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.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas