Game ?

I wish I didn’t like football so much. In other circumstances I’d stop watching it in a nano second because with each passing day the ‘beautiful game’ is being dragged through the gutter.

We all know the obscene salaries these players get and whilst I’m an advocate of market forces and letting the market decide who gets paid what, I find it staggering and quite frankly upsetting that someone, a lout like John Terry the Chelsea and England captain, earns some £8 million a year from his footballing contract alone, whilst the Prime Minister, with all the world’s problems on his shoulders ears less in a year than Terry does in a week. It’s scandalous, but it’s not the money per-se which I’m complaining about, it’s the effect it has on their sense of decency that perturbs me. And this isn’t just a rant at John Terry although he (and his family) does more to blacken the image of the sport than most.

This weekend has summed up the grubby lives of football stars perfectly. If ever you wanted a mélange of sordid, cheap, self-centred activites by the footballing ‘greats’, this weekend is it.

It started on Thursday with Ashley Cole, incidentally, another Chelsea player, who was caught driving at over 100mph in a 50 mph zone being banned from driving for a couple of months. Fair enough. But he was also fined a thousand pounds and astonishingly asked for time to pay the fine. This is a guy who earns over £100,000 a week! But don’t be fooled by Cole’s petty little game. He could probably have paid the fine with the cash in his back pocket but he probably just wants to ‘screw’ the court system by making them wait for their money. This, is after all, the guy who when being cautioned by a referee a couple of years ago turned his back when being spoken to. Like a naughty schoolboy trying to impress the girls in the class he belittled the ref, but it all backfired. Those who didn’t despise Cole before that little encounter, did so immediately afterwards.

And then we go back to John Terry, the current England captain. This guy and his family have a rap sheet as long as your arm. From shouting abuse to Americans who were watching the 9/11 attack unfold in a bar at Heathrow Airport, to his father being caught flogging cocaine in a bar, to his mother knicking knickers from Marks and Spencers, to Terry taking £10,000 for showing some people around the training ground, to him parking in a disabled bay to save a 50p parking charge and finally to him screwing his pal’s girlfriend. It’s true what they say – you can take the boy out of Essex but you cannot take Essex out of the boy!

If the FA don’t relieve him of his England captaincy I will have lost any remaining faith I had in Fabio Capello, a supposedly highly decent man who demands the utmost in loyalty and integrity from his players. He will have capitulated totally and put results above common decency.

And finally we come to the grubby little case of Eidur Gudjohnsen who was moving from Barcelona to West Ham. Another average player on over £100,000 a week, he was invited back to play in the UK by one of his old friends, Gianfranco Zola, the manager of West Ham.

He arrived in London with his ‘entourage’, was put up in a fancy hotel as he no doubt demanded, had a medical, agreed a new salary and then without a word to his old pal, the following morning he actually went off and signed for another London club.

It’s a bit mean to do something like that to an old pal who is trying to help you revive your career but to then leave the hotel bill for West Ham to pay is even worse but, I’m afraid, totally in line with how today’s footballers behave.

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