There is no more ridiculous sight in journalism that the sports writers of England in one of their periodic fits of morality.
Irish sports writers too. To offset the imbalance, somebody has to stand up for Carlos Tevez.
The refusal of the brilliant Argentine to get up from the bench during the Bayern match a fort-night ago has been headlined as a disgraceful act, morally reprehensible, utterly unforgiveable.
“Treason against his brothers out there on the pitch,” declared one writer. Treason!
“The worst thing I have ever witnessed in football,” intoned Graham Souness. Worse than trying to break another player’s leg in a European tie?
He had “taken the soul out of a beautiful game”, sniffed the Independent.
Richie Kelly reminded us on Foyle last Thursday that Tevez’ action wasn’t unprecedented at all, recalling that he’d once refused to go on for Finn Harps.
The team was seven or eight goals down – understandably, he couldn’t remember which – with 10 minutes to go when the manager asked him to strip off. He though he was being asked to make a fool of himself and said no.
Finn Harps before a crowd of a few hundred is very different from a European match watched by hundreds of millions. But the principle is the same. Tevez, too, may have felt he was being treat-ed with a lack of respect verging on derision.
City were two-nil down and playing like, well, like Finn Harps in Richie’s day. Manager Mancini had just taken off Edin Dzeko, his best chance of a goal from a player on the field and, although
Tevez had already warmed up, put on a defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong instead. Sheer stu-pidity. If Tevez’ reaction was pet-ulant, it wasn’t because he didn’t want to play but because he was seething with frustration that he wasn’t out there playing already.
He’s making a quarter of a million a week, say those who want his head on a spike outside the City of Manchester Stadium.
So he has no right to complain about the way he’s treated. It’s a ridiculous amount of money, right enough. But it’s what the
club put on offer to the player’s management company. He can hardly have been expected to say,
Ah no, sure that’s far too much.And if money was all he was interested in, wouldn’t he just sit tight at City, unconcerned about whether he was on the field or the bench or at home watching the soaps, and pocket the dosh as it poured in? He’d have plenty of precedents for that, too.
Is Carlos Tevez more or less cynical than, say, Robbie Keane when it comes to putting his own interests and monetary ambitions before the interests of the club currently employing him?
Admittedly, there are differences. Robbie, unlike Carlos, has perfected a look of injured inno-cence during an erratic and lucra-tive career. Another difference is
that he’s not in the same league.
But say a word against Robbie in some Dublin circles and you are liable to get lynched.
“Players today think they can do what they want,” complained somebody in the Guardian. An interesting angle. Because it’s greatly to be doubted whether Tevez enjoys this degree of con-trol over his life, much less his career. He’s been at West Ham, United and City in his four sea-sons in England, each move arranged by Media Sports Invest-ments which apparently “owns” his “rights”.
It is a matter of conjecture how much of that quarter of a million a week flows into his bank ac-count, how much is channelled into the coffers of MSI. Some reports from Argentina at the time of his messy switch between the two Manchester clubs suggested that Tevez himself isn’t entirely certain.
His pleas to be allowed to move back to South American football last summer cannot have been motivated by money.
As the frothing mob musters to demand that Tevez is made an example of before the world, I hope that more voices will emerge from within the game to speak out loudly in his favour.
Read more from Eamonn McCann in the Journal every Tuesday