Blue Moon, You Will Be Standing Alone, despised.

7 Nov

Manchester City take over Chelsea’s mantle as Football’s most despised team.

Remember the bad old days?   Remember 2005 when Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and the keyboard warriors contributed in no small way to Swedish referee Anders Frisk hanging up his whistle following a controversial Champions League match against Barcelona?

Remember four years on, when amazingly the same two teams clashed in another controversial game, with Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo this time being the target of Chelsea anger?  Remember the posturing and the embarrassing TV footage of Didier Drogba mouthing his disdain and bile at what befell his put-upon team and his mates?  Remember many other incidents of referees being surrounded and bullied by the likes of John Terry and Ashley Cole when those referees had the temerity to give a decision they didn’t like?

I remember them well and I’m reminded of them the more and more I watch Manchester City these days.

Last night’s Champions League match at home to Ajax (and indeed the away leg) was a stark and uncomfortable piece of evidence of this.  With the game already almost a minute over the 3 minutes added time allotted, City floated a late free kick into the box in a late attempt to win the match and when the ball fell at Mario Balotelli’s feet, Danish referee Peter Rasmussen (what is it with Scandinavian referees and controversy, Frisk and Ovrebo above and Martin Hanson (Danish) in the Thierry Henry handball incident?) blew for full time.

Cue seething and typically sulky anger from Balotelli as he claimed he was being pulled by Ajax defender Ricardo Van Rhijn.  He was, but he was equally holding the Ajax defender’s throat, both of them at it, no penalty.  Maybe if Balotelli had tried as hard in the 45 minutes he played as he did in trying to influence the referee, City might have prevailed.  Maybe if Balotelli tried harder full stop, he might fulfil the God-given talent he clearly has.  Maybe if a few of his team-mates tried harder in the two games against Ajax, City might be edging towards qualification for the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

Cue equal anger and whingeing from Yaya Toure.  Ah yes, Yaya Toure, somehow announced by the City PA announcer near the end of the game as “Man of the Match”.  I had to rewind my live viewing as I couldn’t believe my ears, but it was true, Toure, Man of the Match!  Cast your mind back about 70-75 minutes and the two Ajax goals and maybe go onto youtube and review these goals.  Watch how the Man of the Match patently ignores scorer of both goals De Jong, the man he should have been picking up.  Maybe with zonal marking, he could opt out of his responsibility, but opt out he did with the lazy, couldn’t-be-bothered gait that has the word mercenary stamped all over it.  The Man of the Match joined in with the aforementioned Balotelli to verbally attack the referee, as did Argentinian Pablo Zabaleta and finally, depressingly, City’s increasingly world-weary Manager Mancini trudged on to eyeball Mr Rasmussen.  City skipper Vincent Kompany at least tried to usher Balotelli and others away, Kompany at least always gives his all (even if his form has dipped, he’s still trying).  Similarly to Kompany, Joe Hart is an admirable example of professionalism, pride and honesty.  The same cannot be said of many of this group of Manchester City players in my opinion.

Remember last season’s Champions League game against Bayern Munich and the massive bust-up between Mancini and Tevez when Tevez wouldn’t warm up?  Tevez rightly lost his place in the team but Mancini buckled when City faltered in the closing stages of that amazingly exciting Premier League.  Tevez however won that battle, heck he even won over the fans again!   Fans are fickle as we know, but there should be no room for fickleness or forgiveness when a player won’t warm up when your team is behind and needing a goal.  But City fans (or the newer version) seem a strange bunch.  City needed a win last night to keep slim hopes alive of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League.  There was still hope however, yet as Delia Smith would’ve said (if she’d been there at kick off time) “Where are Ya?”.  Where indeed were they?   Extensive empty seats in a huge Champions League match and those that were there, hardly a rallying cry or song to be heard after going two nil down after 20 minutes.  Maybe the empty seats were left by knowledgeable fans who are already seeing through the egos and dishonesty of many of the players and are voting with their feet.  Maybe these fans don’t want to be associated with the cancer in football that is the haranguing of officials, the lack of dignity and grace in defeat, the lack of heart and pride in performance (Kompany/Harte and a few others excepted), the ridiculous salaries being handed out for dishonest performances such as the last two games against Ajax and many of their Premier League games since becoming last-gasp Champions.  Maybe we should be applauding those people who elected to ignore the match if that support is being insulted with the shambles and shenanigans of late.

I have a big problem when the word “project” is used to describe a football club.  What project?  Football is and always has been a simple game.  Sadly, the simple, beautiful game is becoming increasingly tarnished by “projects”, meddling chairmen, greedy agents, dishonest, cheating players, players trying to get fellow professionals sent off, players conning and abusing officials, players conning fans with their reluctance to roll up sleeves when the going gets tough, then blaming anyone but themselves when things don’t turn out the way they feel it should.

Club fans crave and embrace identity, their club is their life.   Too many of today’s players have little or no identity with a club, despite the embarrassing and cringe-inducing badge kissing.  Too many of today’s players continue to live a world apart from the fans that idolise them and encourage them.  These imposters and mercenaries need to be reminded of what club football is about and give their fans something to be proud of.  City fans should be anything but proud of the recent pathetic efforts and behaviour of Balotelli, Tevez, Yaya Toure, Nasri and the snarling Mancini.  Maybe Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart can do something to effect change, but I doubt it very much.  Football will always enchant and delight me, but it angers me more and more every week and that anger will probably continue to increase for the foreseeable future.

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