A week after Jose Mourinho banned any banter the Stamford Bridge club produced a comedic routine to rival any stand-up. Instead of the audience laughing it was the much loathed Diego Costa and his manager enjoying the giggles.
Mourinho has a history of defending his players and deflecting criticism away from the dressing room when required. His defence of Costa undermines his integrity even further. There has to be a time when the manager’s morals take precedence over team solidarity. He claimed that the game has to be played this way, before declaring Costa Man of the Match. For a man that instigated a banter ban he sure knows how to attempt one-liners. If he genuinely believes Costa’s behaviour is acceptable then he’s as guilty as the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard-turned-MMA fighter.
Not too much sympathy should go Gabriel’s way. He was foolish for being pulled into Costa’s web of tricks. The Arsenal game isn’t the first time Costa has displayed a darker side, it just happens to be the most well reported. Chelsea is mistaken if they think he’s taken on the role of the pantomime villain – he is now genuinely despised.
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Having the FA review the game was a correct move and it’s pleasing that they have charged Costa with violent conduct. The FA taking retrospective action occurred previously in the Welling United and Tranmere Rovers clash which ended 1-1. Sahr Kabba deceived the referee by feigning injury and it led to Rover’s defender Ritchie Sutton being red-carded.
At the time Rovers were 1-0 to the good but the extra man eventually told and Welling grabbed a draw.
The good news is that after using video evidence the FA reversed the red card. Sutton’s three-game banned was transferred to the budding thespian Kabba.
This, along with the FA reviewing the Arsenal/Chelsea clash, is a step in the right direction. But it’s a baby step when football needs a giant stride. Post-match comments by Mourinho would have a very different feel to them if it was standard practise for the FA to review every game, regardless of an opposition’s request, to weed out all foul play.
The modern day footballer knows he can incite trouble, dive, feign or exaggerate injury and there’s very little chance of a punishment further down the line. It’s all part of gamesmanship on the day. If a player can fool the referee they can bag their team an advantage. That’s why men like Jose are so keen to keep it in the game. They understand nine times out of ten a crafty operator like Costa can cheat without detection. He’d look less covert if post-match several camera angles led to repeated convictions.
I find it tiresome when fans of Rugby pat themselves on the back for having a game with less theatrics and better sportsmanship. If their game is so grand they should just enjoy it, I don’t compare football to other sports to make myself feel better about the beautiful game. I’m sure there are numerous sports, like cricket or netball, that when compared to football look to be played with a better sporting ethos. None have stakes so high, though.
It is the large margin between success and failure that has led footballers to try and steal every slight advantage. Nowadays if the draft caused by running past a player in the Champions League wafts the hair of an opponent’s legs, they go down for a free kick. And the ref always gives it. For some time football has been moving ever-closer to a non-contact sport.
One way to prevent this, whilst still allowing teams to compete fairly in the tackle, is for UEFA to roll out retrospective action across all its leagues and major tournaments. It would root out cheats, bad sportsmanship, and level the playing field once again. We’d be spared players like Costa taking the Mickey and managers like Mourinho facilitating cheats.
We’d live in a football world where disingenuous behaviour was denounced.