On April 4th, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney passionately celebrated having just completed his hat trick against West Ham and helped United to a 4-2 victory. Clearly pumped up by the incident, the England forward celebrated with his teammates before turning to swear into the nearest television camera. In the few seconds before the producers chose to cut to a different camera, Rooney did enough to anger the FA to the extent that he was fined and received a two-match ban.
Rooney accepted the fine but appealed against the ban, a decision that was later upheld by the FA. So, Rooney served the ban and missed the FA Cup Semi-final defeat by Manchester City and that was it. Or so it seemed.
Even now the saga still rumbles on with TV Regulator Ofcom only just responding to various complaints filed by viewers against Sky. Admittedly Ofcom rejected the various complaints claiming Sky did what they could to avert viewers’ attention, but with five weeks gone since the incident, surely it is time for viewers and fans to accept that Rooney did act inappropriately but that he has served his punishment and will hopefully learn his lesson. But, at the same time, why has so much pressure been put on Rooney for the incident?
Rooney’s career has been littered with incidents and flare-ups. But, a passionate and fiery performer, many believe this is part of what makes Rooney the great player he is and gives him that extra edge. As with Roy Keane or Eric Cantona, genius is only moments from madness and it is a gamble Sir Alex Ferguson has been willing to take. It is up to the Scotsman to manage this, but at the same time would Rooney be such a force if not giving his hundred percent in a Manchester United shirt every week?
A similar level of foul language and tantrums can be seen at all levels of the game. In this case Rooney was unfortunate to be such a high-profile victim. But, there is a difference in those playing lower league football and those in the Premier League.
The Premiership is the most watched league globally and Rooney plays for the best supported club in the World. Therefore, Rooney is idolised and sets an example to younger generations everywhere. In choosing to play football as a profession, surely players should realise the extra responsibility that comes with the territory and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Yes, footballers are paid vast sums of money for their superior skills and physical attributes, but clubs must stop wrapping them in cotton wool and allow players to take some accountability for their own actions.
The majority of footballers are far from saints. Constant incidents involving abuse of referees, tantrums or play acting combined with off-field demeanours has led to the development of a negative stereotype. And, whilst it seems the authorities and many fans are happy to accept this, it is up to the clubs and players themselves to own up, accept the error of their ways and improve their behaviour for the sake of the future of the game.
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