Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The subject of the abuse of players and officials, and how they react to it, has seldom been out of the news this season.

The two most high profile cases have involved some big money players. First we had Beckham's little hissy fit with the LA Galaxy fans that saw him confront the fans on the stand and subsequently get fined. Then we had Man City's Emmanuel Adebayor running the length of the field to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans, almost setting off a riot and leaving him facing a possible three match ban.

Both players snapped at the amount of abuse being directed to them from the stands.

They're not the first, and they're certainly not going to be the last, players to face abuse from fans and they're not the only ones to crack and react. Eric Cantona's famous king fu kick on the Crystal Palace fan perhaps being the most newsworthy.

On Sunday we had another Man City player in trouble when Craig Bellamy slapped a Man United fan that had run on to the pitch after United's derby win. The latest incident to make the news involves a referee and not a player.

Switzerland's top referee, Massimo Busacca, was suspended by the Swiss FA for three matches after making obscene gestures to FC Baden fans in their recent game against Young Boys.

Busacca was the ref in last season's Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United and is expected to be one of the key refs at next year's World Cup in South Africa. After receiving constant abuse in the match in question, he was caught giving the middle finger to the Baden fans.

All of these incidents raise the question as to when does the abuse of players and officials go too far?

As someone who has meted out a fair share of abuse at opposing players and match officials over the years, I do feel it is part and parcel of the game. I actually like it when the person being abused gives something back. That banter is what the game is all about. It also shows you that you're getting to them and possibly putting them off their game.

I've always hated it when fans have given a player stick for the whole match and then as soon as the players says something back or makes a gesture to the fans they're instantly over at the stewards or the police to make a complaint. Get a life!

In Vancouver, the Southsiders are known for giving the opposing keepers heaps of well researched abuse and most applaud the fans afterwards.

I'd love to see players and officials being allowed some leeway to make comments and gestures back to the fans abusing them. To a certain degree at least. Obsene gestures or inflammatory runs the length of the pitch to the fans are a little bit out of order, but let them react a little.

I'd rather that than see them trying to stamp abuse out of the game because we know that this is a no tolerance campaign sitting in waiting at present.

At times the game these days is pretty sterile. It needs characters like Robbie Savage, and in days gone by in Scotland, Chic Charnley. These are players you love to hate. You love to abuse them and it's great when you get a response.

With the way teams like Man City have been going this season, I'm sure we have a few more "cracking" incidents in store for us this season.

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