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Tuesday, 04 October 2011

Tevez, Mourinho and Zidane: Why football loves those shocking moments

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When sitting down, reclining and watching the football on the TV, there are a few annoying things that one can expect. The first is that we will be subjected to some truly awful punditry and the second is we’ll probably be listening to the brilliant atmosphere – thousands upon thousands of football fans screaming for the emergence of their favourite men donning their army’s colours – and wishing we were there.
Yet the third and the most infuriating of them all is this tired, utterly false notion that “we don’t like to see” the often mad and shocking incidents which occur on the football field. The commentators draw out this ridiculous comment which, hilariously, many adhere to and entertain.
Let me use the magnificent Jose Mourinho as an example.  The man is arrogant, self-obsessed, self-indulgent and finds ways to make trouble when the thoughts he actually executes probably wouldn’t even pop into a sane man’s heads. If he was your workmate, you would probably despise him. But I can honestly and perhaps a tad sheepishly proclaim my love for the “special one”.
Jose is the pantomime villain we love to hate. Are we not entertained when he storms onto the pitch to not-so-secretly taunts the Barcelona fans, are we not entertained when his provocative comments cause the usually serene Pep Guardiola to lose his cool, so to speak, and come out with a tirade of four-letter words and offer his exasperation at how to deal with his rival?
I love these shocking moments and I dare say many of you do too. Humans love to be shocked. We exist in a world where disgusting internet beheadings gain thousands of hits and bizarre websites such as “ratemypoo” (yes, it really does exist) are virally popular. It should come as no surprise, therefore, in football when our hearts race that little bit faster and our stomachs yearn for a little slice of unconventional drama to light up our screens.
One of my favourite memories as a child was witnessing a match which quite simply had absolutely everything. The year was 2005 and Manchester United and Arsenal were coming head to head. Before the game had even begun there was the argument between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira – a rivalry which may never ever be bettered – and the game twisted and turned; it had a Silvestre headbutt, the taunted Ronaldo calling for the Arsenal fans to shut up and crunching tackles, beautiful passes, blistering finishes. It was a classic Arsenal vs United affair.
The atmosphere blistered and contorted – two titans of world football coming together in a battle of wits, a battle of hatred and a test of the two sides determination to scrape a win and try to claw back Chelsea’s dominance. Even at my relatively young age of eleven, I was aware without the headbutt, without the almost film-like quality (the fascinating beginning middle and end) the game would not have been nearly as good - it was paramount to what the match offered.
Another vivid memory was the shocking yet deliciously dramatic headbutt by Zinedine Zidane on Marco Materazzi. It raised the tension and twisted what was an already stupendous affair to the next level – the World Cup was at stake and a moment of sheer insanity overwhelmed any hopes of remembering the game for its brilliant football and tantalising attacking moments.
Yet it is these moments which define the very sport we love. It is these moments which I will tell my Grandchildren about as much as any gloriously placed David Beckham freekick or any Messi hat-trick. The incidents where players see red and managers tussle are every bit as captivating as the actual football that is played.
Breaking the rules – or witnessing the breaking of rules – is fun. Think back to when you were 13, and the complimentary skinny-as-a-rake kid stacked it in the school hall and everyone completely bundled him into oblivion. It reminds me of that childish urge, the love of breaking the rules – the shameful, devilish entertainment that accompanies something dramatic and shocking.
We love moaning; to express our dismay at what football has become and, honestly, because being negative and critical can often be rather fulfilling.
In fact, the release of any emotion, especially vivid ones like disgust and hatred, are pleasurable and this contributes to the endless array of individuals who like to bash incidents such as the normally cool Arsene Wenger tussling with Alan Pardew or the infamous Brian Clough moment, where he took to racing onto the pitch and personally drove a man dressed like a clown from the field forcefully.
Imagine if football consisted of perfect characters and no contentious decisions: like life, it would be too golden – the ugly side of football is shamefully, dirtily attractive. Football is designed to be dramatic and surprising and it would be pretentious of me to say that I detest or dismiss any bizarre moment of insanity or any red card, any display of hand-bags and any streaker that hilariously strides onto the pitch for his fifteen minutes of shame.
Yet there are some whom really do. Why?
Most of us can all agree that our lives, while certainly happy existences are predictable. Football is a brilliant exception – it is skilful, passionate, unique, rapid, ever-changing and certainly unpredictable. And the penalty shootouts, the Mourinho eye-poking, the red cards all contribute to creating this brilliant cauldron of emotion, unpredictability and sheer entertainment. Football is unpredictable and at the risk of repeating myself, these special moments, these clusters of drama epitomise the emotion we invest in football every day of our lives.
So ultimately, I would rather see a good game of football than Tevez openly challenging the George Clooney-lookalike Mancini any day. Yet that sense of the extraordinary and the unpredictable is exciting. Shocking moments in football are enthralling, uncalled for and out of the blue.
And for me, out of the blue is welcomed even in a game that normally serves to take us away from our probably ritualistic lives.

Article by Jack Heaney

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