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No laughing matter

Comments Off on No laughing matter 06 January 2018

No laughing matter

I’m seriously unimpressed with Antonio Conte today. He’s a great manager, with a big personality, dripping with charisma and a lovely head of hair, even if some of it used to be on a different part of his head. But his ugly squabble with Manchester United’s ever more tiresome manager Jose Mourinho plumbs new depths of poor taste. In a response to Mourinho’s jibe that Conte and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp behave like “clowns” on the touchline, Conte said this: “I think he has to see himself in the past – maybe he was speaking about himself in the past. Maybe, sometimes, I think that someone forgets what’s said in the past, which is his behaviour. Sometimes I think there is, I don’t know the name, but demenza senile… when you forget what you do in the past.” You will not be surprised to learn that demenza senile means senile dementia. That’s a dig too deep.

Sorry to be all sensitive and all that – well, actually I’m not – but this is far from funny. In the last few years, I worked with a good few people who suffered from various types of dementia and they bore no resemblance from the rantings of an egomaniacal football manager. Every single case, without exception, was overwhelmingly tragic. A life ruined by the most cruel twist of all.

I am among the first to criticise Mourinho. Acknowledging of course his great abilities as a winning football coach, I find nothing else likeable about the man. It is not his relentless desire to win and hatred of losing. These are largely virtuous characteristics in sport. It is his charmlessness, his arrogance, his preening narcissism, his increasingly pathetic mind games. But so far as the eye can tell he is not suffering from the most awful illness of them all.

I do not excuse Conte because of his limited ability with the English language. It doesn’t apply in this instance anyway because he used the Italian version of dementia. He knew what he was saying and was plainly aware of the context in which he was using it.

Lose a relative or friend to dementia and you will see no funny side. It is death whilst still being alive. The body can remain functional at least in the early stages as the mind goes blank.

This should be front page news but it’s just a laugh because a football manager said it. Completely unacceptable in my opinion, but then I have seen the devastation caused by dementia and find nothing funny about it at all. Quite the opposite.

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