A Question Of Blame

There are things that leave me feeling frustrated.

Like a team of winners who appear not to have turned up, and who lose to a team of lesser skill and ability who put a lot more effort into the game.

There are things that leave me feeling angry.

Like a deliberate handball that robs a nation of a dream-fulfilling place in the World Cup.

Or when the ball crosses the line and the officials don’t see it, even though every one else within range sees it clearly. (That would be Florent, not Didier….)

And there are things that make me feel vindictive.

Like when someone who has given the great game of football many years of loyal service, and through no fault of their own, is denied an appearance at the ultimate showpiece of football talent; the World Cup.

Then you need someone to blame.

Michael Ballack has an awesome record as a footballer. He’s had his moments of madness of course – who hasn’t? Yet they are too few to mention and certainly far fewer than many of his illustrious peers.

It is also arguable whether or not his best years are behind him. His record though is indisputable: titles and cup wins in Germany followed by cup wins and a title in England.

He is strong, shields the ball well and passes superbly. Equally good with both his right and left foot, he is among the best in the air and is a pretty good tackler too. His tackling, allied to his excellent reading of the game make him very effective in the holding role, in which Carlo Ancelotti has utilised him in recently.

He is the consummate professional who adds a huge amount to the modern game. And apart from all of that, he is credited – along with JT, Drogba and Lamps – with restoring a positive dressing room after the Milan defeat: that should come as no surprise as he is also the German national captain.

So why is this footballing idol not leading Germany out at the World Cup? Because of a disgusting tackle from a fellow professional, that’s why.

It appears clear to many that the aim of that player was to injure Ballack, who was having a greater and greater influence in maintaining Chelsea’s dominance going forward. He lunged, two footed, catching the German’s leg with enough force to break it. He was to blame for the horrendous tackle. Cut and dried.

When Cech saved the penalty, I was delighted to see Prince Boateng distraught, his head in his hands, tears flowing. He deserved worse, but that would do for starters. The blame lay solely with him: he was culpable, a disgrace to the game.

Then, after the game, once some of the anger had worn off, I heard some of his team mates claim there isn’t a vicious bone in his body. His agent said it was an accident. I didn’t want to listen, though. I wanted someone to blame. Someone needed to pay for robbing Bally of his World Cup.

Then he apologised. Not once, but three times or more. A couple of times on the pitch and then formally afterwards.

Then I heard the views of Graeme Le Saux. He blamed the pitch. Said if the pitch had been perfect, he would not have gone into the tackle that way. The pitch turned the tackle into a career threatening foul.

Now I’ve got a lot of time for Le Saux, he speaks a lot of sense. So it wasn’t Boatengs fault after all….?

That stupid pitch. Then it must be the FA’s fault? The Wembley authorities. Prince Boateng was exonerated, it was the fault of the authorities.

Michael Ballack himself was “angry and disappointed” and wisely, befitting the man he is, said that he didn’t want to comment on it, essentially it was too soon after the event to say anything. Being robbed of his chance to play in the World Cup, so soon before it starts is “bitter”.

For myself, perhaps “bitter” is a better-quality word than “vindictive”, especially if you do not know who to blame.

So I am not now vindictive: I am bitter. I am bitter that I have lost out on the chance to watch a great player at the World Cup. I want to blame everyone, anyone, but I can’t. This is football I suppose.

No Michael Ballack at the World Cup just doesn’t seem right. While the tournament itself is bigger than any individual, Ballack’s absence diminishes it.

But the way it happened makes it even worse – it diminishes the spirit of the game.

That’s why I’m still bitter. That’s why I still want someone to blame.

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