It was a fantastic couple of days of soccer on the pitch last weekend with thrilling games, controversial decisions and last gasp defensive heroics.
The English Premier League was littered with great matches such as Newcastle’s herculean defensive effort at Old Trafford and Manchester City’s equally desperate attempt to hold on at Anfield.
Shock defeats for Barcelona and Bayern Munich also added to the drama, and reminded us that one of the great joys of the game is the capacity to thrill us with the sting of the unpredictable.
Off the field though the unpredictable, sadly, is often much less palatable.
Wales coach Gary Speed was found dead in his home at the ridiculously young age of 42, and soccer in Togo endured another in a seemingly endless line of tragedies when 6 people were killed as a coach carrying officials and players caught fire after plunging into a ravine.
Both events (but particularly the death of Speed) immediately led to a bout of soul searching amongst those involved in the game at all levels.
There were two other events this weekend however that showed, perhaps to a shocking degree, how little we learn from our past mistakes.
Just over a week ago it was reported that German referee Babak Rafati had attempted suicide before he was due to take charge of a Bundesliga game and a subsequent statement by his lawyer said that;
“growing pressure to perform for him as a referee and the media pressure linked to that – in combination with the constant fear of making mistakes – became a bigger and bigger burden”
There was universal sympathy immediately expressed for Rafati and everybody agreed that the pressure heaped on to referees in the modern games had become intolerable.
This weekend Newcastle United were awarded a penalty against Manchester United, and though the decision was undoubtedly wrong the vitriol and, in some cases, glee with which many in the media chastised both the referee and his assistant went beyond legitimate comment and more closely resembled the mentality of the herd looking for blood.
In fact there are those that won’t be happy until they hear that at least one of their targets is prevented from working next week.
Also this week former player Stan Collymore wrote movingly about his own battle with depression, and the media were once again quick to express their admiration for his courage and many stated the wish that they had been more understanding of his problems during his playing days instead of simply indulging in knee-jerk reactions to his wildness.
This weekend Mario Balotelli was rather harshly sent off against Liverpool and many in the media were quick to label him as an “idiot” and happy to use words such as “crazy’ and “mad” when discussing the Italian forward.
There is no suggestion of course that either Balotelli or the officials at Old Trafford will be adversely affected by how their performance is being discussed on television and in newspapers, but if those who comment on the game couldn’t restrain themselves in this week of all weeks then what hope is there for the next professional who finds himself desperately looking for help within the game?
You can also find other Soccer Report Extra.com contributors on Twitter by following this link.
Please refrain from posting comments that;
The House reserves the right to delete any such comments and to block further participation on the site.