Paul Scholes sees red

Ah, the beautiful game. Am I getting old, or is it not quite so beautiful any more?

Manchester United mid-fielder Paul Scholes was given his marching orders today, sent off in the 85th minute for aiming a punch at Liverpool‘s Xabi Alonso.

To add heart-break to insult and near assault, United scored the match winner several minutes later, and in somewhat fortunate circumstances.

Gerard’s men have every reason to feel robbed, and yet while it may feel like no consolation to the sting of defeat, should feel proud for having played their red hearts out.

I remember being in similar card-worthy circumstances once: running for a ball in a high-school football match, I was pulled from behind by an opposition defender, in much the same manner that the combustible Scholes was held by Alonso. Not normally prone to sudden inflammation, I nevertheless have a track record of reacting poorly to foul-play, and while the referee wasn’t looking, swept out the legs from underneath my opponent, sending us both tumbling to the ground.

I didn’t actually see what happened next, but it was a topic of conversation for several weeks. While still on the ground, my shirt-pulling antagonist shaped to deliver a punch. Before he could do so, a team-mate, perhaps more interested in inflicting grievous bodily harm than my particular welfare, came running to deliver (as called in another code) a“king-hit,” sending my would-be assailant flying and starting a near all-in brawl.

I guess I am grateful to have had my honour (and facial structure) defended, but in all honesty it was incidents like these that saw me stop playing the not always beautiful game, despite making it all the way to national age-group tournaments.

I remember actually getting punched from behind around the same time by an irate goal-keeper. About 10 kilos heavier and fully in control, I turned and simply laughed—he had run 50 metres to deliver his ineffectual“hay-maker,” and quite honestly looked rather stupid.

Although relatively minor in the scheme of things, it seemed like only a matter of time before something actually serious would happen—an injury or stupid encounter to really regret. Such incidents took all the joy out of a once enjoyable sport for me.

I do enjoy competition and skill, and will commend them in others—even if my opponents—but out-right animal aggression has a place in neither, and I am happy to be called old-fashioned or out of touch for saying so.

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