The Gentlemen’s Game

Although we have named our website ‘Football Paradise’ (FP for purposes of informal chat), we, more than anyone else in the biz, are fully aware that the world of football is no paradise. Unscrupulous agents, diving wingers, myopic referees, corrupt bureaucrats, violent fans; you name it and the game has it. But, the noble spirits at FP do not merely observe. They are not content at merely exposing football’s many inadequacies. They try to find solutions, cook up antidotes, they, unlike Gomes in the Spurs goal, act.

Underneath the hallowed premises of FP, lies a secure facility few have had the privilege of visiting. It is spoken of in hushed, reverent tones. Clumsily entitled ‘The Department For The Betterment Of Football In The World’ by FP mandarins, it is known by rank and file simply as the Better Department. Since times immemorial (like the times when Giggs was but a wee suckling), the Better Department has come up with ingenious schemes. They think out of the box. They innovate. They look beyond established traditions. They deliver.

Recently, a Better Department staffer, for want of better things to do, was watching cricket. Said staffer was supremely impressed by the level of sheer goodwill displayed by both competing sides. Cries of ‘well played, sir’ rent the air, hands were shaken, backs were patted and the milk of human kindness was simply gushing. This air of bonhomie got our man thinking. Could we bring this into our good sport?

Our man was excited and hammered out a thirteen page report for the kind perusal of his elders and betters at FP. I shall try to summarise this good man’s work here. Rahul Dravid nicks one into the eager hands of the wicketkeeper. The umpire does his best Kristen Stewart impression and keeps his hands in his pockets. The bowler fumes with baffled rage. Dravid, that modern day Sir Lancelot, simply walks off, to the approbation of the Lords crowd. Well done, sir.

Apply the same to football. Ashley Young does what he does best and cons the referee into awarding Man Utd a thoroughly undeserved penalty. Wayne Rooney steps up, squares his broad shoulders and hoofs it into the stands intentionally. Well played, sir.

Fair play?

Would the Stretford End approve? They probably wouldn’t, having had a sporting flutter on their favourite Merseysider scoring first or something of that sort. But wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you just love it? No matter what the opposition (yes, even Liverpool or City), no matter what the scoreline (1-0 down with a minute remaining, perhaps), no matter what the circumstances, you can look the world in the eye and say, ‘I’m proud of Man Utd (or Stoke City, or Chelsea or whichever other gyp team you happen to support).’

This was pretty much the gist of the dissertation. The cardinal rule would be to, and I quote verbatim, ‘give up unearned, unaccrued benefits, arising from, inter alia, refereeing cock-ups, acts of God and such other sundry events that the benefiting team may judge to be contributing to said unearned and unaccrued benefits.’ There are a further nine sub-sections with a couple of clauses to each sub-section peppered with provisos and explanations. But the average layman would perhaps find these a tad tedious. I leave them out. They may be obtained for detailed study on payment of a nominal fee at the offices of the Better Department (cheques or demand drafts only, no cash please).