English game wrestling with beauty and the beast
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Even by the hyperbolic standards of English soccer the opening skirmishes of the new season have provided a dizzying overdose of the good, the bad and the downright ugly sides of what was once referred to as the beautiful game.
The past week alone has provided a tumultuous microcosm of a season that is not even three months old.
Arsenal's incredible 7-5 League Cup victory over Reading having trailed 4-0, not to mention Chelsea's 5-4 defeat of Manchester United in the same competition, illustrated exactly why English football is so addictive.
Luis Suarez's "pantomime villain" performance for Liverpool in last weekend's Merseyside derby, complete with his comical self-mocking dive in front of Everton boss David Moyes, added a much-needed dash of humour to a day that ended with another racism saga unfolding and more on-field theatrics.
Chelsea's 3-2 Premier League defeat at home to Manchester United last Sunday veered from being a "classic" of its time to yet more ammunition for those who believe English soccer is hurtling out of control into the abyss.
Mark Clattenburg, one of England's elite referees, sent off two Chelsea players, the second, Fernando Torres, for apparent diving and was later accused of using "inappropriate language" directed at Nigerian John Obi Mikel.
The cake was egged still further by a nasty injury to a pitch-side steward as Chelsea's fans vented their anger at United's celebrations of their late winner.
A Football Association investigation into the so-far unsubstantiated allegations of racist language by Clattenburg to Mikel has begun. Continued...