November 13, 2019

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Captain's abusive tantrum many things; 'valour' not among them

Opinion

Being a captain of a sports team is about a lot more than slapping a letter on your jersey and proudly puffing out your chest.

You are expected to lead. To inspire. To motivate. To be a brand ambassador for the franchise. To set a positive example for your peers. To remain calm, cool and collected in the face of adversity. To be a role model in the heat of battle, in the locker room and in the community. To face the music when required.

Valour FC captain Jordan Murrell, in a moment likely to haunt him for the rest of his professional soccer career, failed miserably in every aspect of his job description earlier this week.

As a result, the 26-year-old defender must be stripped of the "C" by the organization, in addition to what ought to be major consequences coming his way from the Canadian Premier League.

In case you haven't seen the video making the rounds, Murrell blew a gasket during Monday's game in Halifax, giving the first-year Winnipeg soccer club a big black eye in the process.

Murrell was taken down by an opponent during a challenge for a ball and felt there should have been a penalty on the play. Fair enough. He's certainly not the first athlete to feel he got a raw deal, nor will he be the last. A few harsh words directed to the official, which was his initial reaction, would have been understandable.

Valour FC captain Jordan Murrell, right, directs some harsh words at referee Filip Dujic in a match against the Halifax Wanderers FC, Monday.

TREVOR MACMILLAN / HFX WANDERERS FC

Valour FC captain Jordan Murrell, right, directs some harsh words at referee Filip Dujic in a match against the Halifax Wanderers FC, Monday.

But that wasn't the end of the matter. Not even close.

Murrell got up, shoved referee Filip Dujic in an obvious act of frustration and was deservedly issued a red card for "violent conduct" and an automatic ejection. As a teammate restrained him from further going after the man in stripes — and perhaps doing something even more boneheaded — Murrell walked to the sidelines and kicked the scorer's table, sending all of the contents flying through the air and just missing contact with the poor chap sitting directly behind it, along with several other startled spectators. He also bumped a security guard on the way to the locker room.

All of this happened with Murrell's desperate team pushing for the equalizer, down 1-0 in the 89th minute of the game, and eliminated any hope Valour had of a comeback as they were forced to play a man short for the final few minutes, suffering yet another in a long line of losses.

Valour FC coach Rob Gale (right) and teammates try to control team captain Jordan Murrell (4).

TREVOR MACMILLAN / HFX WANDERERS FC

Valour FC coach Rob Gale (right) and teammates try to control team captain Jordan Murrell (4).

It was shocking, shameful and utterly selfish behaviour that is likely going to result in a lengthy suspension. Consider that the league's rules suggest that assaulting a match official comes with a minimum six-month ban from the sport and you get an idea of the potential severity. When you package his other antics along with the shove, he may be looking at even more.

For a Valour club still searching for an identity on the pitch and occupying the basement of the CPL standings — now with just three wins in 15 matches and none over the last 11 games spread over two months — it's a major issue that must be dealt with swiftly and severely.

Regardless of what the league chooses to do, Murrell is no longer fit to lead this team and a move should be made immediately. He should consider himself lucky if he isn't released outright by the club, which signed him to a multi-year deal.

"To all the staff, Halifax supporters, officials, and all of the Valour FC supporters watching the match today, I want to state that I fully regret my actions and I apologize. I reacted in the heat of the moment and did not act in true representation of our team, the league, or my character. I am very sorry for my actions and to anyone I unintentionally affected," Murrell wrote to his 968 Twitter followers a few hours later in an attempt to do some damage control.

An important and necessary step, but not nearly enough.

Step 2 would have been trotting Murrell out before the media Tuesday, forcing him to stand in there and take questions about his bizarre behaviour. But Valour decided to shield its star for another 24 hours, saying he wouldn't be made available for comment until today.

That's not acceptable, and it's a bad look for the team which, to date, almost seems to be trying to justify Murrell's actions by playing the "woe is us" card.

"We don't want to carry ourselves in the wrong way but sometimes it's difficult to understand how we've ended up with 10 men and the other team has had 11, with balls being kicked away and other decisions," Valour FC manager and coach Rob Gale told The Canadian Press following the game Monday.

You know what they say about excuses, right? They're for losers. The last thing Valour should be doing is trying to justify or enable Murrell's ridiculous behaviour.

Murrell leaves the pitch after being ejected from the game by the referee Monday.

TREVOR MACMILLAN / HFX WANDERERS FC

Murrell leaves the pitch after being ejected from the game by the referee Monday.

Murrell, who was born in England but moved to Ontario at the age of 11 and is a Canadian citizen, was voted by his peers to be the team's first-ever captain before they started play in May. A big honour, no doubt.

At the time, Gale said Murrell, along with co-captain Skylar Thomas, were exactly what they were looking for in leaders.

"When you've got investment from people and you're investing in people, then you've got a great chance to build something bigger than yourselves and leave the legacy. They're the two perfect examples of that," said Gale.

That investment, suddenly, isn't looking so sound. And even the soccer club itself is hearing about it on its own Twitter page, based on some of the replies to Murrell's written statement.

"Disgusting display off the pitch. By our captain, no less," one follower wrote.

"What a way to embarrass the proud name of Valour & the city of Winnipeg. NOBODY wants players like this representing us," said another.

They're not wrong.

Although Valour hasn't been much to watch on the pitch, they've been a pretty good story off it. The club is averaging 6,216 fans per game at IG Field, which is second-best in the seven-team league. Many of those spectators are wide-eyed young kids who no doubt look up to the likes of Murrell.

I suppose the only positive here is that Murrell's temper tantrum happened on the road, so hundreds of parents won't have to try to explain to their daughter or son why the leader of the team acted that way.

Look, I get that the lack of success this season is likely taking a toll on Valour players, but that's never an excuse to place your hands on an official. And, as an appointed leader, Murrell, of all people, should have known better, especially with his reeling club already dealing with several injuries prior to his self-inflicted absence.

That's why the next chapter of this story must be Murrell being forced to hand the keys over to someone else to lead the team for the remainder of the season. He has proven himself to be unfit for the position and all the responsibilities that come with it for Valour, which means "great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle."

There was nothing courageous about Murrell's actions, which really stand out when you scroll back in his Twitter timeline and find this missive from earlier in the year.

"I wonder if people truly think before they speak or act," he wrote at the time.

Murrell may want to take a long look in the mirror and try to come up with an answer to that one.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

Read full biography

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