Terry Christie: Corinthian spirit has sadly disappeared from the modern game

The professional foul is, in my view, one of the worst forms of cheating

Manchester United’s Gary Neville tackles Sunderland’s Julio Arca during a match at Old Trafford in 2000. Picture: PA

Good foul. Had to take one for the team,” says the former international footballer now television pundit.

“Why are you bellowing at the television?” asks my long-suffering wife, shouting through to me from her normal Sunday afternoon slot beside the induction hob in the new extension.

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The reason for my yelling at my dearest possession (the 60-inch telly) is that I amfinding it increasingly difficult to cope with the almost complete lack of the Corinthian spirit in today’s football.

Nothing epitomises this more than the acceptance of what is known as the professional foul.

As Gary Neville explained to the young girls and boys watching Monday Night Football; it is a player’s duty to push/hold/pull/trip any opponent who is running away from you and is threatening your goal. The only time such fouls are properly punished is when they deny a clear goalscoring opportunity. The cynical middle of the park professional fouls often do not result in the appearance of even a yellow card.

Feigning injury is seen as cheating by the manly inhabitants of our island. But fouling is also most definitely cheating and the professional foul is very distant from the proper spirit of the game and is, in my view, one of the worst forms of cheating.

What is to be done about it? A straight red card is the obvious and only proper answer to that question.

Unlike other sports there is a laissez faire approach by officials when it comes to enforcing the laws of football. “Keeping the game flowing” is the frequent excuse for not punishing offenders.

And then there is the problem of actually grabbing hold of your opponent on which the laws are explicit – holding an opponent is punished by the awarding of a direct free kick.

This law is ignored as witnessed by the mayhem that goes on at every corner kick.

As Gary would say when a player’s jersey is pulled, “Not enough in that to give a free-kick”. How about throw-ins? These are supposed to be taken from the spot where the ball left the field of play. Aye right!

Even the placing of the ball in the arc at corners kicks seems to be unenforceable.

So often is the ball placed out of the arc with the approval of the assistant referee that I looked up my well-thumbed copy of the laws to see if I had missed a change in Law 17. No change.

Some time ago I spoke to an ex-player of mine who is now 
doing well as a football 
commentator.

I advised him to study the Laws of the Game and thereby be one of the very few “football experts” who actually knows the rules.

He gave me that look you give to an older person you like and are trying not to offend.

Ah well, as I cope with the post viral effects of the dreaded coronavirus I can at least look forward to the resumption of football.

I do miss shouting at the telly.

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