Football should unequivocally be about sport and nothing else!

SIMON JORDAN: Please shut your mouths! Football should absolutely, unequivocally be about sport (and nothing else)… we’re in danger of virtue signalling over politics, war or society’s ills

  • Jordan Henderson received boos when playing for England against Australia 
  • The simplest thing would be for footballers to just stop being such hypocrites 
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’ 

For a man as seemingly intelligent as Gareth Southgate, he displayed something of a blind spot when it came to his selection of Jordan Henderson as England captain.

Southgate expressed his surprise that England fans booed Henderson but surely he can’t be that obtuse?

Football fans can sometimes be deluded and have a sense of entitlement but you can fool some people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Fans know the world and they know that footballers are prone to having observations without any substance.

The simplest thing would be for footballers to perform what is their raison d’etre and get on with playing football and stop being such bloody hypocrites.

Maybe if players kept their traps shut about every cause under the sun they wouldn’t find themselves in situations such as the one which left Henderson in no doubt about how his move to Saudi Arabia is perceived.

Jordan Henderson had been subjected to boos when featuring for England against Australia

Gareth Southgate had criticised those to boo the midfielder but claimed not to know why they had done so

Mail Sport’s Simon Jordan argues that footballers should get on with their playing duties and stop being hypocrites

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When it suited him, Henderson liked to be held up as a major advocate and supporter for the LGBTQ+ community but the reaction of the Wembley crowd was simply the consequence of his actions. 

So when Southgate starts opining and complaining about why players are getting booed, maybe if they focused on the business of football and realised, with the greatest respect in the world, there aren’t many people being influenced by footballers’ opinions, they wouldn’t face these accusations of hypocrisy. If there was real substance then there might be a modicum more respect.

If you asked the average footballer about the plight and travails of a particular cause that they are supposedly advocating for, besides a few platitudes, most of them only have a surface level knowledge or interest. That is no crime but somehow they have been convinced that their utterings have real significance. That’s not to suggest they are ignorant, just young, impressionable footballers. What they most definitely are not is campaigners or politicians.

Footballers’ images can often be leveraged for valuable causes but in this very complicated and very complex world, sport shouldn’t feel obligated to be the antidote to all of that. Football is about escapism. It should be the place that people go for a couple of hours where they don’t have to think about politics or war or society’s ills. Football or sport has got no real business getting involved in these issues, particularly when it’s really a veneer to show that sport has the answers or gravitas.

Listen to FIFA’s self-important Gianni Infantino calling for peace in the Middle East, as if he presides over some Vatican state-like significance and commands a Swiss guard. You are a football administrator Gianni for goodness sake, not some peace envoy! Is he advocating for a Christmas Day armistice football match on the Gaza strip? I suspect not — and I assume FIFA won’t be making any significant financial donations to victims of the atrocities.

Our FA found themselves attacked from all sides over their decision not to light the arch in Israel’s colours. But again, that is the consequence of their own actions. If they hadn’t spent so much time virtue-signalling in recent years for a variety of causes, they wouldn’t have been so open to criticism. Unsurprisingly, the FA have announced they will review their guidelines on lighting up the arch.

Despite often being uninformed, the FA have attached themselves to easy causes like Black Lives Matter — an organisation that now issues support to the Hamas terrorists — because it feels it needs to be part of a movement to promote messages.

But football — and sport — has no business in this sphere. Sport wants to be at the front of the queue to impart wisdom but doesn’t seem to understand it lacks the courage of its convictions to follow it through. Sport should simply be absolutely, unequivocally, undeniably about sport. We’re in danger of becoming virtue signal, virtue signal, virtue signal and a side order of sport.

Southgate must take some of the blame with the current attitudes towards the England star

The FA came in for criticism after not lighting up the Wembley arch in blue and white on Friday

Maybe a little less noise and a little more football would be better for everyone. If I want to hear about political views I can tune in to news channels and find out but I want my footballers, sportsmen and women to be just that on the occasion I pay to see them. When I’m going to see someone throw a javelin, jump over a bar, kick a football or hit a tennis ball, all I’m really interested is that.

With Henderson, Southgate must take some blame. He is the one who opened this door, he’s the one that made the front-foot stance about how players should be allowed to express themselves leading up to World Cups while recently suffering a bout of amnesia when he complained that footballers are not politicians.

Now Southgate will no doubt say that, in the absence of Harry Kane, Henderson is his captain because of the value he adds in the dressing room, the trust he has in him and the quality of his football. Okey dokey, so our leaders are built out of hypocritical double standards are they? What a shoddy state of affairs.

Henderson plays in a sub-standard league in a country with the kind of culture he was so vocally and publicly opposed to. Until they came calling with bags of cash. So Southgate has to accept there is going to be some form of fan reaction to him being captain and if you don’t like the reaction, don’t put Henderson in that position. 

Don’t engender a culture where players think they can stand on a moral soapbox, telling people how things should be in a utopian world while being chauffeur-driven to games and taking private planes around the world without any skin in the game besides a few meaningless words.

Let’s not forget how much football valued and missed fans during Covid and yet now, when they voice their opinion, it is considered unwelcome.

Henderson espoused the world of his views, was then employed by the very people his supposed principles objected to and was still rewarded with the captain’s armband. And Southgate wonders why people boo? I know people in football live in a bubble but this is one the size of bloody Center Parcs.

The Premier League sees players take the knee ahead of kick-off on a regular basis

FIFA president Gianni Infantino (right) has been calling for peace in the Middle East

Van Dijk talking nonsense on too many games 

Virgil van Dijk came out with some self-indulgent tosh this week.

Liverpool’s Dutch defender was moaning about players having to play too many games and argued they should have a say in a ‘solution’. They don’t want a say in the solution, they want to tell everyone what they won’t do.

The problem for players like Van Dijk — and he is by no means alone in talking such nonsense — is that footballers have been the main beneficiaries of the revenues top clubs generate as a result of the number of games played. They are the ones who have lined their pockets thanks to the ridiculous inflation in salaries.

When it was put to Van Dijk that fewer games would mean less money he was aghast because football economics are such that less means more in the entitled mind of some of its protagonists.

The fact is that today’s squads, certainly at the top, have never been bigger. Managers can now make five substitutions during a game from a seemingly endless line of replacements. Medical science and nutrition are better than they have ever been in football history. Tackling has pretty much been outlawed. The players have never had it so good.

Virgil van Dijk has struggled to replicate his best form for Liverpool since a long-term knee injury

The Dutch captain claimed that footballers are being forced to play in too many games 

So if Van Dijk really feels things are that bad, ask to be rotated, get a transfer to Burnley and don’t play as many games rather than biting the hand that feeds you.

Why is it only the top players making this argument? They’re the ones who only want to play for Champions League clubs and all the extra games that come with that.

Modern players have wrongly been led to believe they have some sort authority over the game and this is where we end up.

Sorry Virgil, but sit down, count your money — pinch yourself and perhaps pipe down. Oh, and get your form back!


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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