Written by Jen Offord


Big mouth strikes again

Six weeks after she was publicly criticised by Chelsea manager José Mourinho, Dr Eva Carneiro has left the club she’s worked at for six years. Shame on the Blues boss, says Standard Issue sports correspondent Jen Offord, it’s a dark day for the beautiful game.

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

As a football fan (not of Chelsea), I’ll delight in almost any occasion to have a pop at José Mourinho, but the Premier League does need its story arc of a season, and the self-proclaimed Special One is usually up there at least in the subplots, providing light-hearted entertainment as a pantomime villain of the league.

His Specialism is the art of deflection, in which he is a master, always finding someone/thing (most recently, a computer) to take the spotlight off his team’s shoddy performance or his own incompetencies as a manager (the buck has to stop somewhere). Everyone blames the ref – he’s a wanker after all, as the old adage goes – but Mourinho might just have taken his deflections too far this time.

Let me take you back to the very first game of the season: Chelsea is reduced to 10 men in the club’s opening game against Swansea, after goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is sent off. The Blues are drawing 2-2 with their opponents and with minutes of the game remaining, Eden Hazard takes a little tumble. Officials signal for Chelsea’s medical team to treat Hazard, and club doctor Eva Carneiro along with club physio, John Fearn, duly do so, removing the player from play while they do so – as per the game’s rules. Chelsea, now down to nine men, fail to score in the last six minutes of the game and subsequently draw.

“Regardless of gender, you might be quite justified in taking umbrage with being called out on your professionalism in front of an audience of millions, particularly when you acted very much in line with the rules and expectations of your profession.”

Speaking after the match, Mourinho decided on this occasion to deflect attention onto his medical team, with whom he said he was “unhappy” for their “impulsive and naive” treatment of the player, adding that, “Whether you are a kit man, doctor or secretary on the bench, you have to understand the game.”

The following day, pundits suggested Mourinho might come to regret this statement; Carneiro has been a doctor with the team for six years, one of the few female doctors working in football, and was also named on the same day as the 48th most influential woman in sport by the Independent.

Despite this vote of confidence in her ability, and unmoved by public support for the doctor, Mourinho did not apologise to his staff. Carneiro’s role was subsequently downgraded: though continuing to work with first-team players at the training ground, she would no longer attend matches or training sessions. Since this time, Carneiro has been away from her duties at the club and it was announced on Tuesday she was leaving permanently, and looking into whether or not legal action is appropriate.

This case is about more than sexism, as Women in Football founder Anna Kessel is keen to point out, and Mourinho’s actions are in breach of FA rules regarding both Fearn and Carneiro.

Regardless of gender, you might be quite justified in taking umbrage with being called out on your professionalism in front of an audience of millions, particularly when you acted very much in line with the rules and expectations of your profession. So you might also be annoyed if you were John Fearn, the physio who was also caught up in all this. However, you might be more annoyed if you’d been hounded by paparazzi, endured being the subject of salacious tabloid gossip and thrust into the limelight just because you did your job – as Carneiro has.

“Who could forget former Sky pundits Richard Keys and Andy Gray ‘hanging out the back of’ humanity, directing a female linesman to get her ‘tits out’.”

You might be more annoyed still if your boss lambasted you with sexist or abusive language. Women in Football has submitted evidence to the FA, video footage in which Mourinho is thought to be seen shouting “daughter of a whore” in Portuguese – a language in which Carneiro is fluent and Mourinho would have known she understood – one assumes at Carneiro, given she was the only woman on the pitch. This comes after Chelsea spoke out, last season, against the sexist abuse Carneiro endured from their own supporters.

You might also argue, as Kessel points out, the comment that those in the game had to “understand it” carries more weight against a woman, because this is the accusation that is still levelled at women from supporters to professionals in the game.

Women, society attests, do not understand the offside rule (my colleagues over at The Offside Rule (We Get It!) beg to differ). Female linesmen may not be capable of doing their jobs properly, lest they be distracted by the charming wink of a handsome player, we are told. And who could forget former Sky pundits Richard Keys and Andy Gray “hanging out the back of” humanity, directing a female linesman to get her “tits out”.

It is sad but true that this kind of commentary is expected to some extent, but sadder for Chelsea that the incident tarnishes an otherwise decent record concerning women in football. The club has one of the few fully professional women’s teams and employs the only female manager in the Women’s Super League.

Keys and Gray were sacked by Sky for making derogatory comments about a female linesman (though later welcomed to the bosom of Talksport’s sanctuary of equality), because society recognises this behaviour is unacceptable, at least in the public eye. It is important that if found guilty, Chelsea and Mourinho face sanctions for the treatment of both Fearn and Carneiro, because it is exactly this kind of behaviour that must be taken seriously in order to redress the balance between men and women working in not just football, but sport in general.


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Written by Jen Offord

Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen