What’s The Point In Watching A Rigged Game?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a Liverpool fan. Somewhere at my mum and dad’s house, lost in the boxes covered in dust, is a photo of me in a Liverpool kit aged about six or seven. I’ve loved the Reds from the moment that I understood what football is, enjoying playing the sport when I could and watching it when I couldn’t. I’ve got friends that are Liverpool fans, but for most of them it is the sort of thing that they call themselves whilst only watching the match when it’s on the tele and they’ve got nothing better to do. Certainly none of them live and breathe it in the same way that I do. I would like to think that I can talk about the wider game of football in a sensible manner too. I have friends who support Leicester City, Manchester United, Leeds United and Charlton Athletic. We can talk football in a way that isn’t all about tribalism, although I’d be lying if I said that a wee bit of tribalism doesn’t shine through in our discussions every now and then.

That is how things should be. It is right that my mate Aaron, who supports United, doesn’t give me an inch when I ‘wear my Liverpool-supporter glasses.’ Of course Leicester supporting Ian was winding me up about the match when we played them in the League Cup. That is the nature of being a football fan, pushing the buttons of others to try to get a rise out of them. Some people get a bit carried away about that and use idiotic sticks to beat fans of other teams. If I mentioned Munich to Aaron as a windup, our friendship would quickly draw to a close just as it would if he tried to use Hillsborough to score points against me. There are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed and, with those that understand football, rarely are. Over the past few years, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed watching a Liverpool game, whether that be in person or on TV. Being a fan is a huge part of my life, but I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing it when the game feels so rigged.

The Premier League Has No Integrity Anymore

There will be plenty of people reading this that feel as if it’s a huge over-reaction. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m a little bit tired, a touch hungover and a tad angry. Yet to me, supporting the Reds has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. I am a Liverpool fan because my dad was and his dad was. My dad’s getting older now. I don’t know how much longer he’ll be around for and he isn’t as into the football as he once was. Whatever the future holds for him, I’ll always have the memories of watching the Reds with him. There is barely a big game over the past three decades or so that I didn’t watch with my dad by my side. Perhaps that’s what makes all this so hard to stomach. The fact that football isn’t just a game, but is linked to the people that we love. That our memories of them aren’t held in isolation but are intertwined with the goals of Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Mo Salah. When I think of Liverpool winning the Champions League in 2019, I think of being stood with my dad for the trophy lift.

When the Reds won the Premier League title, rules were in place about how many people could meet and where it could happen. I invited the requisite number of people round to my house to watch the Chelsea v Manchester City game in 2020, making sure that my dad was one of them. I had to be with him when it happened, even if we couldn’t celebrate as I’d always dreamt of. Maybe that is why the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur yesterday has affected me as much as it has. It isn’t just that we didn’t get the point that we richly deserved, because I’ve seen Liverpool fail to win plenty of points over the years. Instead, I think it’s because it is about so much more than just a football match. It was a calamitous performance from the officials, but I’ve seen a fair few of them over the years, too. What I haven’t seen, though, is a perfectly legitimate goal, which even the officials watching on video replay said was legitimate, not given. It has made the integrity of the competition feel like a farce.

This Isn’t Just A 50-50 Decision We Didn’t Get

When Darren England advised Simon Hooper to take another look at Curtis Jones’ challenge on Yves Bissouma, he should have shown him the whole incident at normal speed first so as not to bias his opinion. Instead, he lined up a still of the tackle at the moment of impact, which very clearly tainted what Hooper was going to think of what he was being shown. It wasn’t a red card offence, which you know is true if it’s a Liverpool player that committed it and even Gary Neville is saying he shouldn’t have been sent off. That was frustrating. It made my blood boil, but it’s the sort of thing that happens every now and then and you just have to swallow it. Similarly, Diogo Jota was an idiot for jumping into the tackle that he got his second booking for, but the first booking was shown for a player tripping himself up. It was annoying, but it happens in football and you need to get on with it, with Jota as much to blame for his dismissal as Hooper for mistakenly thinking he’d fouled Destiny Udogie.

They are all the sorts of decisions that most teams seem to suffer from during the course of a Premier League season, albeit it Manchester City don’t tend to get anywhere near as many of them as Liverpool do. Yet the failure to give the goal to Luis Diaz wasn’t just the sort of 50-50 incident that goes against you during the course of a campaign. It was officials being incompetent at best, corrupt at worst. That Darren England, the Video Assistant Referee who failed to make it clear in his communication to Hooper that the goal was legitimate, had only flown back from the United Arab Emirates on Thursday certainly makes things look worse. Having been refereeing out in the U.A.E. and effectively being paid by the owners of Manchester City, it is not a good look for the Professional Game Match Officials Limited that he then made such a catastrophic error. City’s financial doping has made the game difficult to stomach for years now. This might just have tipped me over the edge into walking away altogether.

One Response
  1. October 1, 2023

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