The Last Word: Klose inspection shows he's game's most honest man

Life isn’t fair, cheats sometimes prosper, but not all winners are cheats

It seems instructive of man's screwy relationship with his maker that he should designate floods, earthquakes and tornados as "acts of God". A few years ago a Nebraska senator even began legal proceedings against God as the alleged author of various disasters. As God had no known address, and so could not be served with an injunction, the suit was thrown out.

A similar ambivalence infects the attribution of perhaps the most brazen larceny in modern football to the "Hand of God". In reality, Diego Maradona's notorious, punched goal at the 1986 World Cup sooner evoked the forbidden fruit. For the tree of knowledge not only caused man's exile from Eden; it also required him to make his own way. Sure enough, within five minutes, Maradona's humiliated sense of worldly corruption provoked an explosive exploration of his residual angelic capacities, with perhaps the most celebrated individual goal in history. (If you look, it's all there in his eyes: beyond the egotistical glitter, they remain dark pools of fear and sadness.)

Though neither the offence nor the atonement was on remotely the same level, Miroslav Klose's dilemma in the Stadio San Paolo on Wednesday will certainly have reminded some Neapolitans of the man who brought them a first-ever championship, straight after that World Cup. In only the fourth minute, unbalanced as he contested a corner, the Lazio striker diverted the ball into the net with his wrist. Though the referee missed it, he must have sensed the authentic quality of outrage in the Napoli protests. But it took an admission from Klose himself for the goal to be ruled out.

The referee not only spared him a yellow card, but shook his hand. As the game resumed, the German had his back slapped and hair fondled by his opponents, who had moments earlier seemed on the point of lynching him. Moreover, they would profit mercilessly from their reprieve, setting up a hat-trick for the unplayable Edinson Cavani.

Now it is true that Klose's conscience had not stopped him celebrating at first, and some have traced his repentance to fear of retrospective punishment. But it is these cynics who should themselves be ashamed. Back in 2005, Klose persuaded a Bundesliga referee to rescind both a penalty award and a yellow card by insisting that the goalkeeper had reached the ball before bringing him down. Here, plainly, is a duellist who would shoot past your ear if your own gun jammed.

Klose finds himself in danger of giving a good name to a club further contaminated by its fans at White Hart Lane the previous week. Last season, after the derby victory against Roma, he described himself as "furious" with a poster that implied neo-fascist kinship with his homeland.

What a contrast with Paolo Di Canio, who notoriously disfigured an earlier derby with a fascist salute – hardly the only occasion, it must be said, he had encouraged damaging caricature. In his West Ham days, equally, the complex Lazio icon had famously proved capable of catching a cross when the opposing keeper lay stricken on the ground.

And this is hardly the week for English footballers to preen themselves as shining knights. The fact remains that football's reputations, for better or worse, are always sketched out too coarsely. Just as a German knows when something is "not cricket", so there are British bulldogs who renew admiration even as John Terry defiles their name. Last week, Steve Harper bravely exposed himself to injury as Victor Anichebe came bullocking towards an underhit back pass. The Newcastle keeper, awarded a foul, immediately urged the referee not to book Anichebe, indicating that neither malice nor recklessness had spurred the challenge.

In turn, despite the fatuous myth, it is not only foreign players who dive. Rather like Ashley Young, after he arrived at Manchester United, Danny Welbeck's centre of gravity appears to have become mysteriously unstable under Sir Alex Ferguson. It is good to see that Roberto Martinez is prepared to stand up to FA charges over his remarks about the referee, after Wigan's recent visit to Old Trafford – especially after he disowned those classic quotes about Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce, a couple of years ago, depicting them as Ferguson's toadies.

Another Roberto this week elaborated his own suspicions about undue deference to Ferguson, among certain of their peers – albeit Mancini's complaints, after his latest bout of "handbags" on the touchline, spiralled somewhat bizarrely out of context. Poor fellow, he can hardly help feeling paranoid after comparing his own, sadistic Champions League group with the one that landed so benignly in Ferguson's lap.

Galatasaray, sure enough, were promptly denied a penalty in the first minute at Old Trafford. Then, against Liverpool last Sunday, Ferguson's men were once again abject before somehow making off with three points. Well, you know, life isn't fair. Yes, cheats sometimes prosper. But not all winners are cheats. And nor, as Klose could testify, do paragons always get their reward. Ultimately, however, what looks like the work of the Devil is almost always just an act of God.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
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

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone