There is no campaign against Chelsea. Never has been.
Mind you, if they keep on behaving like they did at Stamford Bridge last night maybe we should start one. Not for the first time we saw a side managed by Jose Mourinho cast a shadow on the game with behaviour unbefitting of professional sportsmen.
Football is a brilliant sport, the best there is, but the sight of nine players surrounding a referee and pleading with him to send off an opponent, makes me cringe.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic - harshly red carded for what was no more than a straightforward 50-50 challenge with Oscar - called Chelsea ‘babies’ for swarming around Bjorn Kuipers and stating the case for his dismissal, and he was bang on. It was infantile conduct of the lowest degree.
I’ve always had a bugbear with players, managers and teams that try and intimidate referees.
Hand on heart I never did it. I moaned at refs, and I am pretty sure I called them nasty words under my breath too but never did I run towards the man in the middle and try and bully him into making a decision. To me it’s a form of cheating.
How can a human being not have his judgment clouded, even if it’s only marginal or subconscious, by two, three, four, or in last night’s instance nine men screaming, pointing and aggressively trying to influence the call. To blank that out completely you need to be incredibly strong.
And this is why teams do it of course. It won’t work every time, as Angel di Maria found to his cost when tugging the back of Michael Oliver’s shirt on Monday night, but if you play the percentage game and harass officials often enough, key decisions will end up going your way; just as it did last night.
Why should a team that doesn’t go in for hounding tactics suffer? It’s simply not fair.
Chelsea aren’t the only ones at it. Hassling referees is a habit many players and clubs are hooked on, and I’m amazed the officials themselves have been willing to tolerate it for so long.
Years ago I remember feeling quite uncomfortable watching Roy Keane and a number of his Manchester United pals descending on a startled looking Andy D’Urso after he’d awarded a penalty against them at Old Trafford. It was mob rule. Yet here we are more than a decade on, and it’s still happening.
Why do we tolerate it, and see it as part of the game?
I don’t like comparing football to other sports because every game has its own dark arts that need fixing, but you just wouldn’t see a repeat of Chelsea’s antics on a rugby pitch or a hockey field, and you certainly wouldn’t witness a cricket umpire being swarmed around for failing to give a batsman out at the crease.
Getting into a referee’s air space and showing aggressive dissent should in my view be an automatic yellow card. How refreshing would it have been to see Mr Kuipers caution all nine that tried to bully him at the Bridge?
Footballers have been getting away with behaving like babies for way too long, and I think we’re all a bit embarrassed by it aren’t we? It’s time to get tough with those that use harassment to help their cause.
Thankfully the use of video replays will kill this unpleasant practice stone dead. The sooner we see sense and use the technology, the sooner we’ll see an end to injustices.