Thursday, 23 January 2020

Why FA attention over Oli McBurnie was wrong

Going to support your football team is one of the most joyous events for any fan. So, why should a professional footballer be treated any differently?

That's the question that has been asked consistently ever since Sheffield United's Oli McBurnie was "reminded" of his responsibilities by the FA following his appearance on camera allegedly making an obscene gesture whilst watching Swansea City. McBurnie, of course, spent four years with the Swans before moving to Premier League promoted side Sheffield United.

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Oli McBurnie pictured here in the Swansea crowd against Cardiff.

Hardly an anomaly

It was derby day for the Swans against their bitterest rivals Cardiff City on January 12 and the 23-year-old striker was in the crowd following Sheffield United's 1-0 victory over West Ham the previous Friday. The Leeds-born forward had scored that game and was clearly just wanting to stand and support his team.

It's hardly an aberration for the Scottish international to be pictured amongst the Swansea crowd, having also been pictured watching the Swans against QPR earlier in the season. Plus, the gesture which McBurnie was seen to be making is commonplace around football grounds up and down the country.

So, why has the FA moved to warn him?

Well, of course, the FA needs to always appear above-board and McBurnie's responsibilities as a professional footballer means he is constantly in the public eye. That, in itself, almost forces footballers to be on their best behaviour, especially when there are cameras watching their every move.

But, critics consistently bemoan footballers as living their own lives and that they are far too detached from ordinary fans. McBurnie proved that footballers are, on the whole, just normal people wanting to support their teams. Is that such a crime?

What we like to see (minus the gesture)

Naturally, the gesture cannot be defended, but the fact that McBurnie had travelled to South Wales on his weekend off shows just how much the Swansea club means to him. If every footballer that supported a side did that then football may well be a happier place altogether.
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McBurnie's gesture isn't exactly pretty.

The footballer loves it and the fans next to him love it even more. The chance to mingle with one of their former heroes cannot be underestimated and it's this kind of interaction that spectators love to see. Everyone gets carried away with gestures, but punishing players in this regard just shows how out of touch those at the top really are.



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