- Aaron Ramsey deserves abuse for having the temerity to break his leg on Shawcross’s foot, and then doing something much, much worse: responding to songs abusing him of his leg break by…wait for it…putting his finger to his mouth!
- That Arsenal fans should be the ones to lay off Shawcross (notice no mention of Stoke City fans laying off songs celebrating Ramsey’s leg break?) because there was, and I quote from their chairman, “never any intent whatsoever on Ryan’s part.”
The strange, irrational thing about Stoke City and their fans is that they celebrate and encourage violence in their players while at the same time denying that any of their players could have any intention of committing violence. Stoke’s reaction to the FA’s charging of Charlie Adam is symptomatic. They are, to quote the club’s statement, “surprised and disappointed” to learn that an FA panel deemed intention in Adam’s stamp on Giroud.
Steven Nzonzi, however, was not surprised and disappointed. In fact, he was delighted that all went according to plan. His recent comments are indicative of just the kind of rhetoric that has come out of Stoke City Football Club for the last several years:
We know that Arsenal play good football but when you start kicking them a little bit, it gets harder for them. They don’t like it. We know that. We don’t care.
Let that sink in.
That there is a culture of intentional violence at Stoke City is undeniable. Their players have admitted intention, and yet, incredibly, in the very next breath, they feign shock and disappointment that anybody would accuse their players of doing exactly what they say they do. The next time you hear of a lack of intention (whether Shawcross on Adebayor, Walcott, and Ramsey, or Adam on Giroud), remind them how much they claim intention.
This is a club that actively seeks violence–lays claim to it, supports it unapologetically–and then denies it when it might hurt their reputation. It’s self-serving and cowardly. I don’t care what you say about how all football clubs and their fans are hypocritical. True. But there’s a difference between seeking and celebrating physical harm on a human being, and playing a silly game with the media. Unfortunately, for that club, there is no difference.
It would be better for them to man up (aren’t they real men who enjoy putting it “up them” and how much they like it that other men “don’t like it up them”?) and just admit that it’s true what they…err…say they do.
So what’s the solution? I wish I could be magnanimous about all of this. Truthfully, I find it exhausting continuing with this Stoke issue, but, unfortunately, they aren’t letting it go, and neither are we.
And, in a sense, why should it be ‘let go’? Why should a club that unabashedly celebrates violence be let off? Moreover, Stoke fans are complicit. They don’t want to let go of the pleasure they derive from abusing a young player who endured a broken leg. They sing the songs. Their chairman plays the victim. Repeat. For as long as they are perpetuating this nonsense, we should be calling it for what it is.
The problem with Stoke is that they represent a parochial and hopelessly outdated approach to football that is, thankfully, dying. That it is dying is confirmed by the fact that they are the only team currently playing in the top flight that thinks it’s a badge of honor to injure other players. They are sustained only insofar as referees buy into their backward nature in the interest of some vapid notion of British bulldoggedness.
It is thus inevitable rather than ironic that our destinies are entwined. England’s most progressive club, most radical top-four club in terms of operation, devoted to skills related to the object of the game, are at this moment entangled aesthetically, footballistically, morally, with England’s most backward club.
If we find ourselves talking about them, reacting to them, we should not be surprised. They want to sustain it. We want to sustain it. And to the extent that we keep this moral rivalry alive (because, let’s be honest, there’s no rivalry in terms of the table) is the extent to which the ethos of each club couldn’t be further from the other.