So, if football is a drama, then what of its characters? We may not think it, but we know them well: there are heroes, villains, rebels, outlaws, magicians, clowns, fools, hermits, wise men, kings, warriors and everymen. It is a kaleidoscopic cast of fantastic personae whom we first meet as children on our wide-eyed initial adventures into the magical world that football creates, and whose virtues we debate long into adulthood whether it be on the terraces, down the pub or on Futbol Tonight,a phone-in show. Each of these characters plays their part, and each of us – largely dependent on the make-up of our individual temperaments – will identify with many across our football-watching lives.
Given this analysis, it would seem to me that it is a matter of existential importance to the continued well-being of the beautiful game that we must always strive to maintain a role for all types of character regardless of how ugly they may initially appear to be. Any attempt to write-out certain human characteristics from the fabric of the footballing narrative will result in a diluted, sanitized version of a game that has been, up until this point, a medium through which the most profound human emotions have been distilled.
So, when José Mourinho – that great exhibitor of resentment and bitterness in defeat – stirs up a milk-throwing fracas in the aftermath of yet another humiliating defeat at the hands of his Catalan nemesis, let us not condemn him too harshly. Sure, we may not want our kids to react like José when they lose, but the behaviour of your kids is not Mourinho’s concern.
It may be of greater value to look closer to home and towards the modern tendency to coddle and shelter the young from the very real evils that exist in the world. If you are concerned with teaching your kid how to lose then it might be of greater value to question the bewildering notion that everyone in every inter house sports race deserves a winner’s medal.
Mourinho and his dastardly ilk provide the necessary counterpoint to all that is pure and good in football. He provides contrast. And let’s not try too hard to pretend that we don’t actually enjoy it, that we haven’t indulged in the odd moment of bolshiness in defeat – after all, it can be dangerous to forge too cordial a relationship with failure – or an instance of touchline-sprinting self-aggrandizement in victory. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Moral grandstanding is an unbecoming trait, and there’s a lot of it about. We are human, all too human, and none of us are cleansed so pure as not to benefit from the occasional encounter with our dark side. For me, Mourinho dons this mask of villainy with a Rickman-like suaveness. He plays the part perfectly and the question of to what degree his footballing persona blurs into the reality of his everyday life is, thankfully, not our concern