O CAPTAIN! My captain! Despite the disappointing loss in Saturday’s World Cup final, like many I swelled with pride at the England rugby team.
Their performance during the tournament was encapsulated by the leadership of skipper Owen Farrell, endorsed by the statesmanlike players and embodied by the fans.
I wondered whether football, its captains, clubs and fans could leave me feeling similarly proud.
Xhaka, the player elected captain of Arsenal (that’s a story in its own right), was subbed off to a cacophony of boos after a pretty dismal match against Crystal Palace.
He dawdled off the pitch, cupped his ears to the increasing volume of abuse and finally, his piece de resistance, told the fans to “f*** off” before storming down the tunnel. Just like the England rugby captain would do, I thought!
Defenders of Xhaka have asked how much can a player endure, thus seemingly excusing his behaviour. Others have said his reaction was completely unacceptable.
And Arsenal luminaries such as David Seaman have gone as far as suggesting he should never play for them again because the bond with the fans has been broken. Neither scenario is right.
ABUSE NOT JUSTIFIABLE
It’s not justifiable to do what he did — but it is also not right that he not be allowed redemption and be cast asunder, never to be seen again.
As captain he had greater responsibility to behave accordingly. That being said — and despite the fact that he may not be the calibre of player that once upon a time existed at Arsenal — booing him off is neither supportive nor constructive.
It did amuse me, though, when the bleeding hearts came out saying how awful the booing was and how much can a player take!
I don’t hear the same sentiments when fans are screaming for managers to be sacked or owners being abused by fans but perhaps I digress.
We have also had another captain coming under fire with Derby’s Richard Keogh involved in the ridiculous scenario of being abandoned injured in a crashed car by his delightful drink-driving team-mates after a p***-up. Sorry, a “team building” session.
A potential career-ending injury and bringing his club into disrepute has resulted in Keogh being sacked and the football fraternity appears outraged when, in fact, they should be appalled at the conduct of a captain and senior players.
Cast your mind back 21 months to when West Brom players — skipper Jonny Evans and Gareth Barry included — went on a club-funded bonding do in Barcelona and stole a taxi at 5.30am.
Finally, lest we forget Wayne Rooney’s outburst into the camera at the 2010 World Cup after a poor performance was greeted by jeering fans.
Our national game, its leading participants and fans could learn a lot from its poorer relation rugby.
- SIMON JORDAN’S Final Word is on talkSPORT every Sunday from 5-8pm.