It was a day of extreme heat, high emotion and fraught handshakes in west London as Chelsea and Spurs played out an eventful 2-2 draw. It was a match that helped Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness rediscover the love of a sport that Paul Pogba basically ruined for him.
During Sky Sports's post match analysis, Souness spoke of his excitement that football was once again a "man's game". Seated beside him was Karen Carney, who was capped 144 times for England, and also a woman.
"We've all played the game," Souness said. "When you see simulation, people throwing themselves to the ground... I've not seen that today. It's a man's game all of a sudden again."
Souness saying “it’s a man’s game” next to Karen Carney💀💀 pic.twitter.com/R4bevjJ3B5
— mx (@MessiMX30iiii) August 14, 2022
Souness would return to point about men later in his analysis.
"I think we've got our football back, as I would enjoy football. Men at it. Blow for blow, and the referee letting them getting at it."
Souness with the intentional “accidental Partridge” 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/IptW8w2z0V
— Tom Pidge (@itsthepidgehere) August 14, 2022
The comment drew a bemused reaction from Carney and barely concealed grin from Carragher. Dave Jones would remind Souness that football is also a women's game.
Souness's frothy talk of a 'man's game' drew criticism from a number of female English internationals, past and present.
“It’s a man’s game”
“Men at it”
Get in the 🗑 what a disgraceful thing to say after the summer this country has just seen.
— Bethany England (@Bethany_Eng15) August 14, 2022
Football is football. Played by women, men, boys and girls. Very simple.
— Eniola Aluko (@EniAlu) August 14, 2022
A quick trawl of social media will find a litany of tweets stating that Souness spoke a literal truth - that today, Chelsea's men's team were playing the men's team of Tottenham Hotspur. And if you're feeling generous, Souness's overall sentiment is one we'd probably all get behind, even if it was clumsily worded. Whether it's men's football or women's football, we all want to watch the game played in this anarchic, breakneck spirit. We want controversy and weird handshakes.
But it's also a fact that describing football, or any sport, as a 'man's game' - especially with a female footballer at an arm's length away - will offend at least half of the population, and rightly so. (Just as the term 'our football' feels loaded and barbed). Carney's presence on Sky's coverage both Saturday and Sunday was triggering for many, many viewers at home, but whatever your perspective on her punditry, her presence offers a reminder that the sport is not only played (and watched) by men. Souness may long for a different era of football. It would do no one harm if he binned the clichés of that era.
Coincidentally, the frenetic final minutes of second half added time featured a blatant hair pull by Sergio Romero on the lustrous curly locks of Marc Cucurella.