Thursday, September 07, 2006

No respect

Professional athletes and those surrounding them must overcome a myriad of obstacles in their pursuits. Career-threatening injuries, a hectic and taxing schedule, sometimes animosity from the public, all these things must be dealt with by sportsmen and their respective coaching staffs.

But it seems the one thing these men (not much moaning in women’s sports, comparatively) cannot abide by is a lack of respect. The issue of respect seems to pop up on a weekly basis, such as the William Gallas saga, and now it seems to be an issue for Lawrie Sanchez, who saw his Northern Ireland side grasp a historic victory from Spain last night.

It seems to me that whenever anyone bemoans a lack of respect, especially in a public and vehement way that so many footballers do (and Jose Mourinho), we can pretty much assume we’re again dealing with incredibly skilled people who typically exhibit the emotional capability of a toddler.

Tenacity is an obvious asset in a professional athlete, but it should not be confused with obstinacy. Ashley Cole is another great example. Feeling wronged by the only club he’s known, the relationship between Arsenal and the England left-back had deteriorated so badly, there was no other option than to offload him somewhere else. And you can be sure Arsene Wenger and David Dein aren’t the most flexible of bosses.

I suppose that’s what keeps us coming back for more, poring over sensationalistic write-ups (the English are exceptionally good at melodrama), with the gossip and rumor surrounding the transfer windows as a good example.

I think William Gallas was justified in his distaste with his wages, but was his dispute with Chelsea really irreparable? And the mudslinging between the club and former player is a manifestation of Mourinho’s inability to “lose” (and he got Ashley Cole despite it all!) gracefully.

Now Lawrie Sanchez, who presided over Northern Ireland, leading them to their first victory in almost three years, and dramatically improved the squad. His greatest achievement with the team, other than the victory over Spain, was a 1-0 defeat of England in a World Cup qualifier, staged in Belfast.

That victory over England may have decided his fate. After a 3-0 loss to Iceland in NI’s first Euro qualifier, Sanchez felt the backlash from the media and boos from the fans. Almost a year to the day he lead his team to defeat England, his and Northern Ireland’s greatest victory at the time, the former Wycombe manager faced increasing criticism.

The Irish FA expect Sanchez to see out his contract, which runs until the end of next year. After the match, Sanchez tossed his IFA tie and blazer into the crowd. Perhaps he’s the benevolent gaffer, like Mourinho when he used to give away his notes to fans after Chelsea home matches. More likely, he’s on his way out.

And will he find more respect elsewhere? Perhaps, but the 14,500 fans in Windsor Park stopped their booing long enough to cheer on their team to a stunning comeback, and it was louder than Old Trafford on a match Saturday.

Northern Ireland 3-2 Spain [Independent]
Northern Ireland's group [UEFA]
A Year Ago [BBC Sport]
Loving Lawrie [YouTube]

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