sport news Erling Haaland is our new poster boy for tantrums by entitled ... trends now
I travelled a few stops on the London Underground on Monday. Somewhere on the Bakerloo line between Marylebone and Paddington, I found myself staring at a poster above the row of seats opposite.
It showed a series of hands raised in the air and a message had been spelled out across them by Transport for London. ‘We won’t stand for abuse of TfL staff,’ it read, alongside a message warning of action being taken against those who transgressed.
Absolutely right, too. Because, apart from in football, where we are in thrall to the increasingly aggressive and unboundaried tantrums of a few over-entitled multi-millionaires, in what other walk of life would we look at the way Erling Haaland behaved towards referee Simon Hooper at The Etihad on Sunday and think it was in any way acceptable?
Where else other than football would we look at what Haaland did and then look the other way? Not in any other sport, that’s for sure. Not in rugby union or rugby league. Not in cricket. Not in hockey or tennis. Not anywhere. Why should football be an outlier any more? Why should we indulge this institutionalised thuggery a moment longer?
Hooper made a mistake when he reversed his earlier decision to play an advantage and blew for a foul on Haaland when the Norway striker had put Jack Grealish clean through on goal in the dying minutes of the 3-3 draw between Manchester City and Spurs on Sunday evening.
Erling Haaland fumed at referee Simon Hooper as Man City were held by Tottenham in a 3-3 draw on Sunday
Haaland and his City team-mates circled Hooper after he blew for a free-kick when City were wanting the advantage to be played
Maybe Hooper panicked under pressure. Maybe he thought he saw a linesman’s flag. It would be helpful if there was a line of communication so we got an explanation. It was a mistake and it was a big mistake. That is obvious. It may have changed the outcome of the game. It may not. None of it excuses Haaland’s behaviour.
Sure, City have been charged by the FA with failing to control their players after the melee that followed but they will not care about that. A fine is nothing to them. It is an irrelevance. Where is the individual accountability? Where is the threat of a punishment that actually hurts them and acts as a deterrent to Haaland and others? There is none.
Another reason City drew the game on Sunday is that Haaland made mistakes, too. He is a phenomenon as a player but there was a moment in the first half where Bernardo Silva played a square ball to him and, to general astonishment, Haaland put his shot wide from six yards out with the goal gaping.
It turns out that mistake cost City the victory. You could argue that anyway. But I didn’t see anyone rushing towards Haaland and screaming in his face, gesticulating at him, crowding him, yelling so close that he’d be able to feel their hot breath on his cheeks on a bitter night in Manchester. Haaland’s allowed to make a mistake but a referee isn’t?
I thought, by the way, that in our desperation to rid ourselves of VAR, we had now reached a consensus that we are prepared to accept good old-fashioned human error from referees. Errr, maybe mention that to Simon Hooper when he’s surrounded by a posse of City players and his reputation is being traduced up and down the land for a mistake under pressure.
This has been allowed to go on for way too long. It is almost 24 years since Jaap Stam, Roy Keane, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham formed a vigilante flash mob and, veins popping, fingers pointing, eyes staring, mouths agape, pursued referee Andy d’Urso around the Old Trafford pitch because they disagreed with one of his decisions.
It became one of the iconic football images of its time. It was used to illustrate the idea that Manchester United were out of control, drunk on their own power, flushed with their own success, creatures running on the anger and righteous indignation bred in them by Sir Alex Ferguson.
It is dispiriting beyond belief but, fuelled by player-power and the arrogance and entitlement brought by new levels of wealth, the behaviour of top-flight players towards referees has got worse since then and is feeding an epidemic of intimidation and