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Take it Like a Man

By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 16/09/2009

THE fact that some people are calling for leniency to be shown to Emmanuel Adebayor demonstrates to what extent the unacceptable has become acceptable in football.

Gamesmanship, cheating and violence have become so normal in our game now that when their presence is pointed out, dissenting voices are heard amongst those calling for punishment. The defence always raised is that everyone else does it, it's normal, why should this player be treated differently.

The fear though is that every season the bar gets raised slightly higher and yesterday's misdemeanours become today's norms.

If it were any virtually other sport than football we wouldn't even be asking the question of whether a punishment should handed out. Can you imagine the retribution for a player making gestures to the pavilion at Lords? In cricket it's frowned upon appealing for a wicket in the knowledge that it wasn't. In the US Open this week Serena Williams lost a match point for using bad language towards an official.

In football cheating and bad language are so much part of the game that they are deemed normal. Nobody bats an eyelid when a defender appeals for a throw-in after hoofing the ball into touch, and if every player who swore at the referee was booked there wouldn't me many left on the pitch by the end of a lot of games. Almost every major decision in football (and quite a few minor ones!) are "queried" by the side penalised - no other sport that I have seen approaches such a high level of dissent towards the match officials.

We'd be shocked if rugby players or cricket players started behaving like our footballers.

It seems bizarre to me that players can be given long bans for taking cough medicines or other common place off-the-shelf substances. The performance gain from taking routine drugs like pain killers I don't imagine to be anywhere near as large as that from conning the referee into giving a penalty or sending an opponent off, yet somehow practices like the latter are deemed acceptable, whereas the former are decreed the most despicable crime a sportsperson can commit.

Don't get me wrong, I love football and the controversy surrounding incidents like those involving Adebayor at the weekend are part of the great soap opera which runs alongside the actual sport. If it was just about numerical goals and scores, and didn't involve real people and their personalities, football wouldn't be the game it is. It would be more like the stock market - vaguely interesting but a bit dull.

Part of me admires what he did, just for the sheer nerve of it. Kicking a former team mate in the face and celebrating triumphantly in front of the opposition fans are all things we'd probably love to have done (the latter as a supporter we frequently do, albeit not very often recently for us Grimsby fans). But that doesn't mean that they are right. There are plenty of things I'd love to do which I don't because they are against the law. But I don't because most of our country's laws are upheld.

If we say that those who have broken the rules shouldn't be punished we have entered a realm of total anarchy.

Bend over Emmanuel Adebayor, receive your punishment like a man, and next time please just stick to "normal" cheating and gamesmanship like everyone else, and you'll get away scot free.

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