Offside, 5 October

The minutes of silence may be over, but players and fans are still expected to observe an emotional code of conduct.

Duleep Allirajah

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Topics Politics

The minutes of silence for 11 September may be over, but players and fans are still expected to observe an emotional code of conduct.

First to receive yellow cards for emotional infringements were four Chelsea players – Frank Lampard, Jody Morris, John Terry, and Eidur Gudjohnsen – and the former Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair. The five miscreants apparently went on a five-hour drinking binge the night after the terrorist attack, during which they offended American tourists at a Heathrow hotel by stripping, swearing and vomiting. Later the players reportedly ‘shocked onlookers’ at a bowling alley by diving head-first down the lanes.

The players were fined heavily by their clubs and all have issued public apologies. Frank Lampard was also omitted from the England squad for the World Cup qualifier against Greece. West Ham’s Mussolini-admiring striker Paolo Di Canio, hardly a saint himself, has even called for the offending players to be banned for a month.

The Chelsea players’ behaviour was undoubtably insensitive, but wasn’t the reaction to it somewhat over the top? Page after page of tabloid coverage, players dropped from national teams – as if the behaviour of young footballers indicated some kind of broader national mood. After all, it’s not as if the players gate-crashed a memorial service for the dead with towels wrapped around their heads, chanting ‘There’s only one bin Laden’ or ‘Death to the US Infidel’.

A more recent incident occurred during Glasgow’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox Park on 30 September. As US international Claudio Reyna stepped up to take a Rangers’ corner, a Celtic supporter was seen to imitate an aeroplane. Reyna, disgusted by the gesture, said: ‘I wouldn’t care even if he had had a lot to drink, you wouldn’t think that something as sick as that would come into someone’s mind.’ A Celtic spokesman also condemned the fan, declaring: ‘It is absolutely intolerable and unacceptable behaviour and we will investigate to find the individual concerned.’

Perhaps Claudio Reyna has never heard Rangers fans singing ‘We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood’, but baiting the opposition is precisely what makes the atmosphere at Old Firm games uniquely electric. Replace ‘sectarian’ chants with songs of peace and friendship and you can guess what will happen to the atmosphere.

The only salvation for the transgressors, it seems, is to reveal that they, too, have suffered. The mother of David Munro, the Celtic fan in question, revealed how her son was regularly taunted about his spinal disability. Munro was also quick to demonstrate his own grieving credentials, saying ‘I’ve shed as many tears about the disaster as anyone. I’m really sorry’. The disgraced Chelsea stars have been offered the chance of redemption through therapy by Tony ‘Addicted’ Adams, who is planning to open a clinic for sporting therapy-cases. ‘It might [help] if they came to the clinic just for a day to learn about the drug they are messing with and the addictive personality’, suggested the ‘recovering alcoholic’.

In his defence, David Munro claimed that he had only been copying Celtic striker Henrik Larsson’s goal celebration. Perhaps FIFA will now issue an edict instructing referees to clamp down on any goal celebrations that involve outstretched arms or aeroplane-like swooping.

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