Because of Jose Mourinho's nauseating behaviour in Barcelona last week and Arsène Wenger's utterly classless performance at Upton Park, there may be a temptation to put them in the same dock. But that would be a mistake.
Mourinho's crime runs a lot deeper than mere egocentricity. It is a calculated, often vicious and invariably hypocritical effort not only to put himself relentlessly in the spotlight but also to distort, at any cost to truth, the course of football justice. Wenger, on the other hand, is merely congenitally incapable of dealing rationally with defeat, a problem which the West Ham manager, Alan Pardew, not withstanding his later apology, compounded rashly and provocatively by choosing to celebrate so uninhibitedly in the face of his rival.
In the end, however, the effect on the image of football can, as we saw at the weekend, be pretty much the same but unfortunately there is another problem, and it is much more serious in the case of the Chelsea manager.
While Wenger is subject to periodic mockery for his one-eyed view of anything that touches his own interests, Mourinho has succeeded in persuading quite a substantial body of opinion that what he does is merely the pragmatic work of a master coach and winner. OK, it has been said in the last few days, if Chelsea are capable of vomit-inducing examples of deceit on and off the field, it is entirely justified if they get the right result - especially if the victims happen to be the European champions, Barcelona.
Included in this voiding of conscience is the bizarre theory that John Terry, somehow, struck a blow for honest assessment when, as captain of both Chelsea and England, he drove the ball at Deco in the Nou Camp, This, said one headline was something to compare favourably with past ages of the game, and notably the 1960s and 1970s which, for various reasons, perhaps not least the profusion of great players and great teams, are held up as relatively golden epochs.
The point, apparently, is that football is far superior today in its lack of premeditated violence and general cynicism. Unfortunately, this is a parody of the truth worthy of Mourinho himself while on the subjects of Swedish referees and Berkshire ambulancemen. There was no doubt a culture of violence in the old football, but there was a readily identifiable remedy. It was a drive to heighten discipline on offending players and clubs and the awareness of referees.
One problem today is far more insidious. It is the cheating which increasingly makes football rotten at its core. You can counter violence, a he-man culture. It is above the surface. It is not so easy to deal with the poisonous seepage of lies and systematic cheating - and especially when a worryingly large section of the audience seems to have the moral grounding of a dinghy caught on a rough day in the Bay of Biscay.
Arsenal's manager was public enemy No 1 on Sunday for his charmless reaction to Pardew's excessive exhilaration when West Ham scored a late winner, but he can scarcely complain if past offences immediately sprang to mind. Wenger has selective amnesia of the most arbitrary kind.
While reported to be seeking out the video of the Thierry Henry goal against Moscow which he swears should have been allowed, Wenger's Gallic shrug at the breaks that have often gone Arsenal's way were impossible to put on one side - no more than his disgraceful behaviour when Spurs were allowed a perfectly legitimate goal at Highbury last season and some of his players were accused of throwing pizza at Sir Alex Ferguson in the wake of a crushing defeat. For some the descent into the culture of cheating was never more disgusting than when the former Arsenal player Robert Pires went out of his way to collide with a Portsmouth defender and win a penalty which preserved his team's glorious unbeaten run. Afterwards Wenger said drily that it was a matter for the referee.
In this, you cannot separate Wenger from some of the worst excesses of his Portuguese rival. Indeed, some will say that his refusal to accept any blame or criticism for the disgraceful behaviour of his players when they mobbed Ruud van Nistelrooy at the end of a match at Old Trafford was one of the pivotal moments in the slide towards toleration of behaviour striking at the heart of football values. Then, some argued that we were merely discussing a small affray of handbag wielders. In fact, we were witnessing mob behaviour of the most revolting kind, and one which brought its own consequences soon enough when in the next game at Old Trafford the Arsenal players ran out of control in the corridors of the great stadium.
The difference with Mourinho is that he has a plan, a campaign with motives of self-glorification and team advantage that become more apparent with every shoddy episode. On Sunday he complained bitterly over the decision of Graham Poll to dismiss Terry at White Hart Lane, and in language that may have been unconsciously significant. Said Mourinho: "I don't understand why Mr Poll wants to be an important part of the show, but the show is Chelsea against Tottenham."
You could give that remark some credence if it wasn't equally true of Barcelona and Chelsea last week. But then Mourinho, a man who regularly fields divers like Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben, changed all that when he accused Barcelona of teaching the former Chelsea player Eidur Gudjohnsen how to dive. He set up, quite shamelessly, another drama of the Special One.
However, if Mourinho has a carefully applied agenda, Wenger, has a set of reactions. They come to the surface whenever he loses and this is one occasion when he should be made to pay. Both men should also perhaps spare a moment to consider the nearest thing to redemption at the weekend.
It was Pardew telling the world that he wanted to apologise to Wenger. He felt badly that he had been carried away, and that what followed was not good for the game. Before his recent difficulties, Pardew was not known for conspicuous humility. But here was a fine, or at least judicious, example at a most vital time.
Only those with something to hide want Lord Stevens' inquiry to end
A story at the weekend, which I understand was impeccably sourced, told of a gathering body of opinion amid Premiership clubs that Lord Stevens' inquiry into possible corruption in football should be called off, or at least cut short before the former policeman has had to time to reach a conclusive end to his investigations.
Such an idea should be resisted with maximum vigour by all those sections of football which still believe that it is essential to win back public trust.
"Call off the witch-hunt," said the headline. Call off the what? This is not a witch-hunt. It is what football has needed desperately because of decades of innuendo and suspicion. It is an entirely legitimate probe conducted by a first-rate ex-cop. Who could possibly be embarrassed by Lord Stevens being given all the time he needs? Only the guilty, only those who, if they exist, have exploited a game that increasingly stretches the loyalty of some of its keenest supporters.
The suspicion must be that there is increasing concern in some quarters of the game that another whitewash is not in the works. So instead of a whitewash, we are said to have a witch-hunt. It is a little bit like Dr Crippen telling the Yard that "enough is enough - what a man does in the privacy of his own bathroom is no one else's business".
Lest we should forget, Lord Stevens is not a public relations expert. He is a cop and part of his job is to decide whether football has been beset by criminality. He should have all the time - and the money - to assuage long-held fears.
ICC's Hair peace looks expensive
Finally, the International Cricket Council made it official. They got out the bowl and the towels and the soap and they washed their hands of Darrell Hair, the umpire who thought that rules were rules and now knows better.
Now a long career ends in the humiliation of dismissal, which was perhaps inevitable after the folly of trying to negotiate his own retirement pay-off in the heat of controversy. For that he was smeared. Now he is discarded. The terrible suspicion is that he is a victim of more than mere pig-headedness, that he has gone in the cause of international peace on the approach to a World Cup.
As some fellow umpires talk of strike action in support of a fallen colleague, it may be sooner rather than later that the ICC wonders if peace wasachieved at too high a price.Reuse content