SWEAT AND SOUR
Well, it’d been a tough week. It’s never good when you walk out into the street on a sunny Monday morning to find your car door wrenched open and all your aquadrops (apple flavour) stolen, but then sometimes life throws you curveballs like that just to see how you respond.
On the plus side, I told myself, I hadn’t left anything valuable in there. On the plus side, it’s an old car and won’t cost a fortune to mend. On the plus side, I and the rest of great Britain got to see television footage of Alex Ferguson jump up like an excited schoolgirl and wave his arms in the air, only to realise he’d prematurely celebrated a last gasp equaliser and that his team were, in fact, about to lose. Lovely stuff.
You see, that’s how things work in this world. As an old friend and ardent Chelsea fan once said, in order to fully appreciate the sweet, first you must taste the sour. He was wise in that way, in drawing parallels from Chinese foodstuffs, but he was wiser still in seeing the bigger picture.
If you look at the smaller picture you’ll only see things like say, Jamie Carragher toe-poking the ball out in the first half and Ash Cole not getting a corner: an unfortunate scenario. If you look at the bigger picture you’ll see it was directly balanced out by a dubious penalty that levelled the game. Now I know what you’re going to say, so if I must, I’ll change the phrasing and replace the word dubious with a strategic question mark: it was directly balanced out by a penalty? That levelled the game. ‘Penalty?’ Try it in the same voice and with the same curious tilt of the head as Ruud Gullit used in his pizzahut ads: ‘Pizza?’ That’s as good as the Chelsea appeal was.
I think football could learn a lot from cricket in that respect. A batsman isn’t out until the opposing team ask for his dismissal. If players had to ask for a penalty, like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel, then things would be a lot more civil.
‘Please sir, we’d like a penalty’. ‘Penalty?’ The ref could bellow back, ‘PENALTY?’ Before taking the player by the ear and carting him off to the local borstal. But of course, every once in a while, he’d say, ‘a penalty you say? Well, why not? I like the cut of your jib Malouda m’lad, not to mention your banana neon boots, young Didier, so you can have your penalty.’
See how much nicer that is? The only trouble is, we didn’t really keep up our end of the bargain. Torres dived a little later on, in essence asking the very same ‘please sir, I’d like a free kick.’ But before the ref had been able to ignore him he was shouted at in turn by Ben Haim and our own JT. Now that’s not very nice, particularly as he’d been so amenable in granting us our wishes earlier on. No wonder he got flustered and handed out yellows to anyone within reach.
You see, even our own JT is susceptible to looking only at the smaller picture from time to time, and in those moments he shouts, and stamps his feet and ends up getting yellow cards. Really, what he wants to do is just be nice. I read recently in an interview that Graham Poll feels more inclined to give a player a break if he’s been nice. ‘I’m a human being, if there’s a 50-50, subconsciously it may go their way.’
Amazing, I thought, but it just might work. I didn’t get all flustered when I found my car smashed into. Instead, I swore silently, tidied up the mess and was grateful it wasn’t raining. Then, as I read the back of a new packet of aquadrops in a petrol station later on that day, I discovered that they contain aspartame, which although may taste delicious, will in fact kill you (allegedly.) So there we are. Whoever it was that decided a ten year old Peugeot was worth breaking into one night, is now chewing on some delicious poison and watching his life slowly ebb away by his very own doing, and that knowledge helps me sleep at night.
As does the knowledge that the very team that stole our champions league dreams twice is now bemoaning their own injustice.