Football is many things to many people. For some, it provides the best possible way to rid themselves of all that pesky income they have accumulated over the week. For others it acts as a sophisticated pantomime and even then, it is not particularly sophisticated. Ugly step sisters like John Terry and Ashley Cole spend their days picking on young darlings like Theo Walcott or Gareth Bale while we all love to boo evil masterminds like Craig Bellemy, but only because we find him easiest to relate to.
It is just entertainment and I would argue that its appeal relies more on the baddies than the goodies. We pay our money more to boo the antagonist than to cheer the protagonist and we get no greater value than when a villain trips himself up in an attempt to punish the hero.
We see this in two ways. The first was neatly addressed by Graham on Wednesday and is of course simulation. But the second is a relatively new tactic employed by only the most dastardly of participants, the imaginary yellow card. No action in football seems to rile the indignant fan more than one player suggesting another player get booked. But why?
After all, players claim for everything else, throw ins, corners, penalties, irrespective of whether they know they are in the right, or in the wrong. If a player feels he is fouled then it is surely agreed he is justified in claiming for a free kick, so what is wrong with the extra mile? If yellow and red cards are now accepted as punishments within the game, along with penalties and free kicks then they are part of 90 mins and are subject to the same treatment as the others.
Perhaps it is a moral issue. Perhaps it could be argued that penalties and free kicks penalize the whole team, while yellow cards punish the individual, which is an unnecessary request in a team sport. This would be legitimate if not for the fact that this is not a sport or entertainment industry which has been founded with the pursuit of a morality in mind.
It is my belief that waving an imaginary card is indeed a pretty petulant action for a professional to take and is indicative of desperation more than anything else. However, it is not inconsistent with other aspects of player’s conduct in the game and should therefore not be singled out for a unique intolerance.
So next time you’re making your way through ASDA and some lunatic comes and rakes his F90s down your calves, rest assured that you are justified in requesting that the youth be given an official warning whether by a simple gesture or otherwise.