x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Olympics: Football still beats a fling with Games

Olympics 2012: To disguise your new-found addiction to victory as a moral stance is hypocritical, to say the least.

Footballers have been derided as egoistical bankers of the sport.
Footballers have been derided as egoistical bankers of the sport.

Have you joined the exodus from English football that the Olympics has inspired?

Are you swapping the Gunners for archery, Spurs for equestrian, the Tractor Boys for the track and field boys?

We all are, apparently. The blogosphere is clogged with football fans threatening to turn their backs on the tainted mercenaries of football and embrace the humble heroes showcased during London 2012.

"The Olympics is making professional footballers look like the nasty egotistical bankers of sport," thundered the British newspaper The Guardian, "for here instead are glowing people full of dreams and spirit."

It is deeply ironic that this assessment, shared by millions, is based upon laziness and glory hunting - those two character failings of which footballers are so frequently accused.

Let us start with the laziness. This notion that Olympians and footballers dwell at opposite ends of the nobility spectrum does not stand up to even slight scrutiny.

Yes, the Olympians' media interviews are often a joy compared to the sour-faced mumblings of some footballers. But that is the power of novelty.

Try sticking a camera in their face every week for the next four years, twisting their words to ramp up a story, then see how sunny they are. (Incidentally, I have yet to see a footballer be as rude to an interviewer as the British cyclist Mark Cavendish was after his failure in the road race. But, hey, why let the facts stand in the way of a good generalisation?)

Yes, some footballers can seem arrogant and preening compared to our Olympians (although let's remember that for every Mario Balotelli, there are 10 Gareth Barrys).

Those who find such behaviour distasteful in footballers presumably refused to watch the men's 100-metre sprint final, in which the pre-race strutting and posing was some 10 times longer than the actual dash.

And, yes, football is frequently besmirched by gamesmanship, cheating and bad losing. But so is the Olympics, where some participants have been caught deliberately losing games, failing drugs tests and generally acting in a brattish manner.

I do not blame Dayron Robles, the Cuban hurdler, for petulantly throwing a hurdle after crashing out of the 110m final, but consider the fuss made if, say, Wayne Rooney had done something similar.

Olympians are not saints. They are, by definition, obsessive and self-centred individuals. They have to be.

But even if they are perfect, those Brits who threaten to reject football must ask themselves why they have not noticed this before. Why did you not embrace some noble minority sport after Atlanta or Sydney or Athens?

Could it possibly be because -whisper it - they were not winning very much back then?

To be a glory hunter is not a mortal sin. However, to disguise your new-found addiction to victory as a moral stance is hypocritical, to say the least. To accuse footballers of lacking "dreams and spirit" simply to suit your own selfish narrative makes you the spoilt one.

To me, the Olympics is like any summer romance: intense and wonderful but temporary. Football is more like a spouse: its familiarity may cause occasional contempt, but we should treasure it for life.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE