By Chris Wright
“There’s contact…juuuuust…hold on…wait a second…there.”
Ne’er does a week go by without some dime-a-dozen pundit rolling it out. That sodding word. ‘Contact’. A word which is quickly becoming the bane of my very existence. Even to look at it up on the page there, sitting all smarmy and aloof, makes my bile rise and blood to begin to pulse from my tear ducts.
Though I’m at pains to point out that it only causes my vital fluids to leak out through my facial orifices when it’s used in a very specific context. I’m not crazy .
Most recently, last weekend to precise, it was used willy-nilly to absolve both Adam Johnson and Danny Welbeck of any guilt after the pair independently took the conscious decision to fall swooning under the soft, lulling influence of Plummeta: the Greek Goddess of Gravity.
In short, they dived. Like Jacques Cousteau giving Greg Louganis scuba lessons off the coast of Divington-upon-Sea. They both knowingly attempted to cheat. Nothing more, nothing less.
However, in addition to letting gravity take the wheel, both players kicked out a lower limb in the direction of the nearest available heat source – Chris Baird in Johnson’s case, Branislav Ivanovic in Welbeck’s – in order to engineer that seemingly crucial ‘contact’ before their trunks hit the deck.
The Man City winger has since pedalled the old ‘I was only anticipating contact’ defense – which is, of course, utter tripe.
Skip to the 1:38 mark for Johnson’s little ‘anticipation of contact’
Not that this kind of thing is the sole preserve of Messrs. Johnson and Welbeck. Far from it. Indeed, the practice of kicking out legs or dragging feet to ensure contact seems to have been slowly gaining favour with those willing to readily surrender their integrity for at least a few years now – though it’s now becoming worryingly prevalent. I’m talking once-or-twice-a-game prevalent.
The root of the problem (other than the actual ‘simulation’ itself) for me is the use of the word ‘contact’ and the context it’s used therein.
To use Welbeck’s flop against Chelsea as an example; at no point was there enough outside force acting upon him sufficient enough for him to lose his footing. There just wasn’t. He reached the edge of the area, was fully aware of his grid co-ordinates and fell over looking for a penalty because it was easier than trying to carve out a scoring chance. As he went down, he made sure – quite consciously – that he kicked a foot out against Ivanovic to ensure there was…you guessed it, it’s that magic word again…contact. Completely synthetic, absurd, irrelevant contact.
‘THERE WAS CONTACT!’ comes the immediate cry from the gallery.
So bleeding what? He still cheated, didn’t he?
Contact doesn’t, or more precisely, shouldn’t necessarily mean a foul has taken place. There are shades of grey, but it’s trotted out ad infinitum by studious pundits, resolutely partisan managers and clueless armchair lollygaggers alike.
Theoretically at least, football is