Without question: The dignity of Darren Fletcher

In a week where players were disgracing themselves left, right and centre, the dignity of Darren Fletcher remained absolute despite being denied the possibility of appearing in European club football’s marquee event - The European Cup final.

Shown a red card by Italian referee Roberto Rosetti - for what was in fact a legitimate goal saving tackle -  during United’s 3-1 demolition of Arsenal at the Emirates last week, Fletcher has more reason than most to fell aggrieved and cheated.

Despite this however, there was no harassment of referee Rosetti by Fletcher following the decision, ala Michael Ballack; no disgraceful swearing at the camera in the style of Didier Drogba; no pathetic hissy fit, like that of Fletcher’s team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo; and no word of any private reaction either, in the mould of one Joey Barton.

Rather, Fletcher, despite having more cause to act in such ways than any of the afore-mentioned, merely stated his disappointment at the decision and that he was “not hopeful” of any reprisal by UEFA. Indeed Fletcher’s case was so valid that Ferguson referred to it as “a tragedy”, with Arsene Wenger himself even calling the decision “very harsh”.

Thus, surrounded by appalling instances of insolence and disrespect, the dignity and professionalism of Fletcher stands out as a shining example of self-respect even more than it may have otherwise. Indeed such was Fletcher’s dignity in comparison that it made possible the argument that all footballers are not animals, governed by testosterone and desire; nor all self-absorbed prima-donners who care more about themselves than their team-mates, let alone the example they set for young fans - even as others did their best to convince us otherwise.

Instead, thank heavens, the example of Darren Fletcher sanctions the argument that there are those among the footballing profession who hold themselves to a higher standard. Who deny their frustration no matter the injustice, who decline to let their ego’s believe they are more important than the sum of their efforts, who refuse to taint and tarnish the reputation of professional football.

Such players do exist. They just rarely get the headlines or the credit they deserve.

Speaking of the Fletcher’s character, Ferguson said, “Darren is quite a placid lad”. “He is not an over-emotional boy. He just accepts it. He takes great credit for the way he handled it.”

Such self-control and dignity should not however be confused for a lack of passion or dedication, as so many have conveniently tried to argue in the cases of Messes Drogba, Ballack, Barton and Ronaldo. Such players may indeed be passionate and devoted, but to be such and still be able to control oneself in the heat of battle, at the height of one’s profession, arguably requires significantly more skill than any of those mentioned above are capable of displaying on a football field, either with a ball or without.

Not that anyone could argue the determination and devotion of Darren Fletcher: as it was essentially this which caused him to pursue Fabregas and give away the penalty which resulted in his subsequent dismissal.

As Ferguson pointed out, “Darren is an honest player, so honest that if he had been an old stager he would probably have let him go on and score. But he was still determined to do his job and prevent a goal.”

In light of this, the decision of UEFA not to overturn Darren Fletcher’s red card, denying him the right to appear in the Champions League final - which he surely would of done - even as he had in fact done nothing wrong, becomes even more dismaying. The only person at fault was referee Roberto Rosetti, albeit by way of an honest mistake, and yet Darren Fletcher remains the one who is penalised.

Such monumental injustice seems only rightly summed up by the otherwise would-be hyperbolic prose of one commenter: “In a world of war, destruction and global meltdown can there be no justice? No silver lining? Can humanity not get a break?”


One Response to “Without question: The dignity of Darren Fletcher”

  1. Charles Says:

    What an excellent article, you make some very valid points. So good to Fletcher dealing with the situation that sets a postitive example. But he had to go and thus he has to miss the final.

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