Owen has been musing on the matter in light of
At least once a season, a bushfire of moral disgust is sparked by an affront to common decency of the sort allegedly perpetrated by the Scouse Uruguayan last weekend. “Something must be done” is invariably the phone-in consensus, but nothing ever is.
One problem with the notion of retroactively punishing players not penalised on the pitch, as suggested by Stoke manager Tony Pulis in regard to Suárez, is that video evidence lends itself to subjective interpretation. Diving is in the eye of the beholder.
Consider Owen’s recent remarks about his own glorious record of winning dubious World Cup penalties against Argentina. If the first, in 1998, was prodigiously good for a lad of 18 (in thespian terms, Owen was quite the Shirley Temple), the second four years later was infinitely superior thanks to the identity and positioning of the referee who awarded it.
Pierluigi Collina had an unimpeded view of the tumble from six or seven yards away, yet the hard man from Bologna – revered the world over for his imperviousness to trickery – pointed spotward even before Owen hit the deck.
Reflecting on that triumph, Owen boldly admits he might have striven more doughtily to stay upright, but insists that contact was made. “The defender caught me ...,” he claims, “and I did have a decent gash down my shin.”
It says more about the ambiguities of video footage than Owen’s susceptibility to false memory syndrome that, having watched it 27 times on YouTube yesterday, I believe the only way he could have come by that gash is had Mauricio Pochettino fired a series of staples into his shin from the specially adapted Iron Filings AK-47 concealed in his pants.
“There is a major skill in trying to outwit an opponent,” Owen goes on. Indeed there is, but there is an even higher skill in outwitting the best ref of all time, and we loved the little mannequin for it then (just as we cursed Chris Waddle for staying on his feet when tripped during the 1990 World Cup semi-final).
Jürgen Klinsmann, the Donald Sinden of the box, was too hammy, with all the rolling and screaming, to con Collina. Only Owen’s understated, less-is-more acting style could have done the trick.
Since any major skill and English football are concepts that too seldom share a sentence, I make this plea to the Football Association. When Owen officially quits – and after all the years of semi-retirement, it cannot be long now – appoint him to that inaugural academic post at St George’s Park.
Apart from anything else, he would be a fine father figure to the younger lads.
“It isn’t easy playing for
If only the range of human inventions extended, you felt, to the book, the pack of cards, the TV set, or even the racing form guide. Since it apparently does not, this stoic survivor of solitary confinement in six-star hotel bedrooms would make the perfect mentor.
It is as the first occupant of the Tom Daley Chair, however, that Owen would be a priceless asset. The degree course would include modules on the physical (rhythmic gymnastics) and the jurisprudential (the lesson that the perceived intent to commit a foul, even when none is committed, justifies the descent).
But his paramount task would be deploying the English language to convey the subtle distinctions between a major skill, gamesmanship and outright deception.
The crucial task of conjugating the verb’s past tense is the Professor’s business, and his alone, but if it helps at all I gladly offer this template. “I went down a little too easily, though contact was definitely made/You dove/He is a filthy foreign cheat.”