Now there’s a headline that you might not usually associate with the Premier League but after an ugly exchange during Chelsea’s Carling Cup match with Burnley last week, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba will be spending a bit more time on the bench. Injuries have already limited the Chelsea hit man to just a handful of appearances this season. The resurgence of Nicolas Anelka, who currently leads the EPL scoring chart with 12 goals, has seen Drogba’s playing time further reduced, and once again, he was on the bench this past weekend at West Brom.
Unfortunately, Drogba took the bait from the taunting visitors section at the Bridge and hurled a coin back into the crowd after giving them a single finger salute. Without a doubt a moment of madness from the player but he is not entirely to blame. Idiot drunken fans who elect to abuse players to the degree of hurling objects onto the field of play have no place in football or any sport. Once again, we see the act of a few morons overshadowing a great event for their team, as Burnley went on to win the match.
Players reacting to taunts and abuse from the crowd is hardly new. Jamie Carragher was suspended for 3 games after a similar incident at Arsenal in 2002. Who can forget the ultimate reaction from a player when Eric Cantona literally took matters into his own hands (or feet) when he went into the stand to exact revenge against a Crystal Palace supporter that was giving him the hump in 1995. Cantona received a 9-month ban for his efforts but that was an extreme situation.
Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the latest exchange involving the Chelsea star, and to his credit, he has not attempted to justify or defend his actions, and will seemingly accept his 3 game punishment with no further word. As usual, the media played their role in dramatizing the incident and chose to focus on coin tossing and finger shadows rather than a great cup-tie.
I’m not under stating the severity of objects being thrown to the field, but why in football is it always labeled as a missile? The dictionary buffs can go and quote the definition of said “missile” but just for once can we not just call it as it is? A coin was thrown and the player threw it back; simple, to the point and describes what happened, but that doesn’t make much news so it’s a “missile.” If a fan throws a roll of toilet paper on the field, it’s a missile. Paper airplane – missile. Inflatable banana – missile?? Was the balloon that appeared to deflect the ball into the goal during a Sheffield United FA Cup match against Man City last year, not a missile? If it’s a bunker penetrating laser guided high-explosive weapon, call it a missile, but please just for once it would be nice if the media powers could keep things in perspective rather than blowing up ugly incidents to sell another paper.
There is not a simple solution to this problem. There will always be a small minority of fans that look to intimidate or antagonize any target they can find. If players are punished too severely then it sends a message of encouragement to the idiots that perpetuate this stupidity. On the other side, players have a responsibility to maintain their composure and to not respond to these types of actions from the so-called fans. Drogba will sit for 3 games and I think that’s about right. The suspension itself, however, will not garner nearly the news that the actual incident did, after all there is nothing left to blow up.