Last weekend saw the annual ‘Kick it Out’ campaign come to Non-league football, where every team in the League does there bit to promote anti-racism in football. This is a fantastic and important initiative, which rightly needs to be spread from the very top right down to the grass-roots. However, one team in the League took the slogan ‘kick it out’ a little bit to literally. The incident in question occurred during a match in the Ryman Premier League between Wingate and Finchley and Thurrock. The game unfortunately had to be abandoned after 85 minutes, with Thurrock winning 1-0, as Wingate had had 5 players sent off (yes, you read it right FIVE players!)
During my time following football, which is all 22 years of my life, I can honestly say I have never ever heard of anything as ridiculous as that. It not only reflects badly upon the players involved and the club, but also upon the whole of the Non-league game. Very rarely does the Ryman League receive National coverage, so to be reading about this incident on the BBC Sport website and listening to it on TalkSport is very damaging and ultimately frustrating. It automatically paints a picture to those who do not know a lot about this level of football that it is rough and violent, which as I am sure you have read before, in my opinion is completely untrue.
Having coincidently played against Thurrock last night, I began chatting with one of the Thurrock fans who painted an even darker picture of the situation. He informed me that the final two Wingate players deliberately got themselves sent off, in the hope that the game would be abandoned with Wingate loosing, so the match would have to be replayed. Luckily, on appeal, Thurrock has been awarded the three points which is the least that they deserve.
Much like the players in the Premier League, players still have a duty to act in the correct way as they are still representing their club and fans. Of course if Wayne Rooney acts out of line it is more disastrous and will receive more negative press than if a semi-professional player does, but the same principles do apply. We, as players, are still representing the Non-league game and have a duty to perform in the correct fashion. An incident such as the one seen at Wingate last week is very harmful to our League, and undoes much of the good work seen every single week.
Fortunately such incidents are very rare and few and far between. Most of the time the football is hard but fair, and the players have a mutual respect for one another. Of course bad news is more exciting to the casual reader, but it would be nice if one day the positives apparent at Non-league level every week were given National press, rather than waiting for the occasional bad news story.