An open letter to FIFA, The EPL, The FA, The PFA & the LMA

by Keith O'Connell

Sunday, February 28th, 2010
 

Will somebody, be it a lone voice in the wilderness, bravely swallowing their pride, please raise their hand and answer me this question, and don’t all rush at once.

When is this media marketed and inspired butchery going to end?

I am sitting here in something of a state of shock.  My beloved Arsenal have just won emphatically at the  Britannia Stadium, home of Stoke City “Football Club”, when most predicted that this was going to be the moment that Arsenal’s faint hopes of winning the Premier League would be blown away by Stoke’s brawny bruisers, falling back on the lazy cliché that “Arsenal don’t like it up ‘em”.  Yes, you may recall this is the very same Stoke city, whose paragon of the dark arts Ricardo Fuller announced unabashedly in the nations press prior to our cup defeat in the F.A. Cup that they would negate Arsenal’s threat by “kicking them”.  This is the attitude that has allowed to creep in and has led to another sorry chapter in this continuing tale of injury woe.

Well guess what?  We took every bit of what they dished out, were not drawn down to their level, instead maintaining our high standards and style of play, and came out worthy 3-1 winners, having fallen behind to their early opener.

And do you know what the heart breaking thing is?  I am not bouncing around the room, in a state of high delirium as we send a clear message to Manchester and to West London that we are not going down meekly.  Instead, I sit here fearing for the career of a shining light for the game, that of the young Aaron Ramsey.  Midway through the second half as I am sure you are by now aware, the young Welshman had his leg badly broken after being caught badly by a tackle from Ryan Shawcross (who I see has been called up to the England squad for the friendly against Egypt.  A fine reward!).  Many players from both sides were almost in tears on the pitch, and Shawcross was visibly devastated as he left the pitcher having been red carded.

Now I am not saying that there was even a degree of malice shown by Shawcross, and I believe that he never intended to hurt Ramsey in any such way.  He is just a small cog in a machine which has been building and growing out of proportion and has been fuelled in no small degree by the press, various illustrious ex-players and pundits on sky and other broadcasters, and helped by a lack of protection from match officials afforded to teams like Arsenal who make football worth watching.  There have been any number of opportunities for the powers that be, to whom this letter is addressed, to right this wrong, but they have instead turned a blind eye, over and over again.

When Fuller said what he did back in January, he was not the first to do so.  Early in the season Christopher Samba of Blackburn said the same, almost verbatim, before his Blackburn side were emphatically and irresistibly put to the sword.  How can such unashamed and threatening behaviour continue to go ignored and unpunished?

This is now the third time in five seasons that an Arsenal player has suffered such an horrific injury.

This is not a coincidence.  If you continually give teams licence to employ such tactics, it is inviting such an outcome.  You have the power if not to stop, then at least to limit the occurrences of these tragedies.

I implore you to study the demeanours of Cesc Fabregas, Arsene Wenger and Tony Pulis when interviewed after the game.  Pulis is visibly emotional still, football ceasing to matter to him and his thoughts, feelings and sympathies all concentrated directly on Aaron Ramsey.  With Wenger and Fabregas, there is no ranting and raging, responses they would have been totally justified in taking solace in, but instead a weary and resigned sadness that this scenario has come to pass again.  For Fabregas, although he insists that the physical side of the game is integral to us and must not be lost, “There is a top that you cannot pass, and we are sometimes victims”.  This is putting it very mildly indeed.  We are continually the victims of this.

If it is allowed to continue, the likes of Fabregas, players of a rare beauty and talent, will be driven away from the Premier League, to showcase their talents in other countries where their gifts are lauded, celebrated and protected, instead of being brutally and thuggishly punished, week in and week out.

I do not expect a response from any of you, either personally or publicly.  The turtle will draw his head into his shell once again, and we will witness a continuation of these same spoiling tactics on a regular basis in football (and of course it is not only Arsenal who are victims in this), inevitably culminating in another potentially career ending injury.

If my gut feeling here is right, then football, the game that between you, you are charged with protecting and regulating, will always fall prey to these stomach churning practices, and we will all be the poorer as a result.

Thank you for reading.

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  • Paul

    It was pretty horrific to watch, I really feel for the boy. I think the players have grown since the Birmingham.

    I actually believe they go on to win the league now. And good luck to them

  • johno

    get well soon Arron Ramsey. Lets win the league for you

  • Mike

    I haven’t seen the injury but do you think you will really miss him from a footballing point of view? Arsenal are very fortunate to have plenty of cover in midfield. If worst comes to the worst then they could always recall Jack Wiltshire from his loan spell at Bolton.

    I don’t want to come across as harsh or sympathetic, but from a footballing perspective, Arsenal could have lost far more important players from this inevitably tough match.

  • johno

    in all honesty they won’t miss him unless Fabregas gets injured. Thing is, he’s only 19 and he was just starting to blossom, there’s no doubt in 3 or 4 years he be world class.

    The injury may not be a massive setback to Arsenal but it;s certainly a set back to the career of one of the games future superstars.

  • Keith O’Connell

    So what, rather him than Fabregas? Because that is the flip side of what you are saying? If you have to qualify a statement with “I don’t want to come across as harsh or unsympathetic”, then you are naturally going to come across as being harsh and unsympathetic. If you don’t want to come across in that manner, then don’t say these sorts of things!

    The fact of the matter is, he was on the verge of making that position his own, all at the tender age of 19. Denilson has zero work rate and Diaby cannot complete three games in a row without being injured. Mark my words, he will be missed. If we have just one more injury, to either Fab or Song, our midfield will be looking VERY lightweight.

    And Jack Wilshere? Are you kidding? For all of the kids promise, he isn’t being entrusted with a proper run out for Bolton. What makes you think he will come back and make everything all right?

  • Mike

    Ramsey has definitely surprised me this season with his performances, but from a team point of view I still maintain that he is nowhere near Arsenals most important player!

    It’s very true that this terrible injury will hamper his progress at Arsenal, but reports suggest that he will be only out for six months, which is nowhere near as bad as the Eduardo injury.

  • Keith O’Connell

    I’ll be amazed if it’s as short an absence as that, but fingers crossed it will be.

    I never argued that he was our most important player, but his growing importance is unquestionable.

    Like I said, one more injury in that area and we’ll be struggling.

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