Chelsea-Barcelona: The Madness of Football as Heroes Fall and Fail

illya mclellanSenior Analyst IMay 8, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22:  Michael Ballack of Chelsea speaks to his team mate Didier Drogba before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on April 22, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

In the aftermath of the second leg of the second semi inal enough has been said about the game itself, with literally thousands of writers across the globe putting their own respective angles on it.

Reflecting on the madness that ensued after the whistle, it is easy to condemn the perpetrators as ruffians and idiots without actually trying to rationalise the mental state that they were in as a result of the pressure and the fervor that they were gripped by.

In particular Didier Drogba has been called all sorts of derogatory names because he lost the plot and briefly went crazy.

As a neutral observer of the tie, I myself was initially appalled at his actions and also those of his team mate Michael Ballack. But later as I sat and thought on the crazed antics of these two and the incidents that provoked their outrage I realized that there was so much more going on here than two people throwing their toys.

The amounts of money that are involved in the game these days cause us to forget sometimes that these men actually do love the game on a very spiritual and some would say divine level.

They are given god-like status by their fans and followers that they rarely even acknowledge because of the love that they themselves have for the game.

It is in situations such as these that you are able to catch that rare glimpse of the emotion and passion for football that these players possess. They are footballers, they play because they feel the game flowing through their veins and it nourishes them like nothing else can.

Do not, however, mistake my empathy for tolerance of their actions.

I could never condone such a course of action involving a match official and believe that they have both brought the game into disrepute and also have completely lost control in a way that so many others do not.

The best example of the opposite type of behaviour that I can think of that I have recently seen is that of Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher (apologies to Chelsea fans as this comparison may be annoying on another level).

When he was shown the red card on the day before for a seemingly tame foul that was obviously construed by the match official to be cynical and dangerous, he did not jump up and go ballistic as many afterwards have thought he would have been well within his rights to do.

Even though he was being denied a chance to figure in the plans for one of the biggest games he will ever have the chance to participate in he instead displayed humility and control. He calmly walked from the pitch crestfallen and no doubt heartbroken, but he can now hold his head high in the knowledge that he did not embarrass himself or his club.

But back to Drogba and Ballack.

One thing that exacerbated the situation was the referee's decision to run from them. Why did he do this?

They are not above the law, they could not strike him down and be left to leave the field as if nothing had happened. His cowardice made the situation worse when he should have stood there and pushed them backward.

Can you imagine Collina running like that? Never.

The idiot "fans" who have threatened his life though are fools and should be jailed for even suggesting such action should be taken.

But as I said, back to Drogba and Ballack.

Two incredibly talented players who possess gifts that others can only dream of having. Have they destroyed their reputations with this behavior?

I would hope not.

Even though they have embarrassed themselves and Chelsea Football Club they have also given us a glimpse of the humanity that many of us forget these players have. They are not gods, they bleed too and are emotional beings.

It is too easy to condemn them for the actions that they themselves no doubt will regret for the rest of their days. It is very easy to sit apart from the action and the passion that surrounds players in the cauldron of a high stakes football match and judge the behaviour that these players engage in.

While they were wrong to behave in such a way, I believe they have given us a vital lesson in the fallibility of the hero figure that has always been present in the myths and legends of human kind.

The chink in Achilles' armor, the weakness of Hercules, these things are legendary and as human as the reaction of United's Fletcher.

Heroes are not immune to failure, as these two have shown and they are also as human as you or I.

We who have seen this are lucky to have witnessed the human side of men who we sometimes elevate to god like status.

Like Icarus who sought to fly too high, they have crashed back to earth, with a bang that was heard around the globe.