I really don’t know much about football, and I point this out a lot. I haven’t played it at any organised level since I was 8. I watch quite a lot of it, but I’m not a detail guy. I honestly don’t know a 4-4-2 from a 4-3-3 from a 3-2-1-3-1 and I try not to pretend to. I love the game for its flow, its simplicity, its atmosphere, its suspense and its backstories, not its intricacies.
The main reason I regularly reinforce this is partly to plead with you to cut me some slack when I stuff things up. You shouldn’t take me too seriously if I don’t take myself seriously at all. And actually, football is something none of us should take too seriously. It’s escapism, at the end of the day, not life and death – insert Bill Shankly quote.
But more than that, none of us should take ourselves too seriously when it comes to football, because the game has a way of making even the most knowledgeable amongst us look rather stupid at reasonably regular intervals.
A pretty good case study for this can be found in my beloved Roma’s start to the season. [Don’t worry, this post isn’t all about Roma, just the next four paragraphs, you can ride it out.]
After six straight games in all competitions where we failed to pick up a victory, including a humiliating 2-0 loss to a bottom of the table Bologna side that hadn’t scored a single goal before then, Eusebio Di Francesco’s job was on the line barely a month into the season.
All of a sudden the coach that guided us to a European semi-final for the first time since 1984 was considered by most fans to be utter garbage – and the sooner he went the better. Twitter was revolting towards him, and there were articles and podcasts all demanding his removal. There was no foreseeable way whatsoever that he could turn it around.
What a difference a couple of weeks makes.
Three straight impressive victories, including a 3-1 derby triumph, has stopped everyone in their tracks. All of a sudden Roma looks like a completely different team and there are mea culpas all over the internet as everyone who called for Di Francesco’s head with such vitriol is now forced to admit that as things stand at the moment, history may well judge them rather harshly.
I know social media is set up for instant reactions, but I wish people would sometimes put a bit more thought into what they tweet before they go for the cheap instant likes and retweets.
I have thought this a lot during the Football Ferns/Andreas Heraf saga as well.
Yes, there were failings, yes there was some negligence, yes there was some appalling behaviour – all this has been confirmed by the Muir report. We know this, it’s been well canvassed, we’ve all had a good old crack at Martin and Heraf but they are gone now – never to darken our doorways again. At what point do we miss a line and rule off?
Sure, we have to learn the lessons but continuing to bash people over the head won’t help. Further, some of the takes have been lacking in humanity while others are just poorly thought out.
While I don’t know a lot about football, despite running a football blog, thanks to my union day job I do know quite a lot about good industrial relations practices – and we are talking about an employer/employee relationship here.
The harsh comments some people have levelled at NZF for not releasing the full Muir report are ignorant. The full report will almost certainly contain information that’s sensitive to the complainants, whose privacy must be protected – by law and by common decency. To exclude private information from the final report would have watered it down too much, to include it in a public document would be to add further trauma to the complainants who everyone is rightly lauding for their bravery in coming forward, and so it makes sense that only the recommendations have been made public.
The other focus of a lot of vitriol, the Andy Martin ‘retirement’ and any monetary settlement that might have been reached with the board to facilitate it, was in all probability the only pragmatic way forward. The last thing the game needs is for this to be dragged out for another year with a disgruntled ex-CEO taking personal grievances and making public comments after a prolonged disciplinary process. Almost all employment settlements contain gagging clauses that apply to both parties for very good reasons. And I promise you this route is financially cheaper for most organisations than QCs at dawn.
I also have some sympathy for the board. We should remember that they do what they do without personal gain. Colloquially we know what you get when you pay peanuts, and the implications from this of paying less than peanuts are clear. One of the Muir Report’s recommendations was to look at paying directors, and I think that would be a sensible thing to do to try to improve the quality of candidates, but in the meantime they are volunteer board members of a relatively small organisation – they aren’t going to be perfect. Yes, they should be accountable but that doesn’t mean they should be abused by keyboard warriors.
Of course criticism is fine when it’s valid and well placed, it can be healthy, but when it’s not it does more harm than good. And people should remember that whatever they have done, these people are still human beings at the end of the day. “Let he that is without sin cast the first stone” and all that.
Let’s all have a bit of humility, stop taking ourselves so seriously and think before we tweet lest history judges us harshly.
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma.