Norwich City are a likeable club, and currently run by a pleasant-seeming bloke called Allan Russell. He used to be the club’s ‘setpiece coach’, whose claim to fame was that he was working with the England squad in 2018 when they scored against the mighty Panama. Good for him, of course, but has football become too dependent on the ever-expanding phalanx of managerial officials now filling up the bench at every game under the sun? Is the beautiful game losing sight of what really matters? After all, this might be a world where a championship side can have a setpiece coach, but it is also a world where Pele had to flog his medals to get by.
Amid the panoply of Pele panegyrics, one image stands out: the mesmerising picture of Pele and Bobby Moore swapping shirts after England had lost 1-0 to Brazil at Guadalajara in the 1970 Mexico World Cup. What is clear is the palpable sincerity of both men’s respect and admiration for each other, reflected most clearly in their smiles. Compare this with the antics in the last World Cup of Neymar, or of Argentina’s even more deplorable goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez. Where did it go wrong? Can the spirit of Pele and Moore be rekindled?
It’s a matter of leadership, the sort of leadership that Gareth Southgate has demonstrated during his time as England manager. People tended to scoff at the fair play award won by England in Qatar. But why? Isn’t it every bit as vital for the spirit of sport? Equally important, there should be some sort of punishment passed down to the managers and national associations of teams and players who misbehave. Fifa should have fined the Argentina FA for their team’s lack of sportsmanship throughout the tournament (nothing new there) and fined and banned Martinez for his behaviour during and after the final.
And this behaviour is creeping throughout football.