Fair play, Yossi Benayoun

by Keith O'Connell

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Just watching Match of the Day 2, trying to wring every drop out of the weekend before the onset of the new week, and I’m on the verge of sleep as Man City and Liverpool cancel each other out on the way to what was a largely uninspiring and insipid 0-0 draw.

Just as I had pretty much given up on it and my mind was set on bed, three incidents occurred in the space of the last ten minutes or so that placed the issue of fair play squarely on the table.

Javier Mascherano puts in a diabolical studs-up challenge, one that goes unpunished, on Gareth Barry.  A nice little reminder as to Anglo/Argentinean hostilities to whet our appetites prior to this year’s World Cup!

That man Mascherano is at it again.  This time it is Barry who commits the crime with a blatant handball/defensive block that a world class volleyball player would have been proud of.  What reaction does this draw from that paragon of virtue Mascherano?  He screamed wildly at the referee and waved an imaginary yellow card in the air.  I would not usually stoop so low, but what a w**ker.

Yossi Benayoun takes centre stage.  A typically slippery bit of slick wing play from the skilful Israeli took him down the left into the City penalty area where he was unceremoniously clipped with a late challenge from a City defender.  (I missed who the culprit was at the time, possibly Vincent Kompany, and oddly the incident is not being mentioned on Sky Sports News or the BBC website, sources from which I was hoping to gain some confirmation.  I guess only if it is an Arsenal player taking advantage of one of these scenarios is it newsworthy to these people…).  Benayoun stumbled, only just regained his balance and got in his cross which was ultimately cleared.  It was the sort of late and unsubtle challenge that leaves the attacker little option but to go to ground (not dive, a point I feel I must stress), bringing the fact that he has been impeded to the attention of the normally incompetent referee.  Further example of such “clever” pieces of play can be found by doing a search on YouTube combining the words simulation and any of Rooney, Gerrard, Cole, in fact many of the “Golden Generation” of English football.

Cue much mirth filled debate on the MOTD2 couch between that hobo-looking Muppet Adrian Chiles, Alan Hansen and the refreshingly frank and humorous Slaven Bilic.  The Scot and the Croat were sadly unanimous in the belief that although he was incredible honest, Benayoun should have gone down, and would likely have been lambasted by team-mates and manager alike once back in the dressing room.  High point of this little tete-a-tete was Adrian Chiles stating “But surely we don’t go in for this sort of thing, we’re English”, and Bilic responding rather wryly “Yes you do”.  If Chiles was employing some subtle irony here, it was either lost on Slaven or he chose this moment to make a point about English football which on the whole is oft ignored by the media.

Is it just me, or is this a ridiculously sad state of affairs?  Simulation is now part of the game, and will be for as long as defenders employ the dark arts in the vain search for clean sheets in this new win at all costs mentality.

It just strikes me that any morality that is left in football must be in terminal decline if we have come to mocking those that seek to avoid cheating.

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  • peter clare

    No, sorry. Simulation is nothing new and certainly not an english phenomenon. The idea that Benayoun was selflessly avoiding a bad tackle in the box was merely because he thought he could do something with the ball, if you ask him, he probably didn’t even realise he’d been clipped. Also any morality left in journalism must be in terminal decline when the journalist is happy to twist events to suit his own agenda.

  • Keith O’Connell

    Journalism is offering a viewpoint, deigning to many others, and opening the topic up for debate. Oddly enough, creating a bit of outrage along the way will always draw a response from people like yourself, the average footy fan who thinks he knows better.

    Also, your retort opened with “no, sorry”. Please don’t contradict yourself and then proceed to destroy the English language in the process.

    Case in point right there, I am proud of most things British. What galls me, is when xenophobia takes sway, foreign players get lambasted for diving/simulation, and then we turn a blind eye when one of “our boys” does exactly the same thing.

    The argument wasn’t that simulation is an English phenonemon, just that it is one that is readily partaken in by players of every nation, sadly even ours.

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