The Rational Ref

Roberto Mancini needs to learn that no-one likes a supergrass in Britain

Manchester City's Italian manager doesn't know why the refs hate him. Someone should tell him that snitching is considered bad form in Britain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2012, 2:36am

Nobody likes a snitch or a telltale. When it comes to being a supergrass, unloved Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini either doesn't get it or is playing dumb.

Informants, to give snitches, telltales and grassers their official title, are society's unsavoury lowlifes. They are regarded with suspicion because the process of informing, specifically to a person of authority, is seen as being done for malicious, personal or financial gain.

Even in the classroom, schoolchildren intuitively know it is socially unacceptable to "rat" on a classmate. If a student goes to a teacher to tell on someone, then the whole class will usually close ranks and the snitch is ostracised.

Despite this risk of social banishment, there are still professional soccer players and managers who stoop to such low levels. The high-pressure, high-stakes and high-profile profession is one reason why some resort to being a snitch. Yet this also happens at the amateur level, where players and coaches are paid peanuts.

Tellingly, experienced referees, just like skilled teachers, can spot supergrassers. They come across as exploitative, cunning and disloyal. Every large social group has a few individuals who exhibit these traits, which probably explains why snitches appear at all levels of the game and strata of society.

Referees do not like informants because snitches on the pitch and in the technical area are troublemakers, and can incense other managers and players.

Mancini has incensed his English Premier League counterparts, and yet has accused them of treating him unfairly, saying he is "tired" of how managers behave towards him. The Italian has a history of run-ins with his counterparts because he has tried to get players booked by gesturing imaginary cards to match officials. He has had touchline altercations with Alex Ferguson, David Moyes, Mark Hughes and Tony Pulis and also players like Steven Gerrard.

In the previous round of League Cup matches, now called the Capital One Cup, Mancini complained about getting ticked off by Aston Villa coach Paul Lambert. "I didn't say anything to him [Lambert]," Mancini said after his team lost 4-2. "I don't know the reason [Lambert doesn't like me]."

The reason is because Mancini ratted to the fourth official, which riled Lambert. "I asked only if there was a yellow card - without moving my hands [there was no waving of imaginary cards] - with the fourth official and [Lambert] comes over to me. I didn't speak with him. I asked the fourth official if it was a yellow card because I thought the referee had forgotten his yellow cards in the dressing room."

Mancini's words and actions clearly explain why other managers and players do not like him. Whether or not he moves his hands to indicate a card, Mancini is perceived as a supergrass for snitching in an attempt to get his opponents booked or sent off.

To use the classroom analogy, Mancini is like the spoiled rich kid who has all the latest toys that money can buy and yet still complains to the headmistress when things do not go his way.

Match officials also do not like Mancini for his cynicism and criticism. He is like an ungrateful child deceitfully saying that the teachers did not bring their notes to class and therefore cannot teach. Mancini's disrespect only serves to dig his own hole even deeper.

Liverpool's 20-year-old Jonjo Shelvey summed up the prevailing feeling for snitches when he verbally abused Ferguson following his dismissal for a shocking tackle. Shelvey apologised afterwards but said: "Where I come from, people don't grass people up to get someone sent off."

Shelvey, sounding like he had just left school, believed Ferguson's snitching was the cause of his sending off, and not his two-footed lunge against Manchester United's Jonny Evans. By grassing to referee Mark Halsey, the crafty Ferguson knowingly incensed Shelvey.

Like diving, snitching is regarded as a form of cheating, especially in the EPL. Foreign players and managers competing in England bring in different values that upset this status quo. It occurs anywhere - including Hong Kong - where there is a significant mixing of nationalities who play soccer.

The waving of imaginary cards, which is snitching, was introduced in England by overseas players and is abhorred by the majority. Diving, or simulation as referees call it, is following the same pattern, with many overseas players like Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero doing themselves no favours by going to ground too easily.

Referees wait in hope for the day when players and managers eventually oust snitching and simulation. Now that would be a tale to tell.