Halftime Sports

The Cost(a) of Winning

March 16, 2015

“Mourinho’s teams will always be respected but they’ll never be loved.”

This was Jamie Carragher’s assessment of Chelsea following their Champions League match with Paris Saint Germain. This comment attacks the tactics Mourinho used in order to achieve victory. As a competitive sport, a good result should be one of the top priorities, but football fans all over the world have begun to question some of the methods club teams have started to take in order to achieve that win.

All teams, to some extent, use slightly unfair tactics to secure the win, especially during the dying moments of a game while protecting a slender lead. The manager would sub off players after extra time had begun, with the on-field player taking as much time as he can to walk off the field. Teams would also run towards the corner flag and let a physical player shield the ball to waste time, rather than to attempt another attack and risk a dangerous counterattack. These examples, along with many others that happen on and off the field, do annoy fans and opposing players, but do not harm the integrity of the beautiful game; this is why it is merely frowned upon and nothing more.

The reason why Carragher, backed up with tremendous support from all over the world, openly criticized Mourinho and Chelsea’s match against PSG goes along the same reasoning: they did harm the integrity of the beautiful game. Other than the shocking moment when nine Chelsea players surrounded the referee to force him to give Zlatan Ibrahimovic a red card, the performance of Diego Costa has to be addressed and criticized.

There is no doubt that the Brazilian-born Spanish international is a world class striker, with an amazing season with Athletico Madrid last year and leading the English Premier League’s scoring charts this season. However, it is his attitude when he isn’t putting the ball in the back of the net that bothers football fans. When he isn’t looking to score, he focuses on angering opposition players and intimidating them to put them off of their game. During this single match alone, there is evidence of Costa picking fights with Thigao Motta, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, and Marquinhos – the most blatant of them being his ridiculous shove towards Marquinhos which should have gotten him a sending off if the referee spotted the incident. Costa continues to stick his head into unnecessary business and create drama where there doesn’t need to be any.

Of course, football always has hardmen who commit dangerous challenges and gets into fights. However, those individuals are usually players whose job it is to do the dirty work, usually defensive midfielders. The prime example in the Premier League would be Lee Cattermole. A steady anchorman at Sunderland, Cattermole is known for his no-nonsense attitude when it comes to protecting his backline and stopping the other team from attacking his goal. Only a strong-willed player would be able to commit to the tackles, the physical challenges, and the individual fights with the opposing team. In this case, the aggressive nature of the player comes out from the job he is required to do. This is not the case with Costa. The arguments he has come out of nowhere; no other forward would spark drama the way that he would. His moments of aggressiveness come out when he doesn’t have the ball, when the cameras point towards another part of the pitch, when the referee is looking the other way. These behind-the-scenes sideshows simply don’t have a positive impact whatsoever on the sport of football and just dirties it. This aspect doesn’t speak to Costa’s ability as a striker; rather, it speaks to Costa’s status as a sportsman. He simply is not a good sportsman.

Costa has enough ability and potential to rise even more. He is already one of the best strikers in the world at the moment, and he definitely can continue this high stature for a long time. However, if he wants to be remembered as a legend even after his retirement, he needs to start acting like a proper sportsman. If he continues down this track, as Carragher claimed, he will only be respected for his goals, but will not be loved by his fans.

PC: Wikimedia Commons user- Ytoyoda

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