All England expectorates

It was all going so well. Wimbledon 2010 (that’s twenty-ten in BBC speak) had been bathed in sunshine and blessed with an air of gentility that only a visit from HM the Queen can bestow. Then, on Day 5, grumpy Victor Hanescu had to ruin it all by spitting at the crowd during his match on (where else) Court 18.

Ironically, Victor turned out to be the loser here on all counts. Despite holding four match points in the third set, the 31st seed ended his contest with Daniel Brands abruptly, when he retired hurt at 0-3 down in the fifth. Hanescu has now been fined £10,000 for committing two of the seven deadly sins of tennis: unsportsmanlike conduct and not trying hard enough.

Hanescu, who has since apologised, was apparently incensed by some drunken oiks in the crowd who were taunting him. It’s a good thing that England’s Wayne Rooney didn’t sign off from his “nice to see your own fans booing” tirade after the Algeria match with one of his trademark gobs. But given that “Wazza” has been so off-target during the World Cup, he probably would have ended up fouling his own misshapen chin.

Anyone who watches football regularly will be all too familiar with the sight of the highly paid stars of the Premier League leaving their sputum all over grounds up and down the land. Is this soccer’s equivalent of dogs marking out their territory? During the swine flu epidemic last year, the Health Protection Agency warned of the increased risk of infection from footballers doing what comes naturally to them. An HPA spokesman admonished our thoughtless stars: “Spitting is disgusting at all times. It’s unhygienic and unhealthy, particularly if you spit close to other people.”

Yes, as any good parent will impress on their child: spitting is disgusting. The exceptions to this rule might include a pugilist who had just had his front teeth knocked out and wanted to avoid choking. It is also permissible if you happen to find yourself in one of those situations — the dentist’s chair, or a wine-tasting — in which swallowing would be the stupid option. In these cases a purpose-made receptacle is provided for your convenience.

But there’s a big difference between routine expectoration on the playing field and spitting as an act of pure aggression and contempt. That’s why Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas found himself in a whole load of Hanescu-like trouble last year, when he was accused of spitting at Hull City’s assistant manager at the end of an FA Cup replay. Fabregas was cleared by the FA, but this wasn’t exactly new territory for the fiery Catalan, as he’d appeared to give Michael Ballack more than just a piece of his mind during a Champions League tie in 2005. The evidence is, as they say, inconclusive.

Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me has attracted a lot of attention for the protagonist’s merciless attacks on the women in his life. But with all the fists flying around, the moment I found most shocking was when Lou (Casey Affleck) coldly spits on his girlfriend Amy (Kate Hudson) as the prelude to a merciless assault. In a film with many ugly scenes, this was the worst.

It’s too much to hope that England’s footballers will set some kind of precedent by scoring a hatful of goals and keeping their gobs shut for the duration of the World Cup. But, whatever the provocation, I do hope Wayne Rooney keeps his powder dry and doesn’t use his mouth to aim anything offensive in the direction of the referee, the crowd or the opposition.

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