What a contrast in behaviour there was during the semi-finals of the European Cup last night!
It was an extraordinary, absorbing game. The way the Chelsea team showed such determination to defend their goal was superb.
However there was one ugly incident. The captain of the Chelsea team, John Terry, kneed one of his opponents in the back. This was not a clash when both were going for the ball. It was just a gratuitous physical attack intended to damage the other player or intimidate him.
In contrast, at the end of the match, according to the commentary on television, all the Barcelona players – despite being extremely disappointed at losing the tie – stayed on the pitch to shake hands with the Chelsea players.
What kind of background led to John Terry behaving so badly? And what kind of background led to the Barcelona players behaving so sportingly?
I suspect this is not an isolated example of the difference. British players have become more brutish and more willing to pull shirts, late tackle and be unsporting over the years. It used to be the other way round. I remember when I was young, in the 1960s and 1970s, football commentators used to lament how certain foreign teams behaved badly in various ways. Now, I suspect, few countries play more unsportingly than England.