The Last Word: A rare Angel among the callous Saints

How Rangel's charitable gesture contrasts with the graceless world of men like Nicola Cortese

Modern football is so devoid of grace and goodness, despite its affluence and acceptance as a global phenomenon, that a single act of compassion and common decency has made Angel Rangel, Swansea's Spanish defender, a candidate for canonisation.

He was as surprised as anyone by the extent of the praise for his gesture, in driving for an hour though the snow in South Wales on Friday evening to deliver sandwiches, which would have otherwise been consigned to a refuse skip, to a charity shelter for the homeless.

It was a spur-of-the-moment undertaking, prompted by what was literally a throwaway line by a shopkeeper who served Rangel and his wife, Nikki, just as he was about to close for the night and dump food that would be beyond its sell-by date when he reopened.

Countless people, whose lives are not considered as notable or newsworthy as that of a professional footballer in an age of vacuous celebrity, are similarly selfless. Yet it was the timing of Rangel's action, and its incongruity given the perception of the modern player as an asinine, amoral opportunist, which had such resonance.

Rangel and Southampton's chairman, Nicola Cortese, are, in the loosest sense, economic migrants. Each came from Europe to forge a career in English football, and have worked assiduously to progress to the Premier League from League One. Spiritually, they inhabit different planets.

Cortese's sacking of Nigel Adkins, hours before Rangel's charitable endeavour, understandably enraged the football community. It was conspicuously callous and counter-intuitive, because of Southampton's run of only two defeats in 12 games, and will deepen disillusion.

It is not unusual for an incoming manager to prepare clandestinely for weeks to take over from the unwitting victim of his latent ambition. Few are as brazen or unguarded as Mauricio Pochettino, who admitted his part in the charade through an ill-starred interpreter.

Supporters planning to protest at tomorrow night's home game against Everton used social media to recycle Matthew Le Tissier's condemnation of Cortese as "not a very nice human being". The Italian, a former investment banker who has run Southampton since overseeing the clubs's acquisition by the late Markus Liebherr in 2009, is deeply unpopular among his staff.

Moralising here in the toy department is perilous, but in sport, as in life, we are judged not by what we do but by who we are. Adkins is a thoroughly decent human being. That, alone, will not get him his next job, but it is written in invisible ink on his CV. It will be a convincing point of reference.

Football is aggressively self- regarding, especially in the billionaire's ghetto of the Premier League. It sees itself as the centre of the sporting universe, the sun around which lesser bodies revolve.

As the sporting world peers into the heart of darkness and recoils from the cadaver that is Lance Armstrong, it can recalibrate. The thought took hold when I shared a radio programme with Scott Mercier, who left cycling rather than submit to Armstrong's doping programme.

Mercier spoke powerfully and passionately of "the ethical resurgence" slowly reshaping sport in North America. It remains grotesquely commercialised, but is starting to listen to its conscience.

The decision to refuse Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens entry into baseball's Hall of Fame because of their associations with the steroid era was a stunning rebuke.

Imagine a similar snub to David Beckham and Michael Owen (whose characters are unblemished, before m'learned friends get too excited) and you will have an indication of the depth of distaste.

Rangel is a credit to his family, a man who acts on his core beliefs. That does not make him a saint, but it gives him rarity value in the game that gives him a great living. For that, at least, football should be thoroughly ashamed.

Cameras in scrums – do not panic!

The Bufton Tufton Tendency, antediluvian committee men who still believe they are the guardians of rugby union's conscience, will not be happy.

Modernity, in the form of access-all-areas coverage, is the inevitable consequence of commercial reality in the small print of BT's new TV deal for the English game.

Rugby, like any sport, has a mission to explain. Its rules are so arcane and complex that even cauliflower-eared veterans are often dazed and confused.

I have no association with BT's plans although, in the interests of clarity, I host football vodcasts for them.

Change encourages insecurity, and will be difficult to leverage, but rugby will benefit from greater transparency.

It has already led the way with Ref Link headsets, which enable spectators to hear the referee during international matches. These offer insight for the uninitiated and the educated alike.

Whether Premiership coaches will be sufficiently trusting to share their gameplans, a tradition in TV coverage of the NFL, remains to be seen.

They are inherently competitive creatures, and a couple of bad results will jeopardise the concept of unprecedented scrutiny.

Cameras in the scrums? Interviews with players in the sin-bin? Small earthquake in Twickenham, no one really hurt.

Cut it out Rory

Rory McIlroy's bromance with Tiger Woods involves missing the cut in Abu Dhabi, and trousering a seven-figure appearance fee. He has 156 million reasons never to be normal again, but might care to study Woods and subvert their sponsor's slogan: Don't do it.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution