Siberian Soapbox

Khabib Nurmagomedov had little choice, to be honest. When a (probably) drunk ginger Irishman with whiskey in hand is on a roll, it’s best to ignore the tirade. As Conor McGregor swaggered into his palace – in his eyes, the toilet in a Gazpromneft petrol station would be his palace if he wanted – of course, all eyes were on the Emerald Isle’s highest profile star. The suit, to be fair, was pretty sharp, as always, as were the hilarious barbs flying out of his mouth.

UFC trash talk

Or were they? Nurmagodemov is Russia’s number one MMA specialist, and a bloody enormous man. Not in height, but in sheer musculature. He hails from Dagestan, a volatile region where passions are more inflamed than a dragon’s arse after a Rusholme vindaloo. To try and dissect the nuances of sociopolitics there would take decades, so I won’t. Trust me though, to ruffle the feathers of a man like Nurmagomedov is not wise – even if you are tough.

McGregor spouted the usual trash talk with his usual complete lack of subtlety. For the record, I only used the godawful Americanised phrase trash talk to fit the gaudy show that is UFC. Trying to spark a reaction out of his opponent got nowhere, but was, of course, an essential part of the show.

Erm, hang on – isn’t this meant to be about football? Look, it’s my bloody Soapbox and I’ll talk about what I goddamn please. OK, fine I didn’t mean it like that. I’m sorry – come back, don’t click over to Manchester City Analysis just yet! Rant long enough and you’ll end up having arguments with readers in your head…

Three, two, one… and we’re back in the room. Right, yes, football. I will probably be a massive hypocrite and be glued to some illegal stream of Khabib v McGregor in a couple of weeks, but the reason I brought this theme of goading up was because it is fucking dreadful in any sport. Alright, UFC is built around 90% promotion and hype, so it has its place there. Football though? Not in a holier-than-thou sense, but what does this kind of circus add?

The rain in Spain falls mainly… from Cristiano’s tears

Some Portuguese bloke was sent off for Juventus in this week’s Champions League. No, you probably don’t know him and didn’t notice the incident. Well, we provide the full concierge service here, so we’ll bring you up to speed. His name is Cristiano, and he finally threw enough strops to earn a money-spinning move away from Spain, but unsurprisingly, he was soon back. The problem was, he no longer wore the beautifully pristine all-white of Real Madrid.

Whatever your views on perma-tanned egocentric personalities, there’s one thing you must admit. After years enjoying every lavish, ‘syruped word of praise – not to mention decision – it must be hard to adjust to normality. Everybody howled with laughter at his histrionics after he was sent off. Yes, he has a petulant streak. Yes, he knew every eye in the stadium would be on him. Grown men shouldn’t cry just because things don’t go their way. You try reacting in a calm, supposedly acceptable way though, after this nonsense.

Provocation

Jeison Murillo collapsed in predictable fashion when Cristiano dared walk within a metre of the Colombian defender. Not a challenge, or any physical contact – he walked past. Fair enough, the Sex Panther-esque cloud of Cristiano-branded aftershave probably would have that effect by itself.

To anyone with half a functioning eye, the intention was clear though – provoke the shiny Portuguese Adonis. Was he punched in retaliation? Was he spat upon? Were his limbs severed from their joints? No, he brushed his hair. It’s not even like Cristiano’s hands are sweaty, dirty and laden with tattoos. You can bet they are the most manicured, perfected version of four fingers and a thumb ever seen on this Earth. There wasn’t even the slightest downward pressure on his head. All in all, a very reasonable reaction.

Drama is never far away though, and a red card was inexplicably produced. This was after half-an-hour of the first group-stage game between two good teams that have no history. In other words, it wasn’t exactly a tense moment. The stakes were not especially high.

Reaction

Now, if it was me, I’d go all Khabib on the slimy bastard Murillo. Perhaps I’d even go all McGregor, whiskey and all. Conniving little prick – he knew what he was doing. The referee is actually relatively inconsequential in this – he simply crumbled in the face of temptation to make a name for himself. There is a law about raising hands to faces, granted, but for gently tousling hair? He should most likely be given a little gardening leave from the biggest games for a few weeks, but he was human.

Murillo is just one of a long line of unadulterated twats in the game. What infuriates me more is the acceptance from many of this behaviour as ‘part of the game.’ What the actual hell? Part of the game?? What game are we talking about? Has football been reduced to pure circus? Not on my bloody watch.

Just because riling opponents is widespread doesn’t make it ‘part of the game.’ It means there are some tossers infecting the sport, who need to be kept in check. If that sort of psychological shithousery is your thing, go and watch Basketball. Remember, the film where the Southpark guys invent a game where you psych out opponents? Better still, tune in to UFC 229.