Best player of 2011? Best signing of 2011? Biggest disappointment of 2011? Away with you, generic award titles. Instead of the routine list of 2011’s footballing achievements, here is a list of last year’s alternative honours.
Winners were unavailable for comment.
The William Gallas Award for an unbelievably childish strop at an inopportune moment.
Winner: Carlos Tevez
The Manchester heart throb simultaneously won the hearts of City fans and enraged United fans with a goal-laden first half to 2011. Despite initial adulation, Carlos soon managed to alienate himself from the entire city of Manchester and virtually every one of its inhabitants, after his impetuous actions on the bench of the Allianz Arena on a rainy midweek night in September. Summoned by manager Roberto Mancini to get his behind in gear and prepare to come off the bench, Tevez simply refused to budge. The simple Argentine put the incident down as one of miscommunication, which approximately no one in the football universe bought. A slightly miffed Mancini told the waiting world that he was finished with Tevez after the game, and since the incident Carlos has enjoyed a rather tranquil suspension, playing golf in Buenos Aires as Manchester City continue to cough up his exorbitant wage packet, following a frankly pathetic two week fine. Milan looks to be the next destination for the perplexing Tevez, where he will no doubt manage to rile both clubs up, before fleeing the city in time for next year’s awards.
The Eric Cantona Award for a gloriously old school Kung Fu assault in a football match.
Winner: Jose Mourinho and his eye gouge
In addition to the exhilarating football, petty arguments, touchline and tunnel scuffles, streams of red cards, bitter pre and post-match tirades and inexorable hatred have come to define arguably the world’s biggest match. But leave it to The Special One to add something fresh to El Clásico, and raise the bar in terms of innovative aggravated assault between warring teams. During August’s Supercopa second leg clash, a fracas erupted between the two benches following a wild lunge on Cesc Fabregas from Madrid’s Marcelo. As things began to predictably kick off between the Barca and Real contingent, a nonchalant Mourinho swaggered into the melee, and delivered a swift eye poke to Barcelona’s assistant coach, Tito Vilanova, before calmly walking away as if nothing had happened. Mourinho was shoved by the slightly peeved Vilanova, much to the vehemence of the Real Madrid players, who waded in once again to defend The Special One’s honour. To top things off, Mourinho later branded Barcelona a ‘small club’ during the post-match dissection. Jose was irked over the perceived notion that those pesky Camp Nou ball-boys appeared to disappear after half-time, with Barcelona 2-1 up on the night and 4-3 ahead on aggregate. Fair enough.
Winner: John Terry
A poorly timed slip on the rain-soaked turf of the Luzhniki Stadium in May 2008 sealed a pretty miserable week for John Terry, as the Chelsea captain watched his penalty strike the post in that decisive shoot out, allowing Manchester United to march on and lift the Champions League, a week after beating Terry’s Chelsea to the Premier League title. Terry has had one or two bleak weeks since then, but the one towards the end of October of last year must certainly be up there, as a 6-day period of racist allegations and questioning from the FA culminated in Chelsea being absolutely walloped 5-3 by a resurgent Arsenal side at Stamford Bridge. Tied at 3-3 and with five minutes remaining in the game, Florent Malouda sent a slightly wayward back pass to Terry who failed to deal with the ball, letting it slip last him. Terry lost his footing and tumbled to the ground, allowing Robin Van Persie to race by unchallenged and claim his second of the game, giving Arsenal the advantage in a game littered with defensive misdemeanours. No tears from Terry this time, though. Unfortunately.
The Ron Atkinson Award for International race relations in football.
Winner: Luis Suarez
Prior to 2011, The Premier League liked to think it was a prime example of how far the game has come in terms of stomping out racism. Indeed, the horrific stories of fans chanting abuse at black players that stem from the continent are as rare as anything on these shores, but 2011 has seen the actions of certain individuals let the league down. Step forward Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan picked up an eight game ban before Christmas for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra during the match at Anfield in September. What has emerged since the FA’s ruling has been a bewildering response by Suarez’s club, backed by feeble excuses of cultural relevancy and inexplicably poor management of the situation by Kenny Dalglish. A hideous end to Premier League football in 2011.
Valiantly battling the credit crunch by any means necessary Award
Winner: Richard Dunne and Ireland
Throughout 2011, Manchester City continued to sign anyone with the compelling combination of having interest from a rival Premier League club and a heartbeat. Chelsea pursued and eventually wooed Andre Villas Boas to south west London, paying Porto a healthy £14 million in compensation, months after leaving a reported £6 million in the bank account of Carlo Ancelotti, following his ruthless sacking. With these things in mind, it’s important to remember that there is the occasional incident in world football where the purse strings are tightened. Following European government’s decision to quell the market turmoil menacing the Euro by handing Ireland an €85 billion aid package, the national team’s kit man was seemingly determined to help the crisis in any way possible. Richard Dunne gave a herculean performance as Ireland drew 0-0 away to Russia in the latter stages of the European Championships group qualifiers, picking up a nasty gash on his head for his trouble. A swift shirt change was needed, but unfortunately the Ireland back room staff couldn’t locate a shirt with Dunne’s number on it. Or one with any other number, for that matter. Not a problem, it seemed, as someone was quickly on the scene with a pen (which, despite reports suggesting so, was not one of those biros you pick up in the bookies or an Argos) to scribe a number 5 on Dunne’s back. Problem solved at no additional expense. Take that, credit crunch.
Winner: Mario Balotelli
What’s that Cristiano Ronaldo? 26 goals already this season, on top of the 53 you bagged last season? Ha. Sorry Messi, a third consecutive Ballon d’Or to accompany your La Liga, World Club Cup and Champions League medals? Jog on. The Alternative Footballer Of The Year Award is not one based purely on mind-blowing goal-scoring exploits, championship laden campaigns or personal accolades. No, this enormous honour is bestowed on an individual for their more obscure services to football, someone who possesses the ability to seamlessly snatch the headlines and become the subject of banal pub chat without even touching a ball. 2011 has been Super Mario’s year in this respect. A list of outrageous antics has left his manager in a perpetual state of exasperation, but the rest of us thoroughly entertained, regardless of our personal club allegiances.
Handing out a fistful of £50 notes to a tramp after a score at the casino? Standard stuff for our Mario. Starting off a chant of ‘ROONEY! ROONEY!’ when the old dear who allegedly slept with Wayne entered a restaurant? Procedural stuff now. Sent to John Lewis by his doting mum for ‘household essentials’, only to return with a massive trampoline, a couple of Scalectrix and a Vespa? It’s what we have come to expect from the Premier League’s most enigmatic and sometimes frustratingly likeable character. Tales of Balotelli border on the sublime, on the bewildering and on the downright ridiculous. Roberto Mancini is of the belief that Super Mario has the capability to join Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the upper echelons of the world’s most exquisite footballers, if he is only able to apply himself more. He may be right, but let’s hope that the transition is accompanied by one or two more endearing chronicles of Mario in the process.
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