in before footballers get blame for society's moral decay by the usual suspects once again
I’m getting a bit confused about the reaction I’m supposed to have to sporting scandals.
Three cricketers are accused of taking cash bribes to throw games at international level, and a rugby doctor is pressurised by a player to cut his lip to hide the fact he’d used a fake-blood capsule to con a referee, and there is a form of condemnation.
But it’s mostly against the sport and its rulers and why they’ve allowed the situation where such shameless dishonesty can flourish.
And in rugby’s case the condemnation came almost exclusively on the sports pages.
Not once did I hear a pundit, politician or social commentator use these individuals to label all rugby players and cricketers arrogant, selfish, money-grabbing low-lifes and the worst kind of role model.
Now look at the latest football “scandal”.
The unmarried Peter Crouch has a drunken fling with a call girl on a stag weekend and every moralist in the land uses him to dust off the old cliches about these rich, shameless scumbags letting down their sport, their country and the nation’s youth.
Two very public examples of outrageous cheating on the field of play, and one private example of cheating behind a partner’s back off it, which doesn’t affect the result of a game or the integrity of the sport.
Yet only Crouch failed to live up to being a role model.
Same old story. Footballers are amoral gutter-snipes whereas rugby and cricket players are fools who gave into temptation. I’d like to think there was another reason for such blatant hypocrisy than class prejudice but I’m struggling.
Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised next week to read Middle England newspaper leader writers and their Polly Filler female columnists talk up the decency and generosity of the modern footballer.
Maybe they will applaud Jamie Carragher for giving all the proceeds for today’s testimonial game, and tonight’s gala concert, which could reach £1million, to his 23 Foundation.
Maybe they’ll talk of a working-class lad who gave 13 years loyal service to his home town club, led by example on and off the pitch to the point where he was given the Freedom of Sefton, and when it came to making a tax-free fortune to set him up in retirement preferred to give hundreds of under-privileged kids the chance of a better life.
Just as Alan Shearer, Niall Quinn, Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane did when they retired, and Craig Bellamy’s Foundation is doing in Sierra Leone.
These self-righteous moralisers could admit that a sport, which for all of the knee-jerk accusations about it showcasing the worst of modern Britain, is not in the same league when it comes to cheating or gratuitous violence as the public school sports of rugby and cricket.
Or maybe not.
I don’t feel sorry for modern footballers when their private lives are exposed because it’s the price they pay for being pop star celebrities on pop star wages.
It’s the nation’s kids I pity. Because we’ve got so bogged-down with our hatred and jealousy of footballers’ wealth, we’ve completely skewed their view of who a sporting role model should be. And where you’re likely to find them.
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