I cannot believe the moral outrage surrounding the weekend performance of Diego Costa that’s currently dominating the sports news.
Anyone and everyone with an opinion for sale wants to see action taken against him with former referee Graham Poll one of the more prominent dissenting voices, not that this is unusual of course, as Poll has carved out a lucrative career for himself as an armchair official since he retired from the game.
But let’s get one thing absolutely straight.
Poll may not like him. And neither may any of the players and managers who are also queuing up to have a pop at Costa. Yet they’d given anything to have a player like him on their side.
No exceptions. They’d have loved him and indulged him all the way.
Would I have wanted him as an on-field colleague? Unquestionably yes.
So what is it about the man that drives someone like Gary Lineker, a person who normally sits on the fence so resolutely, he must have splinters, to describe Diego as the most “irritating” man on the pitch?
That’s forthright stuff. For Lineker. But does he really mean it? Or is he just joining the populist bandwagon?
Let me offer my opinion on Diego Costa. It isn’t the populist one. But it’s a lot more considered than some of the stuff I’ve read over the last few days.
Whenever I see him play, he reminds me of a player in any Gaelic football match (ie) he gets out on the pitch with the express intent of winding up his opposite number, of mentally destroying him.
Because that’s the way the game operates. Man to man marking features very highly in Gaelic football and, if you can outsmart the man who faces you on that pitch, that’s much of the battle won.
If all of your teammates can do the same, then it’s game won. And that’s all that matters.
It’s much the same in Rugby Union. The physical aspect of the game is crucial and the players are experts in playing it, in playing their opposite number as well as they do the game itself.
If you played the game you’ll know all about it. No quarter is given or expected. There are sly little kicks, elbows and, on occasion, punches, going in all over the place. From beginning to end.
And as for the talking, the backchat, the sledging. It’s constant.
As simple as that.
Compare that to a football game where all the talk and chatter is in the stands. On the pitch a game is often played in near silence. Players barely talk to one another at all.
Diego Costa isn’t like that.
He’s like a Gaelic football player. He gets in his opponents faces, winds them up, rattles their cages and puts them off their game.
Yet everyone now looks at Gabriel as the wounded party, the poor unfortunate who fell for the evil cunning of devil incarnate Costa.
If Gabriel had acted like the professional footballer he is and at the level of the game he is playing, he wouldn’t have lost control, he wouldn’t have let his team mates and the Arsenal fans down by being sent off.
He was the real villain in the piece, not Diego Costa. Because if Arsenal had ended that game with eleven men on the pitch, they wouldn’t have lost that game.
Which means Arsene Wenger should be focusing his ire on the indiscipline shown by his side.
Not by whinging about a member of the opposition.
Costa didn’t get sent off. Why? Because he’s a clever player. He knew when to step back from the brink, he knew what was acceptable and what wasn’t. He lasted the course and ended up on the winning side.
He knows how to play the game.
But, as importantly, he knows how to play his opposite number. He’s an intelligent player who displays emotional intelligence on the football pitch, those winning qualities that form the backbone of the work my colleagues at RocheMartin have put into professional sport.
Qualities and an intelligence that should see him admired and respected as a professional footballer who has perfected both the physical and mental aspects of his game.
But then people don’t like serial winners. In any sport.
Which is why so many are used to finishing in second place.
Diego Costa doesn’t want second place. And I admire him for it.