Whenever Joey Barton opens his mouth or, more frequently, puts his fingers to the keyboard, the British press salivates at the midfielder’s latest platter of beef, and this time it is with Manchester City battering ram, Carlos Tevez. According to reports in today’s papers, Barton poured salt on a wound that has been perpetually weeping since the final day of the 11/12 Premier League. Allegedly, the bull-headed midfielder, now plying his trade in Ligue 1 with Olympique Marseille, resurrected his annoyance with the FA over the twelve-match ban he received for resorting to playground tactics and giving City striker Sergio Aguero a dead leg, during a melee that began with an off-the-ball scrape between Barton and Tevez. Aside from raising a rather valid argument about the extent of his punishment, incredulously more severe than those handed out to John Terry and Luis Suarez for more obviously deplorable offences, Barton took a verbal swing at his Argentinean foe, asking whether it was he or Tevez who truly represented the grim underbelly of the modern game.
*The following comments were produced by The Sunday Mirror:
To wit: “Tevez? He’s a mercenary”
“You can’t really back him. Sure, I’m a hoodlum, I’ve got into scrapes – but Tevez is someone who in the last six months has gone on strike, gone off to Argentina to play golf, tried to get himself sacked.
“If that’s not the epitome of what’s wrong with modern players, I don’t know what is. And don’t forget, Tevez punched me first.”
Acidic words from an acid tongue, but does Barton have a cause for argument? Sure, his conduct on and off the field has been reprehensible at times, but no more so than the transgressions of regular citizens, who, in great numbers, have been prone to acts of violence and belligerence. Of course, Barton’s actions should not be condoned if all the stories had genuine substance; still, when a celebrity, particularly a sports star it would seem, is guilty of a moral flaw, their wrongdoings are amplified to ridiculous proportions. Joey Barton, though distasteful to some, is human like the rest of us, and although his behaviour is unsporting, if not downright uncouth at times, he does not embody all that is wrong with football in the 21st century. In fact, his affairs provide a mere sideshow that journalists in some quarters have become too fascinated with, putting their priorities in the wrong place for the sake of a selling point.
To be succinct, football is a contact sport played by physically robust athletes, in an atmosphere where aggression and testosterone operates on a knife-edge, where ensuing battles separate the men from the boys. Scraps will always be a feature, no matter what restrictions are put into place, so naturally matters will take the wrong turn now and again. Yes, an example needs to be set to the children who come to watch the games, as it is the responsibility of footballers to pay attention to the interests of the public, whether they like it or not. But nature is not always divine, and when the hounds are out to vilify Joey Barton, they are chasing the wrong bait. What really puts the integrity of football into disrepute is the financial and commercial inflation that continues to devour the benevolence of old, when players were not reified to a godly status but were seen as regular folk who happened to be rewarded with a gift. Nowadays, many players swan about towns and cities as if they were of royal birth or nobility, forgetting that they were once plain street kids who loved nothing more than to kick a ball, day or night, finding sanctuary in meagre, working-class surroundings, a base where the vast majority of footballers were born into. Once their potential has been realised and their long excursion complete, they sever their connections to regular society and retire to the primped, extravagant sphere of delusion, believing themselves to be above the humility of everyday life.
With every trophy, every goal, every year that passes, a great deal of footballers become increasingly more wanton, not content with the ridiculous luxuries already afforded to them. As a consequence, the price of match tickets soar, shirt sales inflate, and the working public become isolated, replaced by wealthy tourists and British bigwigs who have been lured to the stadiums by tyrannical advertising tactics. Players like Carlos Tevez are a crude archetype of the lack of respect and integrity in the contemporary footballer; petulant, self absorbed, and unrepentant of their misdeeds. What Tevez did to Manchester City was inexcusable; he insulted his team mates, his manager, and most importantly, the fans who sang his name from the terraces and applauded him like Olivier treading the boards at The National. The sheer audacity he displayed when he celebrated his goal against Norwich at Carrow Road after months spent in exile, imitating a golf swing in front of the travelling City support, was, quite frankly, a disgrace, and far worse than some of the skirmishes Joey Barton has instigated in the past. Therefore, if one had to back either the hothead from Huyton or the baddie from Buenos Aires, it would have to be the former.
We are currently seeking Joey Barton contributors on WhatCulture. To find out more about the perks of being a Joey Barton contributor, click here.
- 30 Sexiest WAGs Of 2012
- 50 Sexiest Women You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
- 10 Most Paused Movie Moments
- Football’s Worst Ever Cheating Divers
- 10 Great Footballers Who Made Terrible Managers
- 100 Greatest Premier League Players Of All Time
- 50 Great Footballers Who Ruled 2012
- 15 Worst Ever Premier League Signings