At the culmination of Sunday’s thrilling 2-1 win for Manchester United over Chelsea, all of the adrenaline that had been coursing throughout the veins of the armchair viewer disappeared in the blink of an eye, to be replaced by disgust and revulsion.
Well, it did if that armchair viewer was me.
The reason? A seemingly friendly coming-together after the final whistle between Belgian compatriots Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois. It’s always nice to see that after 90 minutes of hard-fought top-level football, rival players can share a few friendly words together because, after all, it’s only a game.
If only it were that simple. As it is becoming increasingly prevalent in the modern game, Lukaku and Courtois chose to conduct their conversation with their hands covering their mouths.
Why? What the f*** is going on? What have they got to say to each other that they need to hide it from the world? And don’t they realise how utterly absurd they both look?
Lads, if you’ve got something to say to each other that’s so potentially scandalous that you don’t want the world’s top lipreaders to carefully analyse, maybe wait until you’re off the pitch and in the players’ lounge?
Or just message each other on your smartphones – that way you can augment it with emojis and GIFs as well.
My rage hardly had time to cool before it was revived again in the Carabao Cup final, as Manchester City’s physio pulled the same mouth-covering bulls**t while he treated Fernandinho. What’s the big secret?
What could he possibly be saying to him other than a variation on ‘Is your leg poorly, mate?’ It’s hardly high espionage, is it?
This new method of covert conversation is spreading like a vile rash throughout football and it needs to be stamped out now.
We all know that kids ape the behaviour of their heroes and the thought that our eight-year-olds will soon be walking around the school field, talking to each other from behind their tiny hands is a sickening one.
It’s bad enough that they’re au fait in brandishing invisible yellow cards… and don’t ask me how I know what colour an invisible card is – I just do, right?
Sticking with school days, there used to be nothing more infuriating than seeing other kids going around whispering in each other’s ears then dancing about and singing, ‘I’ve got a secret! I’ve got a secret!’
With their hand-to-mouth nonsense, today’s footballers are merely playing out that childhood irritation on a grander, global scale.
It’s a terrible example to set to young fans, and anyway, I don’t care what those other kids used to tell each other… *I* know that it was a mayonnaise stain on the front of my trousers that afternoon in year 9.
The game’s lawmakers need to stamp out this hideous affectation now before it gets its evil talons into the sport we love, and indeed society itself.
As long as those players are out on the field of play, everything they do is for the benefit of us, the fans. We pay through the nose for match tickets, sub-standard pies, overpriced merchandise and TV subscriptions and as a result, those mouths belong to us.
That includes everything that comes out of them, and if that means that some enterprising teams want to start collecting expelled spit up off the pitch and half and full time before selling it in test tubes, then I suppose I’m going to have to be okay with that.
But if the covered-mouth conversations carry on, there’s going to have to be sanctions. Anyone caught doing it must automatically serve a three-month punishment period where they are forced to wear the clear plastic mouthguards from the hit family game Speak Out.
Oh, and get them mic’d up as well for the duration of their punishment – as I’ve said, we own them, and their shame must become our entertainment.
Although I could name at least half a dozen top flight players who are so educationally challenged that it would be impossible to notice a difference.