The conclusion was unavoidable – staying on your feet makes for a much better spectacle, than falling over all the time.
As some may ruefully recall, I was droning on about physics the other week, by way of prolonging my orgasm over Villa’s tour de force against Derby and in particular Petrov’s ability to make a football behave like a Frisbee.
Anyway, I was back to thinking about physics again last weekend as I found myself absolutely delighted by a single moment of play, which actually lingered longer around my diminishing brain cells, than Villa’s restatement of their case, as the come-back kings of the Premiership.
The wondrous incident in question was when Everton’s Yakubu was running down the wing with the ball, with our very own, much-loved, Nigel Reo-Coker bouncing off him. The whole thing summed up the game perfectly, as a manly contest between two robust sides, who weren’t intent on crippling each other, or too obviously willing, to cheat to get what they both desperately needed – an automatic place in Europe.
Now, as we all know, our Nigel is no nine-stone weakling but he was bouncing off Mr Aiyegbeni like he was the wrong sized ball in a Newton’s cradle (that’s one of those bouncing ball things, often found on executive desks in the Eighties). And, the thing was, as this combined twenty-five stone of muscle and bone bounced off each other, no one fell over. Yukubu was running full tilt and although Nigel’s shoulder-charge deflected his a path a degree or two, he just kept going. It was what an American would call awesome and a Brit, quite thrilling. I suppose you have to give most of the credit to Mr Aiyegbeni, because it’s usually forwards who are as unstable as snooker-cues balanced on their small end, not defenders. The conclusion was unavoidable – staying on your feet makes for a much better spectacle, than falling over all the time.
For once it looked like a man’s game.
This tableau seemed to offer a glimpse of when football was indeed a man’s game (if that time ever existed), when to stop on your feet under challenge was a measure manliness, not a measure of naiveté as it is these days. Of course, I am cynical enough to realise that had this physical encounter occurred rather nearer the Villa goal, then the influence of gravity would have been all the stronger, and had it been Andrew Johnson, no doubt he would still be flinging himself around Stanley Park as I write. But it was still a very pleasing and amusing moment.
Two big guys, having a go.
These days, you only have to watch ten minutes of rugby, and witness some guy running, with two or three opponents hanging off him, to conclude that footballers are more gravity-prone than any other known body in the universe. The whole diving for a penalty/free-kick seems to exist on the edge of becoming a tragedy of the commons. And, it is usually left to the referees to carry the responsibility, as the players retreat into ‘What me guv?’ excuses. And, the fans beseech the heavens for a favourable intervention from the gods or the old gristle with the whistle.
But whatever the situation and no matter how unfair the distribution of responsibility is, the interpretation of the laws of the game should at least pay some regard to the laws of physics. In normal life, no one falls over because someone tugs their shirt above their centre of gravity, and it should not be assumed that footballers, somehow behave differently. The only escape-clause I can reasonably think of, is that there is an understanding between the players and the referee, that when they are tugged back or otherwise impeded, they throw themselves to the ground, to make it easy for the referee to give to the decision, so to make it clear why, to purblind pundits and prejudiced punters.
It seems not so long ago that I was offering some glib and disingenuous praise for Michael Ballack’s talent for cheating (no doubt after he won a free-kick against Villa) and I have to plead that my recognition of such a talent, except when utilised for the benefit of the Villa, does not mean I quite approve of it.
I have to confess that my cup did runneth over with joy, the other week, when the dodgy Deutscher, slotted home the penalty which prolonged Chelsea’s Championship challenge but despite my total dislike of everything Man United, Ballack’s blatant unpunished obstruction on Ronaldo brought the referee into serious disrepute. Any player who faces another player, with the sole intent of blocking his run, while ignoring the ball entirely, surely has to be committing a foul.
Yes, I have said it, United were robbed.
Of course, normally, I wouldn’t have mentioned it and I would have kept it under my Villa hat, but for someone like me, whose dislike of Man United verges on a sickness, I have to start girding my loins for the strong likelihood that the @*&%^ will win their second Champions League final in the not too distant future. And, rather than having a full-blown nervous breakdown then, as I am force-fed images of Rio and Co standing in their shower of tinsel, I have to ensure my despair and disgust remains, within the power of a good dose of Lithium, to remedy. I hope you understand.
While I am confessing my remedial sins, I have to admit I think Tévez is a fantastic player and I actually admire him as a person, what with his fantastic spirit and that terrible scar and all. Yuck, spit, wretch – that’s my therapy for the week done.
My disappointment that the wonderful passing-skills of Barcelona and the magic of Messi, never took them into the final, was more than made up for, by Chelsea’s fantastic win over Liverpool, and if I may be accused occasionally of over-using the word ‘awesome’, Didier Drogba’s display left no doubt about the real meaning of the word. The sheer power of his first goal seemed to fulfil every hope and promise, that Africa ever offered to the game and I actually thought they had got the speed of the video wrong, the way it flew in at Liverpool’s near-post. But despite Drogba’s power-play, there was only one thing everyone was talking about the next day and that was Lampard’s bravery when taking the penalty. There was the emotional leakage as his tongue kept popping out, as he prepared, and then there was the tearful celebration. A moment worthy of eclipsing Gazza’s tears.
I have always thought of Frank as a spoilt fat kid, with an inflated idea of himself, but in that moment, he looked like the man, and I will definitely look at him in an entirely new light, from now on.
And, anyone who beats Liverpool, is worth forgiving anything.
But Frank, it is a cruel world.