NO PLACE FOR THE GLOATING IDIOTS
By Patrick Goss
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Anyone who has played football can understand it, the sudden elation of a penalty miss, combined with the sensation that justice has been done - and yet the past few weeks has seen two hugely high-profile incidents of gloating, something that has no place in football.
After Arsenal's Martin Keown had been vilified in the press for his disgraceful reaction to a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty miss for Manchester United against The Gunners - Turkey international Alpay put another layer of tarnish on his own reputation with a similar response when David Beckham missed a spot-kick for England on Saturday.
Both of the matches were hugely tense affairs, and both were conducted between teams with burgeoning rivalry, but perhaps the happiest point of connection between the two incidents is that neither of the players that were on the receiving end of the taunts reacted with the fury that could have been expected.
Van Nistelrooy was a picture of numb disbelief as Keown danced in glee and made his feelings about the Dutchman abundantly clear.
And suggestions that Beckham leaned into Alpay, the very picture of a gleeful playground brat, don't do the England captain justice.
In fact, for me, Beckham showed a self restraint that myself, and many others in the pub in which I watched the game could not at a moment of apoplexy. The Real Madrid man is a man that has come five years, and a million miles, away from the petulant kicker of Diego Simeone in 1998.
Disbelief, anger, disgust - all were present in spades in both drinking holes around England, and amongst the heroes in white on the Istanbul pitch - and yet, somehow, the captain largely kept his cool.
Nothing could condone a violent response from Becks on the football pitch - yet nobody who saw Alpay's reaction could have claimed not to have understood the motivations if the England man had not kept his head - and kept his head still.
There is no place in the game for this provocation. If Beckham had twitched his forehead I have no doubt that Alpay would have gone to ground, and England would have been down to ten men.
Whereas I remain convinced that Keown's silly reaction was down to a moment of idiocy, I would not state with certainty that Alpay was not quite cynically trying to lure a reaction that could have given his side a huge advantage.
The Aston Villa man will find himself a deeply unpopular man on his return to Premiership action, and with some justification. There is a line where passion for your team ends and a healthy sense of self-regard has to begin, although a certain amount of leeway should, but probably won't, be given to a Turkish player that has always given everything for his nation.
I would imagine that some columnists will pose the question 'what if an English player had reacted as Alpay did in the same circumstances,' and it is true that it is massively important that all jingoism be put aside before repercussions are discussed.
But frankly, in a few weeks where English football has certainly not been seen in its greatest light, and its players portrayed once more as overpaid, oversexed thugs, I would imagine that even the normal latitude given to our national side would not have protected a member of the Three Lions.
In the same way as neutrals, normally more given to anti-Manchester United sentiment, could not justify Keown's stupidity in his reaction - I would hope that a similar response would have been forthcoming from the English media.
I hope that Alpay understands why his reaction was disgraceful, even in a crucible of passion, and I hope that Keown - having watched the Turk mirror his behaviour - has more of an insight into just why gloating penalty misses has no place in football.
In playgrounds around both this country and in Turkey, kids will be mimicking their heroes. I just hope that they choose to mimic the Beckhams and van Nistelrooys and not the Alpays and Keowns.
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