Magazine article The Spectator

Ashley Cole Deserved to Be Booed for All That He Personifies

Magazine article The Spectator

Ashley Cole Deserved to Be Booed for All That He Personifies

Article excerpt

An important question of etiquette. Is it ever permissible to boo, barrack or hurl abuse at an English sportsman when he is representing his country in some battle against wily and devious foreigners? This is what happened to Ashley Cole, an England defender, who was playing at Wembley for his country against the might of Kazakhstan last week. 'Booooo!' the crowd went when he touched the ball.

'Booooo!' According to everybody after the game -- and I mean everybody, apart from the English public -- this was disgraceful, crass, boorish and unforgiveable behaviour.

The booing was condemned in every morning newspaper by the broadsheets' boring football reporters and condemned once more by the manager of England, Fabio Capello, and the captain of England (and part-time professor of Lucasian mathematics at Cambridge University), Rio Ferdinand. 'I hope they will feel ashamed when they get home, ' said Rio, keeping a straight face. A very straight, long face. The truth is, they should have booed Rio too, but we'll come to that.

It has never occurred to me not to boo Ashley Cole, regardless of what activity he is engaged in. Even by the standards of our age, he is a magnificently horrid fellow; apparently rather dense but possessed of an extraordinarily high opinion of himself, while being some way short of truly adept at football. He felt, as an Arsenal player, grotesquely undervalued at £60,000 per week, so he moved to that whore's paradise, Chelsea, where they agreed to pay him a few thousand more.

There may have been some in the crowd booing him simply for that. Later, he cheated on his missus, Cheryl Cole, with some woman he met in a club and whom he later vomited over, as you do. There may have been some gallants in the crowd at Wembley still booing him for that. But most were booing him for what he did in that game against Kazakhstan, while maybe taking previous offences into consideration.

What Cole did, when England were (by extreme good fortune) two nil ahead, was this: under no pressure whatsoever he lofted the ball back vaguely in the direction of England's goalkeeper, David James, where an opposing forward seized upon it and, having recovered from surprise at his good fortune, scored a goal. 'Anyone can make a mistake, ' said the former England defender Graham Le Saux after the game. Le Saux once made a bad mistake in a far more important World Cup game and nobody booed him. The thing is, by and large football fans do not boo players who make mistakes and last week it was Cole's monumental arrogance which was being booed, not the 'mistake' per se. Like a good many of his team-mates, he had afforded the lowly opposition no respect whatsoever; he seemed to think that merely by his gilded presence on the pitch, these ghastly camel-chasing Borat people would succumb, without anybody needing to try too hard.

This is why England trooped off at half-time drawing nil-nil with a country nestled below New Caledonia and Kuwait in the world football rankings.

Cole's insouciant pass was the almost perfect expression of this fashionable contempt for the fans and for the people against whom he was playing; whether or not it is an unconscious contempt is a moot point. …

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