Mourinho could miss Chelsea return due to swearing censure
Manchester United manager charged by the English FA after outburst following Newcastle win
Jose Mourinho: the Premier League’s most accomplished attention-seeker. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
In this week’s episode of the José Mourinho show the Manchester United manager could have another sentimental return to Stamford Bridge ruined by the threat of a touchline ban for swearing in Portuguese.
The English Football Association has charged the Premier League’s most accomplished attention-seeker with the use of “abusive, insulting or improper language” after he apparently repeated the phrase fodas filhos de puta into the TV cameras following United’s late win against Newcastle.
Anyone who watched the match live would have seen the tirade but many may have failed to deduce its contents, perhaps assuming it was a valedictory statement about the effectiveness of casting Paul Pogba as a central defender.
But thanks to the work of the FA’s on-field disciplinary committee, which hired a lip reader to establish the truth, it seems that Mourinho was telling someone – everyone? – to ‘f**k off, you sons of whores’.
The question arises as to whether this act is an offensive one. It is difficult not to imagine that such a debate was precisely what Mourinho intended, even if the topic is somewhere outside his normal area of expertise. So, as befits the spirit of the age, let’s consider both sides.
On the negative half of the ledger, there is the fact that such a phrase is – officially – bad language. When you look at the literal translation, it’s not a nice grouping of words and the frequency with which the French, Spanish and Portuguese seem to coalesce their cursing around a colloquial word for a female sex worker is just a little dispiriting.
On the positive side, one might say: yes, it’s a curse phrase with misogynist undertones but it’s also something that anyone who has spent any time on the Iberian peninsula, particularly in the vicinity of someone receiving a parking ticket, will have heard. In fact, it’s such a common phrase you could argue that it has lost its meaning and that nobody could truly be offended by it.
Taking into account potential offence on the part of the TV audience was a central criteria for the FA’s committee in considering its verdict. Not just a British audience, of course, but a global one.
It could well be that, say, the populace of Macau, where Portuguese is spoken as a result of the colonial history of the now autonomous region on the Chinese mainland, got a bit upset. It’s a long shot, but it could be.
More likely, however, indeed much more likely, is that someone could confect offence at the remarks.
That there might be a dynamic similar to that on RTÉ’s the Late Late Show last week when Alastair Campbell told Nigel Farage to “own his shit” over Brexit and the Leave.eu figurehead, who a couple of years ago was arguing that foreigners with HIV were crippling the NHS, felt free to declare himself disgusted that anyone could seek to coarsen the debate by using four-letter words. That kind of thing could happen.
Of course the irony, should Mourinho be punished because of disingenuous behaviour by others, would be humongous. At the same time, it is probably time we had an open, honest conversation about what we consider to be bad language in the 21st century and how much it genuinely offends.
The answer might be more nuanced than you expect. Speaking personally for a moment, I swear a lot in my personal life and even a fair bit at work. I don’t consider it offensive at all. Until, that is, I catch myself using it with any tinge of temper. Then I am disgusted.
Professional sport is a pressure cooker and football players swear all the time. They don’t often get charged for it, though, because they’re not deliberately doing it to a camera (Wayne Rooney did and got a two-game ban in 2011). In a spectacle often fuelled by aggression bad language is to be expected. Perhaps it ought not to be condoned, but should it really be punished?
As the big encounter with genial Maurizio Sarri’s freewheeling Blues approaches, one might be inclined – just this once – to feel the tiniest bit sorry for Mourinho.
On the other hand, however, one might not. Knowing this guy, the next thing you’ll know he’ll be posing for billboard ads with gaffer tape over his gob.