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Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 13:57 UK

Dealing with football's 'impostors'

Jonathan Pearce
By Jonathan Pearce
BBC football commentator

Emmanuel Adebayor
He looked like a man beserk with his headlong charge downfield to celebrate his goal

On this day in 1982 Princess Grace of Monaco died ridiculously young after a car crash. That was a genuine tragedy.

Sixty-nine years ago this week the Battle of Britain was won. Hitler postponed Operation Sealion - the planned invasion of these shores. That was true victory.

Sporting triumph and disaster should never mirror real life but we have created twin monsters of those two impostors. So should we be horrified at Emmanuel Adebayor's excesses?

Of course, the Manchester City striker deserves to be condemned.

His behaviour before kick-off, prancing in the Arsenal half of the field, lacked respect. He may say he did not mean to kick Robin Van Persie in the head but anyone who has played the game would beg to differ. He appeared to glance down at a man who had committed a stupid tackle on him before taking a retaliatory kick at the Dutchman's head.

Claims that he could have taken out Van Persie's eye may be hysterical but it was certainly a red card offence.

The incident was followed by Adebayor's headlong charge downfield to celebrate his goal. If it was premeditated, it was dangerous. If he, indeed, was merely "caught up in the emotion of the whole occasion", he was worryingly out of control.


Michael Turner's reaction to scoring for Sunderland against Hull provided a telling contrast. He initially ran towards his old club's fans, then - realising his error instantly - apologised with a hand gesture and turned away towards his new followers.

Adebayor should learn from that and also from the way sixties and seventies stars diffused terrace abuse through humour.

Rodney Marsh laughed at the personal hostilities. George Best thrived on them. Bobby Moore never lost his dignity.

The terrace abuse of Adebayor has become venomously personal at times though and is typical of the bile that has seeped into the current game. It is not right to argue that players earn offensive salaries and should expect attacks from less affluent supporters who pay good money.

Adebayor apologises for goal celebration

It could be said that all modern society suffers the same foul-mouthed problem - it is not only football's to deal with. However, the game does have a responsibility and just as it will hit Adebayor hard, so should it punish the most barbaric of the terrace thugs.

They cannot expect total commitment from the players, games of absolute intensity and then not expect occasional hot-headed reactions from young men who, because of 24-hour coverage of the sport, are living in a goldfish bowl.

When that reaction comes, self-control off the pitch is as important as on it, although equally difficult to maintain.

Sport is not the place for soapbox preaching. It is afflicted by hypocrisy. After all, how many people now revelling in the Adebayor witch-hunt would willingly turn a blind eye to rugby's physical excesses?

Witch-hunts serve no purpose. The referee dealt with the goal celebration offence with the appropriate yellow card at the time. That should suffice, along with a warning that any repeat will bring a lengthy suspension. For me, any celebration close to the stands should be banned anyway.

Michael Turner
Sunderland's Michael Turner also scored against his former club

As for the tackle on Van Persie, a three-match suspension would satisfy current regulations on serious foul play. Any other outcome from trial by TV would set as dangerous a precedent as the highly suspect Uefa ban for Eduardo's "simulation".

Mistakes were made this weekend. Bad ones. But then the Premier League is exactly the spectacle it is because of mistakes. It is fuelled by high-octane passion. Errors bring goals and drama. Goals bring joy. Drama brightens pub debate and chat room drudgery

If we and Adebayor could treat the impostors of triumph and disaster the same, ours would be "the earth and everything that's in it", as Kipling would say - and "which is more" Adebayor would be "a man, my son!"

Sadly, football men, on and off the field, are flawed. It would be hypocritical of us all to forget that.

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see also
Adebayor hit with two FA charges
15 Sep 09 |  Premier League
Man City 4-2 Arsenal
12 Sep 09 |  Premier League
Important win for Man City - Hughes
12 Sep 09 |  Man City
Adebayor finalises Man City move
18 Jul 09 |  Man City

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