THERE probably isn’t a single professional footballer or manager, past or present, who will agree with this column.
And those of us on Civvy Street who have never kicked a ball for money, can never understand the chivalrous codes of conduct those men live by.
6 Raheem Sterling showboated with stepovers at the end of the Manchester derby
Getty Images – Getty6 Manchester United ace Juan Mata was enraged with Sterling following the full-time whistle
But this isn’t about that lot. It’s about those of us who pay their wages in the often vague hope that they might entertain us.
It’s about showboating. It’s about feints and dummies and nutmegs and stepovers. It’s about taking the p***.
When Raheem Sterling ended the Manchester derby by doing stepovers, while being pursued by Alexis Sanchez and Marouane Fellaini, he’d clearly crossed that mystical ‘line’ which only those in the game can truly identify.
We knew this because Fellaini kicked him up in the air, then the loveable human teddy-bear Juan Mata delivered a barrage of abuse and even City boss Pep Guardiola, high priest of the beautiful game, gave his man a ticking off.
Sky Sports6 Pep Guardiola gave England international Sterling a talking to at the end of the match
Reuters6 Manchester City eased to a 3-1 win against the Red Devils at the Etihad
Yet wasn’t what Sterling did exactly what City supporters pay good money to see him do?
Until these past few years, they’d waited about four decades for the chance to take the mick out of United.
Their filthy-rich Abu Dhabi owners have spent royally on world-class talent and rule-dodging lawyers to get to this point.
And here those fans were, bellowing ‘ole, ole, ole’ as City did not merely defeat United but thoroughly outclassed them.
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After a 44-pass move for City’s third goal came some saucy passing triangles involving Phil Foden and Leroy Sane, before Sterling applied the coup de grace with stepovers to delight the faithful and enrage United.
But while pro footballers can intimidate, cheat and attempt to con referees every time there’s so much as a throw-in, should they try to outfox an opponent with a cheeky piece of skill, they’re branded disrespectful show-offs.
There’s nothing more amusing to a fan than seeing their own player wallow in their team’s superiority.
We usually applaud invention and improvisation, so why the need to draw lines about exactly how a footballer outwits an opponent?
Was the original Cruyff turn disrespectful to his Swedish opponent at the 1974 World Cup? It certainly wasn’t ultimately effective as Holland ended up drawing 0-0.
What about a rabona, where a player wraps his kicking leg around the back of his standing leg? That’s a bit flash and it’s named after the Spanish word for playing truant from school so surely that’s immoral too?
EPA6 Sterling, 23, has banged in seven goals in 14 games in all competitions this season