x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 September 2017

Rio Ferdinand, the serious intellectual

The Manchester United defender is clearly more bothered about Libya than the Rooney ban.

Rio Ferdinand, left, and Wayne Rooney were probably discussing the UN Resolution of 1970.
Rio Ferdinand, left, and Wayne Rooney were probably discussing the UN Resolution of 1970.

Sssh, don't tell Rio Ferdinand, but I am about to discuss Wayne Rooney.

The Manchester United defender says there are far more important things for newspapers to write about than his teammate's Anglo Saxon outburst into a live television camera. He suggests we focus instead on the civil wars in Libya and the Ivory Coast, or the ongoing plight of tsunami-stricken Japan.

Strangely, Ferdinand never mentioned this deep concern for the global news agenda when newspapers were writing nice things about Rooney, lavishing praise on the boy wonder or paying him millions to cover his wedding. Perhaps nothing else was happening in those periods. The rest of the world was entirely peaceful and happy, no doubt.

Still, just to be on the safe side, you'd better slip this page into something a little more serious, in case Ferdy happens to stroll past. Anything on underwater nuclear fission or the history of post-colonial Africa will be fine. If he catches your eye, just look pensive and say something deep, like: "When will Man learn?"

It is a shame Ferdinand will not be reading this - no doubt choosing to spend his Saturday leafing through a few Amnesty International reports instead - because I could tell him that newspapers are businesses, with a right to report on whatever they believe will shift the most units.

I could also point out that some newspapers contain more than one story in a single edition. Apparently this is due to the reasonably well-established notion that readers are perfectly capable of digesting important information about war and pestilence, etc, while also enjoying the harmless soap opera provided by sport. They usually manage to differentiate between the two types of story by using something called "perspective".

Sadly for Ferdinand, "perspective" is the new fragrance from Calvin Klein.

His total lack of it was demonstrated when he claimed that Rooney was being "lynched" for swearing.

Really? Is that what "lynching" means? I thought it meant a public execution without trial, but perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps, in the deep south of segregated America, innocent black people were actually tied to pick-up trucks and dragged around before being brutally criticised on radio phone-in shows and strongly-worded newspaper articles.

For those wishing to give Ferdinand the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that he really does not know what lynching means (which would be shameful in itself) he followed up his comments the next day by claiming people wanted to "string Rooney up".

Yes, string him up, stop him swearing in front of their kids. Same difference.

Has the media reaction to Rooney's swearing been over-the-top? In parts, yes. Would the same action by a less famous athlete have prompted the same feeding frenzy? Of course not.

But that is the deal with being a top-flight footballer and a household name. If Rooney does not like the negative media attention, he can either change his negative behaviour or his job.

Why is that so hard for the likes of Ferdinand and Rooney to understand? Is it because they spend so long thinking about the conflicting presidential claims of Laurent Gbagbo and Alessane Ouattara, or the legal and ethical restrictions of UN Resolution 1970?

Or is it because it is easier to blame the big bad media bogeyman for reporting your failings than actually address that behaviour? Anyway, look lively, Ferdinand is on his way. Better say something political. Erm, Free Tibet!

Want to resolve disputes in football? Try custard pie-ing each other

With the summer transfer window in sight, football managers are circling the wagons around their most valued assets.

Mick McCarthy, the Wolverhampton Wanderers manager, issued an unusual threat this week to any rival he catches sniffing around his rising star Matt Jarvis, who has been winning plaudits all season.

“If anybody comes knocking at my door,” he said, “they will get a custard pie.”

Sadly, he was probably talking figuratively – the “custard pie” meaning an immediate and humiliating verbal rebuff, rather than that staple gag of circus clowns and 1970s British children’s television, facial assault with an egg-based dessert.

I say “sadly” because football could benefit in so many ways by the introduction of custard pie-ing as a punishment for low-level offences.

The custard pie is a great tension-breaker, as both the recipient and deliverer enjoy the process. Everyone smiles after a custard pie-ing, right? Imagine how many of football’s simmering feuds could have been nipped in the bud by the offending party submitting to a faceful of pastry and custard or, for lower league clubs, the budget option of a paper plate loaded with shaving foam.

Remember all that festering bitterness between Everton and Manchester City over the signing of Joleon Lescott? Even David Moyes would have cracked a smile and moved on had he been allowed to custard-pie Mark Hughes.

John Carew could still be scoring for Aston Villa if Gerard Houllier had submitted to a faceful of crème anglaise on his first day. As for Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, who can remember who even started that nonsense? They should bury their difference in a simultaneous pie-ing of each other – although I do worry that Wenger would refuse to shake hands afterwards and Fergie’s pudding would need to be probed for submerged bricks.

You’d still watch it though.

sports@thenational.ae