LASESARRE, SPAIN - AUGUST 5: Puma Orbita, the official match ball of LaLiga in detail prior the pre-season friendly match between Athletic Club and Real Sociedad on August 5, 2022 at Lasesarre Stadium in Barakaldo, Spain. Noxthirdxpartyxsales PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxJPN 195228971

It took me all of about 0.7 seconds to know something was up. My older daughter leaned across to her younger sister in the back seat of my car and whispered in that charmingly thunderous volume that only children of a certain age are capable of. As my wife loves reminding me, I’m slightly deaf, but even I could make out the plot. The two little schemers know I crack down on snacking before lunch, and the latest not-so-secret master plan predictably involved sweets.

Let me give them some credit at least. They have twigged that the shiny thing on the windscreen lets me see what’s going on. As chief mischief strategist, Sophia knows to watch the rearview mirror, and she was prepared. What she then did made a litre of furious bile rise from my stomach to my brain. It was completely unrelated to her, or that moment, but my god for a split second I nearly lost it.

Covering mouths

She covered her mouth with her hand. So what, you might ask. Here’s the thing: for her and her cheeky seven-year-old mind, it was sweet in its naivety in actually believing it would fool me. For grown men to do so on an almost daily basis is just mental. I am of course referring to the in-vogue habit of players shielding their mouths at every opportunity on camera.

No offence Ashley Young, but I highly doubt anyone gives the slightest fuck what pearls of wisdom you might have. “Luke, put down the pies mate and push on!” Oo, how revealing. “Oy Pogs, it’s not worth passing to that clown up front…” Thanks, Captain Obvious. “Hey Juan you do-gooder, I’m gonna spank this one into the top corner with more whip than a 99 flake. What do you mean you don’t…? Its a… Trust me it’s delicious. Who cares if it’s too cold? Just listen for the bell – it’s a bit like a mariachi band. Yeah, let’s get the boss one, might cheer him up.”

Alright, I may have gone off on a tangent there. Even if he’d revealed where he’s going to try to stick it, though, two things spring to mind. One, by laws of probability even Beckham was more likely to not execute a free kick perfectly. Assuming the opposition picked it up, would it even matter? And two, how in Christ’s name does he think a tactical gem would even be intercepted?

Jose Mourinho caught swearing… in Portuguese

Jose Mourinho was recently fined for swearing in his native tongue into the cameras after the stunning Newcastle comeback win. What’s that, you say? Mourinho, letting his emotions get the better of himself? Perish the thought! Apparently, the FA actually employed a lip-reader to help snare the salt-and-pepper misery guts. Either way, a comment which at worst some people watching Portugal might have chuckled at was punished.

Can you understand Jose now covering his mouth? I’ll grant him a slither of leeway on this one, but only a slither. As the controversy magnet that he is, every movement, word and probably fart is dissected. Imagine the super sleuths: “Phil Jones’ upturned nose suggests this one was an extra eggy silent-but-violent. Mourinho must be overeating the hotel breakfast buffet: must mean he’s extra stressed because he’s getting sacked… We’ve got him boys!”

Jesus, even I’m not sure where that one came from. You get my point though; he is watched like a hawk. That outburst to the camera was a moment of high passion, and I discount that from hand-over-mouthgate. If you have the time and presence of mind to actually move your hand over your mouth, it’s most likely not a moment of intense emotion when you might let slip a controversial comment.

Self-preservation or self-promotion?

Here’s the thing; footballers think they are protecting themselves from scrutiny. We can’t breathe for press intrusion on our every word! Poor lambs, bless ‘em… But what in the name of Greggs’ Festive Bake are you saying that could be so damaging? Yep, you know what, I’m going to choose the moment when I’m walking in front of thousands of fans in front of cameras beaming live to an audience of millions to utter the incriminating words, not when we are back in the private sanctuary of the dressing room or my own home.

It’s embarrassing. I actually reckon there can be a pretty consistent inverse parallel drawn between how shit and irrelevant a player is and how frequently he covers his mouth. Look at me, I have a secret I’m telling! NOBODY CARES!

If you are reading this and by some miracle actually happen to kick a pig’s bladder for a living, listen. We get that tabloids and nerds want to analyse your every single movement. Before this craze began, there was less attention. The fact players started doing it more and more suggests that you actually might be saying something controversial. And guess what? When you arouse that suspicion, people will watch you even more closely.

I am almost intrigued to know what they are actually saying behind those hands. Are they plotting a revolution? Is there actually a plan afoot to dunk their manager in the ice bath? Or are they just trying to draw attention to themselves? Perish the thought…