Is Alcaraz spitting incident merely a spat over nothing?

Wigan’s Paraguayan centre-half Antolin Alcaraz looks set to be handed a richly deserved three-match ban for spitting on Richard Stearman in Wolves 3-1 victory at the DW Stadium on Saturday. Many have correctly decried it as the act of a fool and a coward, but some of the vitriol going Alcaraz’s way has been a little on the, ‘fresh’ side shall we say, which begs the question, is spitting on an opponent really the worst thing you can do to a fellow professional?

This is what Wolves manager Mick McCarthy had to say on the incident, among other things, of course: “Personally, I’d rather have a smack in the mouth than be spat upon. It’s the worst thing that you can do to a fellow professional.”

Wolves skipper Roger Johnson continued the tirade with: “It’s the worst thing a footballer can do to a fellow professional. It’s dirty and he deserves everything he gets. It’s there for everyone to see – he spat on him. He’ll be regretting it now and he’s got to pay the consequences.”

May I first go on record as stating that spitting on another individual is despicable. Whether in a football match, out on a street or in an office, nobody should ever have to go through such a shameful ordeal. However, while not wishing to appear too trivial, spitting, while obviously hugely disrespectful, isn’t as bad as say, a broken leg or damaging your cruciate ligament. I don’t know about you, Mick, but I’d take a bit of phlegm over the excruciating agony of those two injuries any day of the week.

Spitting on someone is usually referred to, rather correctly may I add, as the ultimate form of showing someone disrespect. It indicates that the person is completely worthless, and while it’s far from being innocuous, it’s hardly the earth-shattering life-changing incident that it’s often made out to be.

There is defintely no place in our game for something as low as spitting, much in the same way as there is no place for something as corrupt and dishonest as diving – I just fail to see the correlation between calling it out in the strongest terms possible and the deed at hand. It’s disproptionate to say the least. This skewed moral code by which the likes of Johnson and McCarthy appear to be adherring to – back ‘when men were men’  – seems a bit outdated.

Spitting on an opponent, if the player is found guilty, is often treated with a hefty fine and a three-game ban or more, whereas the likes of Alan Hutton’s horrendous challenge on West Brom’s Shane Long is still to go unpunished. The context of the matter is that far too often, we are treated to the usual defence of a player with the words ‘he’s not that sort of player’, when all evidence clearly points to the contrary.

How can a tackle such as Hutton’s escape the all-seeing, all-knowing FA, but the relatively meaningless spitting incident involving Alcaraz be dealt with in a turnaround of just three days? As usual, the FA have simply failed to get their priorities in order and remain little more than a governing body that reacts to incidents and stories rather than setting the tone themselves.

The lack of condemnation from Premier League managers about such tackles is quite frankly astonishing, displaying both a lack of decency and professionalism. They defend the indefensible. Yet the very same managers are out in force to denounce such a relatively harmless case of spitting. It’s certainly an upside down world that we live in.

Peter Schmeichel is said to have received therapy for a year after witnessing first hand David Busst’s leg shatter right before his very eyes in a 1996 match between Man Utd and Coventry. Would he have had to do the same thing if Dennis Irwin had spat in Busst’s hair a la Frank Rijkaard did to Rudi Voller at the 1990 World Cup? Doutbful.

Spitting is a terrible thing to do to a fellow professional, that much is clear, but applying the context from a purely physical perspective physical rather than mental one, then it’s nothing more than a case of making a mountain out of a molehill.

For his part, Wigan Chairman Dave Whelan seemed a lot closer to the mark stating:” That sort of behaviour has no place in football. It has no place in society. It is disgusting, a horrible thing to do and I was shocked. I’ll back whatever punishment the manager decides to impose. I cannot tolerate this sort of thing and it saddens me that a Wigan player is alleged to have done it. It is totally unacceptable.” See, no mock moral outrage, no over the top platitudes about how ‘things were better back in my day’, simply a strong condemnation of an intolerable action. No more than that.

If Richard Stearman, Mick McCarthy or Roger Johnson truly think that it’s ‘the worst thing that you can do to a fellow professional’, then they have led a charmed life so far. In the unlikely event that they require any counselling after what they witnessed, I suggest that they dial down the over the top rhetoric, and you know, man-up a bit.

You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1

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