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Letters: This is football, but not as we know it

These letters appear in the July 8 issue of the Independent

I have been watching football for 60 years, but this World Cup has made football a joke. The refereeing has been ridiculous. Have they been instructed by Fifa to ensure that Brazil and Argentina get through to the final?

Cheating has been allowed to go on unpunished, and the red card must have been left in the changing rooms.

The winner of the World Cup will be the team with the best divers and actors. This was football, but not as we knew it. I bet Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews are turning in their graves.

M Finn

Cannock, Staffordshire


The beautiful game has become increasingly ugly for a long time now. A serious injury like Neymar’s was inevitable and not isolated. As individual skill and fitness of players has increased in recent years, so has their ill-discipline, contempt for, and deceitful exploitation of, the rules, and total lack of sportsmanship.

Football is the only profession where to call an act “professional” is an insult: intentional, cynical, often dangerous behaviour specifically designed to gain advantage through cheating. Cheating is now the dominant ethos in modern football. Every corner or near-goal free kick is accompanied by widespread, unpunished off-the-ball fouls – pushing, tripping, holding, shirt-tugging. 

Unless most players can be brought to respect the rules, unless fouls and deception again become the exception rather than the rule; then football already contains the seeds of its own destruction.

Keith Farman

St Albans, Hertfordshire


Over the past few weeks on TV there have been scenes of violent behaviour by thuggish men apparently trying their best to injure, maim or even disable other men. A lot of this has been before the watershed, when impressionable children may be watching. I refer, of course, to professional football. 

Can someone please explain how this sort of disgraceful behaviour by grossly overpaid men could possibly be called acceptable?

Sue Thomas

Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria


Bad battleground to fight a bad treaty

You report (5 July) that Liberty and Refuge opposed the extradition of Eileen Clark for allegedly kidnapping her children, on the general grounds that our current treaty with the US is unbalanced, and the particular grounds that the legal system in the UK, yet again, has failed to understand the needs of a victim of domestic violence.

They are correct that the extradition treaty is unbalanced, another legacy of Blair’s kowtowing to Bush. They are also right to highlight the ways in which the legal system, and not just in extradition, poses hurdles to victims, including those of gender-based violence.

But it would be helpful to learn about the extent to which they have considered the case from the perspective of children’s rights as well as domestic violence. Liberty in particular questions what possible interest the US courts might have in Ms Clark? But it seems reasonable enough that a court there might wish to assess the question, of potentially quite wide significance: is the removal of a child from the home without the authorisation of either the partner or the state in the child’s best interest?

Accepting that the US, shamefully, is one of only two states (along with Somalia) not to have adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, what evidence is there to think that the US courts are unable to adjudicate fairly on an alleged case of kidnapping or issues of child protection? Among other things, the court may wish to clarify why, if Ms Clark was a victim of violence, she didn’t seek a restraining order, divorce or some other, more traditional, remedy which might not have implicated family rights to the same extent.

Liberty and Refuge seem to have chosen a case with weak facts to make the general case, which is too bad for the reform of the extradition legislation.

Andrew Shacknove



Jihad and other holy wars

As a contribution to understanding the motivation of British jihadists, David Crawford (letter, 2 July) draws attention to passages in the Koran that encourage Holy War. It should not be forgotten that other religions also envisage  holy wars. 

The early books of the Old Testament, regarded with varying degrees of authority by many Christians and Jews, present God as encouraging the Israelites to engage in merciless aggression, slaughter and enslavement in order to dominate and occupy much of Syria and all of what is now Israel and Palestine. 

Many of those who fought for the Allies in the Second World War will have believed God must be on their side, while “Gott mit uns” was a phrase commonly used in the German military from the German Empire to the end of the Third Reich. Indeed it was inscribed on the belt buckles of the Wehrmacht. 

The problem for religious people is to determine how the will of God is to be understood in contemporary politics and warfare. This is not very different from the problem for non-religious people in deciding when it would be right to resort to force. That takes us back to the questions posed by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (30 June): why do some Muslims, but not others, see particular military and political campaigns as sanctioned by their religion?

Sydney Norris

London SW14


Although jihadi fighters returning to this country do pose a security risk it is very important that this is kept in perspective.

The vast majority are likely to be young men who have become disillusioned by the destruction and cruelty of the war in Syria and only wish to come back and get on with their lives.  Locking them all up will only harden attitudes and play into the hands of the hard-liners: “I told you  so; they just want to  oppress us.”

The problem is to separate the majority from the hard-liners. This is something that the Muslim community must be deeply involved in, in the same way as they have already started to tackle radicalisation. Anything that seems to be imposed from the outside will play into the hands of the radicals. We should remember our involvement with the International Brigade in Spain.

G H Levy

Andover, Hampshire


Yet another slogan to save our schools

I was intrigued to hear the latest Big Idea from the shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, announcing “Master Teachers” and a “Royal College” of teaching as the key to moving to the sunlit uplands of Singaporean wonderfulness (a practice imported from somewhere other than the UK is bound to be better).

Whoever came up with this had to scratch their heads a bit. We’ve already had “Advanced Skills Teachers” and “Excellent Teachers” so this new superlative has been wheeled in, presumably, as an antidote for boring old mediocre qualified teachers (like me?). 

As for the Royal College, I have no doubt that a well designed heraldic device and the imprimatur of our Sovereign Lady, Elizabeth, will help avoid a repeat of the late lamented General Teaching Council. 

Yes it is easy to be cynical, as we are in an era of educational policy made on the hoof, designed to spin a good headline. I do hope when I fly off for my summer hols I have a Master Pilot as against just a boring old mediocre one. Crashing is rarely desirable whether at an aeronautical or policy level.

Simon Uttley

Headmaster, St John Bosco College, London SW19


GPs’ advice on antibiotics

As an organisation dedicated to the care of patients, the Royal College of GPs would never “blame” patients. Nor do we believe that GPs hand out antibiotics “like sweets” (Jane Merrick, 3 July).

Antibiotics have done a brilliant job of eliminating bacterial infections for nearly a century. But they are not a cure for all ills and the public’s heavy reliance on them is now very concerning. We need to do everything we can to prevent people building up a resistance.

With over 1.3 million consultations in general practice every day, GPs are well placed to advise patients of the risks associated with overuse and  to suggest alternatives.

Dr Maureen Baker CBE

Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners

London NW1


You can’t always trust a ‘national treasure’

Not long ago, Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris might well each have been called “a national treasure”. It seems high time to stop using that phrase about celebrities.

It implies that such figures are beyond reproach and should be universally loved. It has a patronising ring to it. To his great credit, Alan Bennett has refused to be so labelled. One can only hope that other prominent figures will reject the label too.

Paul Guest

London NW6