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One Set of Rules For Us, One for Everyone Else
With the news that UEFA had overturned their retroactive two-match ban for Eduardo, it got me thinking back to what I felt just after that punishment was handed down. I was conflicted… I had to admit to myself and others that Eduardo had indeed taken a dive, shameful enough in itself; but because the punishment was so severe compared with what such an act would warrant if caught by the referee (a yellow card), I was also outraged. Beyond that I felt hypocritical for having so openly and gleefully mocked such accomplished divers as Drogba and the Portuguese Master, Ronaldo.
However, after the huge fuss kicked up by the xenophobic English press over Eduardo’s dive ignited the media-sensitive and reactionary UEFA to take these measures, Arsenal played Manchester United in the biggest match of the season to that point. And during the match, Wayne Rooney performed a carbon copy of Eduardo’s tumble in the box, winning a penalty that turned out to be the decisive goal in the contest. On Match of the Day, one talking head lauded this as an intelligent act. Rooney received similar treatment from seemingly everywhere, and had the audacity to issue this quote: ‘I’ve never intentionally dived. There have been times when I’ve tried to stay on my feet rather than go down. Everyone who watches me play knows I’m an honest player.’
I felt nothing but rage at the injustice, and later explained as much to my friend Gareth, a lifelong Gooner, who summed it all up quite succinctly: “One set of rules for us, and one for everyone else.
It smacks of paranoia, I admit. But if you look even at very recent Arsenal history, there’s more than a little truth to the statement.
On February 23, 2008, Martin Taylor was sent off for what many feel was one of the worst tackles ever seen. A month later, Abou Diaby made a bad challenge on Bolton defender Gretar Steinsson, and was correctly sent off for it. Diaby was villified in the press, labeled in many instances a “disgrace.” Meanwhile, Taylor’s tackle was nearly universally defended by the press as without malice and “part of the game.” Steve Bruce called it “not even a yellow card,” while Stephen Kelly said, “I don’t think you can send a player off for that. That’s football. It can happen. It is an accident.”
Had Diaby tackled Steinsson, or any player, in the manner that Taylor employed and with a similar result, I shudder to think what would’ve become of him. I doubt he would be playing in England today if that had been the case.
And that was a case where there was something to even complain about. I think we all remember how quick the press were to defend poor Hull manager Phil Brown, when he claimed after Hull’s loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup last season that Cesc Fabregas had spat upon his assistant manager, and at alternate times also claimed that Brown himself had been spat on, as well as his players. After weeks of Brown appearing on every program that would have him to malign the Arsenal captain, the story was finally ruled by the FA as what it was, complete horseshit.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Arsenal players booked for dissent for questioning a referee’s decision (Gallas seemed to have quite the knack for this while he had the armband), but can anyone remember the last time Chelsea players were booked when surrounding the referee and shouting at him in vain efforts of intimidation? Or how about Rooney himself? For the number of times I’ve seen the Scouser clap at or curse directly at a referee, I’ve seen him booked once.
Most recently, Martin Samuel has used his public forum as a soapbox to deride “a significant percentage” of Arsenal fans for singing a racist song about Adebayor last Saturday. I’ll not stoop to mentioning the lyrics; suffice it to say that elephants are featured prominently. Mr. Samuel fails to mention is a) what constitutes a significant percentage, and b) that this chant was drowned out by the overwhelming majority of Arsenal supporters singing our own anti-Adebayor chant, which invokes Arshavin and the fact that Adebayor was surplus to requirements at Arsenal. Samuel also never made mention of this song the last two seasons, when opposing fans rained the offensive, racist song on Adebayor all over England, and quite loudly in both the red and sky blue sections of Manchester, which tells me that Mr. Samuel was either not paying attention to football at all before this season, which would invalidate any claim of expertise he might make, or that he did not fully disapprove of it until the very worst element of Arsenal supporters made use of it. What the latter says about Mr. Samuel himself, I’ll leave up to you to decide.
My only question is, what is the motivation? Why do Arsenal get such stick while so many others get so little for similar or worse behavior? I have earlier here branded the English press as xenophobic, and I stand by that accusation. If it is as true as I believe it to be, this would affect Arsenal more than other clubs because, under Wenger, Arsenal have been, fairly or not, branded as anti-English.
It is true that Wenger has never gone out of his way to buy English players (the manager has on numerous occasions decried the overpricing of English talent on the transfer market), but while Arsenal have down the years had a more international flavor within the squad than other Premiership clubs, they are far from anti-English. Right now, Arsenal have more English players in their squad than Liverpool. What Arsenal do not have however, that Chelsea, Liverpool and Man U all do have, is an English star, and with all due respect to Nike for trying, Theo Walcott is not on that level quite yet.
But now that Eduardo’s suspension was overturned (in time for him to score a cracking winner over Standard Liege), perhaps we can finally put Gareth’s claim to one side. I’m joking, of course. What we can do is give at least the appeals branch of UEFA credit for possessing common sense. Attempting to enforce an “Eduardo Rule” would have required a task force working around the clock to review every instance of possible deception in every match in every UEFA competition. It would have been unwieldy and costly and completely unrealistic.
But rest assured, should Michel Platini find a feasible way of screwing over Arsenal, he will jump at the chance. And every English sports journalist and football pundit will applaud. What can we do? We live in a world of rules. It’s just that the rules aren’t always the same for everyone.
Arsene Wenger’s Pre-Match Press Conference