The name of Manchester City midfielder Nigel De Jong has become synonymous with mindless thuggery and splintered fibias over the past few weeks, thanks largely to the relentless castigations emanating from press circles admonishing the Dutchman for his ‘six months of shame’.
It all began back in March of this year when, during a friendly game with the USA, a mistimed and needlessly robust tackle from De Jong broke the leg of promising American star Stuart Holden. Floods of scorn were duly forthcoming, exacerbated perhaps by the fact that the blond-haired blue-eyed Holden (who was then only 24-years-old) looked set to miss out on his maiden World Cup due to such unnecessary abandon.
De Jong then blotted his copybook again three months later when a particularly unrefined World Cup display culminated in him kicking his Spanish counterpart Xabi Alonso in the heart during the latter stages of the final.
The widespread defamation began to simmer once again but, like any good witch-hunt, died down as soon as the baying mobs forgot what they were actually angry about – although City’s ever-thoughtful ‘enforcer’ issued them with a timely reminder during the last round of Premier League fixtures.
With the game just 10 minutes old, Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa was levelled courtesy of our protagonist and, due entirely to the awkward angle at which the challenge took place along with the fact that his studs were rooted in the unforgiving turf, the French international suffered a broken leg that will see him sidelined for at least the next six months.
I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this call, but I didn’t think the tackle was particularly reckless (biology dictates that De Jong’s trailing leg had to ‘scissor’) and it certainly wasn’t ‘sickening’ or ‘immoral’ (tellingly, referee Martin Atkinson didn’t see fit to issue a yellow card), it just so happened that Ben Arfa sustained a significantly bad injury as a result.
It was an accident, case closed.
After the incident, Newcastle submitted a strong-worded letter to the Football Association (FA), asking them to suspend De Jong from domestic competition for as long as Ben Arfa remained prostrate. The FA agreed to examine the case, but admitted that there was almost no chance of them being able to retrospectively punish De Jong, as referee Atkinson took no action during the game itself – a suitable get-out clause from a line of enquiry that they didn’t think was worth pursuing.
With typical French melodrama, Marseille (Ben Arfa’s parent club) are now threatening to bring about legal action against De Jong – with president Jean-Claude Dassier revealing this morning that the club’s phalanx of ambulance-chasing lawyers are already examining the case;
“We will clearly bring charges against the player. You need to rid the European football pitches of this kind of player.”
One suspects that, despite their ‘for the good of the game’ stance, Marseille have far more finance-centric motivation to sue cash-rich Manchester City.
Thanks to a clause in his contract, they were guaranteed a £5 million transfer fee for Ben Arfa if he had managed 25 games whilst on loan at Newcastle this season, but now are left with the prospect of having to rehabilitate a volatile player that actually went on strike in order to engineer a move away from the Stade Velodrome this summer.
Can you just imagine the ridiculous precedent Marseille would be setting if they won? If, henceforth, insurers were to pay out every time an unfortunate but accidental injury occurred after a genuine attempt to win the ball then they’d be looking at indemnifying hundreds of cases every season.
What utter histrionic nonsense.
Speaking about the challenge that broke Holden’s leg earlier this year, De Jong explained his footballing ethos;
“Such offences are part of football. I went for the ball and got the opponent at the end. I had no evil intent. If the ball is between me and the opponent, you have to go in full.
If you do not then the opponent takes you, and if you’re scared in a game you get injured yourself.”
City would be wise to maintain a level of public support for their maligned anchor man as it’s easy to forget that, before the current swathes of mass-hysteria and smear served to denigrate him to the status of ‘thoughtless grunt’, it was the exact-same levels of gutsy commitment that elevated De Jong above his peers for many-a-year.