I recently witnessed a disturbing lack of respect at a game, not in any way shape or form related to the FA's Respect campaign.
That campaign, incidentally – judging by the abuse I still hear hurled at match officials at every single game I attend – has been largely ineffective.
You can put any number of spectators behind a plastic barrier with the word “Respect” emblazoned along its’ entire length, but it is not a suggestion that is adhered to by many who are supposed to stand behind it.
However, this was respect NOT shown by one team to their inferior opponents.
I judged there were four minutes remaining as the home team went 17-1 up. Yes, SEVENTEEN. The skipper of the scoring team ran into the goal to hastily retrieve the ball, and proceeded to sprint back to halfway for the kick-off.
Now I am used to seeing the shenanigans that ensue when a late goal is scored, when, believing that a comeback is on, the scoring team dash into the goal, the goalkeeper tries to delay proceedings by sticking the ball behind his back, or the centre-forward indulges in a grappling match with the goalie that would have done wrestling’s Jackie Pallo proud.
Generally common sense prevails, one team dashes back to halfway, the other saunters back, much time wasting ensues while the centre-forward pulls his socks up, the game re-starts and the referee ends the game.
So to see the team who were clearly about to win the game by a country mile determined to get the game going so quickly was somewhat perplexing.
I could not fathom out the motive behind this spectacle.
The losing team were, not surprisingly hesitant to re-start, on this occasion it was they who fiddled with socks and the keeper tied his laces –twice.
At this point the plot was revealed.
Suddenly, the captain of the team leading 17-1 yelled: “Get them going ref, we want 20.”
Now this did not sit right with me at all.
We have all seen poor teams and performances, but at least two teams have turned up for a game of football. Emphasis on the word game.
I remember travelling with seven colleagues on Easter Saturday one season to field a team of eight and be well beaten, but we went.
And were commended by our opponents after the game for showing up and fulfilling the fixture.
Anyway, back to the competitive captain.
The odd “boo” was heard from the small knot of spectators.
I now judged there to be two minutes remaining.
The referee blew for full-time, informing the captain that the opponents were not there to be belittled.
I don’t like to talk about referees, they are an emotive subject, but on this occasion the official was 100% right.
Respect should be displayed on the football field, as it should in society in general.