I’ve read a couple of interesting articles recently, both dealing with the difference between football and other sports. The first article was about applauding opponents. The author said that in other sports he would normally clap the outrageously brilliant, whichever side it comes from. But in football, it is taboo to cheer the other side. I would agree with that; it is ok to applaud former players before a game but I can’t remember a game I’ve seen where football fans have applauded good play by the opposition. It is ok to comment on the skill of the opposition players who are tearing Birmingham City apart but not ok to clap.
I was at St Andrew’s in April 1993, where Glen Hoddle gave a master class in how to change a game. He was player manager for Swindon at that time. With about 60 minutes played, Birmingham City was leading 4-1. Hoddle changed the formation and Swindon won 4-6. I think everyone in the ground knew that we’d witnessed a great performance but we certainly didn’t clap.
The other article was by Rory Smith and contrasted the way the Kevin Pietersen story was reported and the way it would have been reported if something like that had happened in football. (I can’t provide a link to this article because it was from the Times and it was only free for a limited time. If you are like me and don’t have a subscription, the link won’t work.) He said that Pietersen was not regarded as representative of all cricketers. Cricket, rugby and Olympic sports are not held to the same standards as football; those who behave badly are condemned but others in the same sport are not all judged to be equally bad. But when footballers transgress it is hinted that all footballers are “just oiks, that it is a dirty, common game, played by dirty, common people.” Smith went to St George’s Park for the media day, at which various England senior and under-21 football players spoke. Nathan Redmond spoke about continuing to learn. James Milner, who did well in his GCSEs was asked if that set him apart from other footballers and replied, “Why, because all footballers are thick?” Smith commented, “Here were a selection of footballers talking openly, honestly, intelligently at the same time as cricket – the gentleman’s game – started to eat itself.”
I know that there are some very dubious characters in the game of football. It was good to be reminded that there are some decent, intelligent people as well.