By Josh Grainger
Yesterday's clash between Leeds and Brighton at Elland Road was marred by a bizarre sending off for Leeds forward El-Hadji Diouf. Brighton needing a win to secure a play-off spot, took an early lead when Will Buckley finished well after an unfortunate error from Tom Lees. Moments later things went from bad to worse for the home side, Brighton striker Ashley Barnes and Leeds midfielder Rudy Austin, had a slight coming together when battling for the ball which saw Barnes muscle Leeds' Jamaican man to the floor in a hard but fair manner, Austin, obviously not impressed by the collision, chased back for the ball and in doing so shoulder barged Barnes to the floor off the ball. The incident appeared deliberate but not malicious, however referee Graham Scott deemed the incident worthy of a straight red card, a decision which was not helped by the pathetic Barnes who rolled around on the floor for a good few minutes, as if he'd been shot.
The dismissal shocked the crowd and the Leeds player's, however they battled on and went in search of an equaliser. After some dubious decisions had failed to go Leeds' way, including two penalty shouts, the referee finally gave something in the home side's favour, when he awarded Leeds a penalty, for Inigo Calderon's pull on El-Hadji Diouf. This wasn't the end of the matter though, the referee produced a second red card of the match and Calderon's game was over. Diouf, who had been subject to constant boo's from the Brighton fans all game, stepped up and slotted the ball past Tomas Kuszsack, again this was not to be the end of the matter. Diouf slowly jogged towards the visiting fans, waving them to them sarcastically, before rubbing his masculine parts in what appeared to be towards the Brighton fans. The referee then stopped the match, went over to talk to his assistant who was right in front of the incident, before producing a third red card in Diouf's direction. Diouf incensed by the decision blew kisses toward the visiting fans as he made his way down the tunnel, and to rub salt in wounds for the Leeds fans, Brighton clinched a late winner.
The result matter's little to Leeds, they knew before the game they were safe from relegation, however unable to reach the play-offs. Diouf's dismissal means he will miss the first two games of next season, as well as Leeds' final clash of this one, with Watford. The suspension isn't the important thing, the sending off highlighted how "soft" football has become. Thirty or so years ago this sort of "banter" would be perfectly acceptable at football, why is it that the modern game has turned so horribly "petty". Some will argue that Diouf's actions warranted the punishment, some will say that with more and more children attending game's, gesture's such as the one Diouf appeared to make are unacceptable when children are in the ground. There's no denying that more of the younger generation are being taken to the games, there is no problem with this, if anything it is a good thing, however don't tell me that a child will have gone home in tears, vowing never to return to a football stadium, because of Diouf's actions. Some have argued that Diouf's behaviour was in reference to Brighton's reputation of having a large gay community. There is no way of finding out whether this was the reasoning behind what Diouf did, however I highly doubt it. It is more than likely that Diouf rubbed his private's in front of the Brighton fans as a way of giving them some stick back, in return for what they were giving him. What is wrong with this!? Brighton fans gave Diouf comical abuse, they were not punished, which they shouldn't be, what is unfair and downright ridiculous, is that Diouf was.
The other week, Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha gave Leeds fans the middle finger, after they were giving him some stick for joining Manchester United, Zaha was then fined and given a one match ban, again ridiculous, Leeds fans bantered with him, he bantered back, he get's punished. Sooner or later a player won't be allowed to bend over to tie his laces, in case he offends the crowd, something needs to be done to stop modern football getting embarrassing.
The group "Against Modern Football" now has thousands of members, who are rightly fed up of seeing the game that we know and love, being turned into a farce. The player's on the pitch often do not help the matter, whilst refereeing is becoming more and more strict or petty, the likes of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez despite showing some immense talent, are letting themselves and the game down by their recent diving exploits. The latter of the two, won't be diving for a while, after picking up a ten match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic. I'm not saying football should be allowed to become some madhouse where anything goes, what Suarez did was comically shameful, and he deserved the ban he got, however some journalists who have labelled Diouf's actions as "an obscene gesture" need to give themselves a shake, the word 'obscene' is a strong one, it should be used in justified circumstances. Football needs to man up and remember how it used to be, the game was brought about by working class people, of which more and more can no longer afford the ridiculous ticket price's and therefore are missing out on supporting their team. Whilst El-Hadji Diouf will not have deliberately meant it, his actions show an valid and ironic message, football needs to grow a pair, before it loses its true fans.