Diving, we are so often told, is a problem confined to the upper echelons of the game; usually the preserve of attention-seeking, gobby Latin Americans, there is no possible way any honest Englishman would fall to the floor unless both his fibulae had been broken by a tackle that probably won the ball anyway. Nobody would suspect that simulation scandals would stretch as far down the football pyramid as Oxford United, let alone Oxford University’s JCR Division One.
Yet the latter is precisely what has happened in the tumultuous aftermath of New’s match at Brasenose in 1st week. Despite the game being a fairly drab fixture, which resulted in a 1-0 victory for Brasenose thanks to Alex Gordon-Weeks’ late strike, New’s official Twitter feed took the club’s grievances into cyberspace. Drama centred on a yellow card awarded to Sam Donald in the 74th minute, erroneously so if New’s accounts are to be believed.
Donald is to the JCR leagues what Afonso Alves once was to the Eredivisie: a goal-machine of the highest calibre. As Blues captain, he is surely an outstanding servant to University sport; moreover, last week’s booking was only his third caution during his time at Oxford. Understandably irked by the referee’s decision to award the yellow card for simulation, New were justifiably angry at such a stain on Donald’s reputation, and tweeted the following:
The tweet compared Donald’s booking to referee Mark Clattenburg’s failure to award a goal to Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes in a match against Manchester United in 2005, when the Portuguese midfielder’s long-range effort was fumbled over the goal-line by United keeper Roy Carroll. “It was clearly the worst decision since Cheryl Cole’s ill-fated attempt to crack America”, commented New College AFC press officer, Edd Hermes. “Or to marry Ashley. To be honest she’s had her fair share of howlers.”
Hermes proceeded to compare referees’ treatment of Donald to that meted out to Luis Suárez in the Premier League. Given that Donald has “probably never racially abused Patrice Evra”, Hermes bemoaned the “increasing bias” targeted at New’s star man. “He does not deserve to be victimised in this way,” he concluded.
However, comparisons with Suárez are certainly very real when the united response of the respective players’ teammates is added to the equation. Just this week, New unveiled t-shirts in defence of Donald, encouraging fans to tweet #supportsam to help restore his tarnished reputation. One @kennethdalglish has voiced his support for the idea:
Naturally the OxStu does not condone any manifestation of cheating in sport. But we genuinely believe that OUAFC and all of Oxford’s authorities stand in solidarity with Donald, especially ahead of next week’s Brookes Varsity showdown. Come next Friday, one banner at Iffley Road may very well read ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’. And, as all Chelsea fans know, those words are never applied in jest.