Platini, Drogba, the Fourth Estate – Just Who is the Fucking Disgrace?

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I often wonder what you can actually see from up on the moral high ground. Asylum seekers eating swans, MP’s rolling around in piles of ill-gotten cash?

Whatever it is, you clearly can’t see a football pitch – that much is evident.

The nation’s hacks, long-time residents in such rarified air, have worked themselves into a frenzy in recent days at the myriad opportunities to lecture and moralise about the behaviour of everyone from The Less Than Honourable Member for Bumfucknowhere to Didier Drogba.

There has never been a better time to be a self-appointed guardian of the common good. Corralling a largely gullible public towards a sense of pre-determined moral outrage is their business, and business is booming.

It’s not that some of the brickbats aren’t justified; throwing a rock in the air and hitting someone dirty these days is easy. But hitting the right target for the right reason is another matter.

On reflection, I have concluded that I’m also pretty pissed off with Messrs Drogba and Ballack for their actions last week. Not because of the way their behaved towards Tom Henning Ovrebo, though.

Unimpressive their conduct may have been, it was understandable. If I’d had a lifelong dream to lift one of football’s biggest prizes, seeing it snatched away by a man whose inadequacies were obvious to all but himself and his masters would have given rise to blood-letting violence, let alone a few barked obscenities.

No, Drogba and Ballack’s biggest crime was to make themselves the centre of attention when the world should have been focused solely on the woefully poor officiating on display that night.

They gave the hacks a convenient escape route; yes lads, unlucky, bad referee and all that, but I have a tired narrative to lead me far away from that point, moralising and prevaricating about your unsporting awfulness, how justice was done because the beautiful game triumphed over anti-football.

The irresistible magnetic pull of sensationalism and self-righteousness certainly has a strange effect on the moral compass of the Fourth Estate. We might also suggest that a black man and a German have received less favourable treatment than others may have done in the circumstances.

Should England fall victim to similarly poor refereeing in South Africa next summer, I’m sure that our laptop wielding friends will be equally even-handed in their criticism of any player who chooses to point out the errors of the officials in no uncertain terms.

We all appreciate that referees have a difficult enough job. Difficult enough without having seen your boss warbling along to the anthem of one of the teams involved, or hearing him profess his lack of enthusiasm for a showpiece final involving two teams of the same nationality.

The gentle art of persuasion has come a long way since the days of George Graham and the brown envelope, but the dark arts of the power of suggestion are no match for human weakness and plain, old-fashioned incompetence.

Both sides created one meaningful chance each away from their home turf over the two legs. One made it count, the other didn’t. Were life that simple, we could all go away and be happy in the knowledge that the best team won, I suppose.

Consider this – it is now almost thirty years since John McEnroe burst onto Centre Court howling like a banshee at umpires for their poor line calls. Part psychological warfare, but part based on the belief that the human eye alone couldn’t cope with the pace of the game. Obnoxious he may have been, but he was also right.

Technology and the authorities took time to catch up, but similar disputes are now almost a thing of the past. The game hasn’t been weakened or devalued. The fallible (positively polite in the case of Tom H.O.) human being has been supplemented with cutting edge gadgetry which generally works well for all concerned. Much the same is true for many other sports.

The technicalities are for another blog, but surely the time has come for similar measures in football? Wouldn’t it be something if the complaints of some hard-done-by footballer actually gave rise to some positive action in this area, rather than just the usual moral brouhaha and ya-boo tribalism?

Which leads me to my final point; what the likes of Platini seem to have forgotten is that despite their own perceived importance, they are simply transient figures in a brilliant, complex game that has existed for more than a century and will continue long after they have departed.

Yes, punish Chelsea, Drogba and Ballack as you see fit – even-handedly, of course: the six month ban suggested by many quarters for Drogba’s finger-pointing outburst seems excessive against the seven month suspension for David Navarro’s violent physical assault on Inter Milan’s Nicolas Burdisso two seasons ago.

But they should remember this – it is their duty to do what is ultimately best for the game and nothing else. Choosing to ignore perfectly legitimate complaints because it suits their own personal narrative to do so, however badly such grievances may have been put across in the heat of the moment, and they do a huge disservice to the game – our game – that they purport to love and protect.

A fucking disgrace, as some might say.