After the Hand of God and the Hand of Frog, it would be deeply unfair to ignore the latest great footballing injustice: The Hand of Yid.
Look, there’s no denying it. Just because he’s a lovable little Englishman, Jermain Defoe can’t be allowed to get away with the blatant handball which turned last night’s Champions League qualifier Tottenham’s way at White Hart Lane. It’s cheating. It’s wrong. UEFA should look at the tapes and punish both the player and the club.
Isn’t that what we English cry whenever Johnny Foreigner uses a hand to gain an advantage?
Argentina’s Diego Maradona has never been forgiven for punching one in against England in 1986, Frenchman Thierry Henry is still roundly condemned for his basketballing antics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup playoff, and Luis Suarez was castigated (but not castrated) for briefly becoming an extra goalkeeper when Uruguay scraped through their quarterfinal match against Ghana at the World Cup in July.
Throw them out, we cried. Ban them forever, the headlines proclaimed.
So why should Defoe’s cheating be treated any differently? Can you imagine if the boot had been on the other erm...hand? Spurs fans, who like to call themselves Yids in the club’s faintly self-parodying Jewish tradition, love to complain. Ever since the double in 1961, they’ve been going on and on. Their manager, Harry Redknapp, never has enough over-paid players and always has more traumatised injury victims that an episode of Casualty.
I say it’s time for neutrality, since we’re dealing with the harmless (and armless) Swiss. Imagine how Young Boys, 3-2 up after the first leg in Bern, must have felt with that lucrative place in the group stages at stake? Peter Crouch headed the opener to level the “£20million” tie after just five minutes, then Defoe committed his unforgiveable sin.
With the ball dropping behind him, the 5'7" mini-dynamo clearly controlled the ball with the crook of his left arm before turning neatly past protesting Swiss defenders to slot home the winner. Great finish, clear handball.
Crouch made it 3-1 after an hour (5-3 on aggregate), and Defoe then found himself substituted while goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who had been begging to be subbed after an early injury, was left out in the rain by boss Redknapp. Curious.
Crouch was given the ball when the ever-impressive Gareth Bale was brought down in the box with 10 minutes left, and duly scored his third—only the second European Cup hat-trick in Tottenham’s history.
But to focus on Crouch’s scoring ability—on and off the field—would be to miss the point.
Defoe did his best to explain away the use of his arm in scoring, and the guilty look before he commenced celebrating his goal. He said: "There may have been a bit of an arm, but you take them all. I did have a glance at the referee." With the ref, linesman and new-fangled “sixth official” next to the goal all missing his one-armed banditry, Defoe had little choice but to grin sheepishly at the post-match cameras.
Before the game of course, Defoe had let it be known he needed a hernia operation (he will have surgery tomorrow and misses England’s first two Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgarlia and Switzerland) but was prepared to play through the pain against Young Boys. He added: "Everyone wants to play in the Champions League. On Tuesday nights, you don't want to be at home watching Eastenders.”
But Spurs provided the soap opera moments in the teeming rain of north London last night. The little sinner, the cockney market trader shouting the odds from the sidelines, the massed ranks of anxious extras... and a starring role for the the lanky bloke caught in the love triangle. It was all there, complete with the fairy-tale ending.
Who the hell is Neal Collins: See www.nealcollins.co.uk.