Michael Owen’s vociferous protestations that English fair play and jolly sporting integrity has become crudely smeared by the dastardly antics of foreign scoundrels took something of a beating in the weekend’s EPL action with Jay Rodriguez’s exotic tumble for Southampton against Aston Villa. Owen, famous for only succumbing to the penalty box turf with both legs broken and under heavy machine gun fire, would have been devastated that Rodriguez’s dying swan impression could dare tarnish the courageous reputation of his fellow sporting countrymen!
“But he is half-Spanish on his father’s side” would no doubt be Michael Owen QC’s opening gambit as counsel for the defence; “and it was a particularly long and treacherous blade of grass that had undoubtedly hardened sufficiently in the icy British winter to brutally obstruct the natural momentum of young Jay”.
I jest of course, but the unpalatable truth for Owen and the loyal, but admittedly dwindling Eyes Wide Shut brigade who insist on perpetuating the myth that English players stand above such heinous skulduggery, is that Jay Rodriguez – English born and bred despite his European surname – dived under no contact whatsoever to win what proved to be a decisive penalty kick in a crucial bottom-of-the-table clash for his team! And the British media’s response? A deafening silence! A brief mention of the incident in the post-match written reports of course, a fleeting reference by TV pundits and then a nonchalant sweeping of the entire affair under a very convenient carpet!
Would a similar incident involving Luis Suarez or Gareth Bale have been treated in quite the same casual manner? Judging by the wall-to-wall front, back and centre-page coverage of Suarez’s entirely accidental handball last weekend or Bale’s most recent booking for an apparent dive when he was quite clearly fouled by the opposing defender and should instead have been awarded a penalty, I would wager the media would be positively foaming at the mouth in anticipation of gorging on another feast of righteous indignation!
The truth is, Aston Villa and Southampton are in a relegation battle and Rodriguez’s outrageous cheating earned what could be a crucial 3pts for the ‘Saints’. Yes diving, shirt pulling, foul play and players claiming for absolutely every decision during the course of a match no matter the merit are an unfortunate, and growing, stain on the game. But, please, let’s finally dispel the ludicrous notion that it is entirely an overseas scourge…..