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Page added on August 15, 2011
The English Premier League has finally kicked off, but true to form, the talking points are not about the brilliance of players; save for the superb goal by Sebastian Larsson of Sunderland against Liverpool, but the usual controversies surrounding refereeing decisions and players’ behaviour on the pitch persist. Lest we forget, we can all sleep well now, as Cesc Fabregas has finally returned to Barcelona, bringing one of the longest transfer sagas to an amicable, if you can call it that, end. The much anticipated kick off was expected to be peppered with goals and brilliance but it turned out to be a damp squib. (Photo: author, Abdulai Mansaray, UK)
Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City declared their intentions for the new season by initiating newly promoted Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City with 4-0 defeats in a baptism of fire respectively. Welcome to the big boys brigade. If they did not know what was in store for them, well they better look no further. The weekend saw a lot of score draws. But as if the recent riots in UK cities were not enough, Arsenal and Newcastle treated the fans to some recreational rioting of a different persuasion, resulting in the Football Association charging both teams with “failing to control their players”. The FA’s prompt action is commendable. You only hope that this swift stance and justice will last the course and not fall by the wayside as the season unfolds.
Those who have managed to follow the career of Joey Baron will testify that he is a committed player, but with his commitment comes all that is not good for football. Barton rolled out the welcoming red carpet for Gervinho of Arsenal in his customary manner, which to all intents and purposes is akin to a Mike Tyson night out. He accused Gervinho of diving, when television replays show that he was clearly clipped in the penalty box. Barton, the self proclaimed high priest of morality took offence to that and single-handedly manhandled him. His behaviour was nothing short of assault and battery. In his post match comment via twitter, his favourite medium, Barton accused Gervinho of cheating and professed his dislike for “cheats”. This is all laudable as fans want to see the beautiful game played in its pristine form.
True to form, Barton never ceases to confound his critics and admirers in equal measure. After condemning his fellow professional for cheating, in the same breath, he boldly admitted to have hit the deck “too easily” after being swiped by Gervinho. The yellow card he received was laughable in comparison to Gervinho’s red, but the Referee can be excused on the grounds that he did not see Barton’s initial assault. You wonder why the assistant referee did not flag this up. It is ironical that with his track record, Barton would be the last person you would expect to preach about morality or fairness in the game. Barton preaching against cheating is like having Milosevic presiding over war crimes in The Hague. The comparison may be harsh but you get the picture. Interestingly, Manager Alan Pardew, who had reportedly granted him a free transfer(expulsion); following his criticism of the club’s transfer policy was vehemently defending him and insulting our intelligence by painting a saintly picture of Barton.
It is refreshing to know that Fabregas has finally returned to his maternal club, Barcelona. In his first press conference, he expressed his regrets for not being able to give his side of the story for the benefit of his adorable Arsenal fans; courtesy of an implied gagging order by Arsenal. This is all well and good. He sealed his move to Barcelona with a kiss on the barge; how many times did we see the Arsenal barge suffer from this show of affection in the past? Arsene Wenger recently expressed his fear for Arsenal becoming a feeder club for “the big boys”. Well that is what you get when you allow good players to run down their contracts and expect them to renew when a “triple your money “contracts are dangled in their faces from elsewhere.
You would think that Wenger would have learned from the Mathew Flamini episode a few years ago. To compound matters further, Wenger does not believe that players over 30 years should be rewarded with long contracts. Ryan Giggs would have been put to pasture and football and its fans would have been deprived of his brilliance two centuries ago by Wenger’s terms. With Fabregas gone, Wenger will unfortunately now turn his attention to another soap opera; to keep Samir Nasri at the club, when he should have been fine tuning and consolidating his team like other managers. And all this is down to his recalcitrance and self belief that Wenger’s way is the right and only way to go about it. With his love affair with the fans on the wane, you wonder how long they can take it.
Lest we forget, my heart goes to Jon Obi Mikel whose father has become the latest victim of human decadence in his home country Nigeria. South American countries like Columbia, Brazil and others have been known to claim monopoly on this debased behaviour. In spite of this sad state of affairs, Mikel played for his club Chelsea, albeit with a heavy heart I guess. My hats off to him for defying these elements of the sewer. The football community and especially the one in Nigeria should do whatever it takes to bring this debacle to a swift end and further ensure that this does not become a favourite past time of those sub human elements. It’s not all doom and gloom. The season has just begun and if the weekend results are anything to go by, the race will be tight but be prepared for surprises.
Champ of the week: Jon O. Mikel
Chumps of the week: Barton, Wenger and Gervinho.
By Abdulai Mansaray, UK
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