Sunday, 16 August 2009

On sportsmanship and such

Predictably, and not entirely without good reason, Fernando De Moraes' sneaky goal against Sunshine George Cross has raised all sorts of ethical questions and complaints.

Within the context of the behaviour expected by years of unspoken soccer precedent, De Moraes' actions are not justifiable. Within the actual rules of the game, there is nothing wrong at all; nothing for a referee to deal with except to signal a goal and get on with the game. And thus both sides of the issue have their merits. Ultimately though, the incident speaks to a deeper problem within the game, that of exalting one type of sportsmanship to the exlcusion of all others.

Throughout our post NSL existence, the era of the club I have watched with the most attention by far, I have seen the following. Hideous tackles, both deliberate and otherwise; frequent disrespect for referees; inciting of crowds; deliberate handballs; and perhaps worst of all, the condoning of all such behaviour under the guise of 'it's a man's game', or 'it's a passionate game', but mostly because people are prejudiced towards their clubs, against other clubs, but who need to appear unbiased to give themselves some sort of credibility.

To be perfectly blunt, this sort of sportsmanship nonsense irks me no end. If a player is seriously injured the referee has discretion to stop the game. Most of the time though, these instances contain at best very minor injuries, sometimes even to the extent that players will deliberately exaggerate their injuries to curb the other team's attacking momentum. The point being that, really, play should continue until such time as a natural stoppage comes up, or the referee deems the injured player's health to be in such jeopardy tha the game should be stopped.

For the record, yes, I cheered for the goal. It was no 'Hand of God' moment. Neither will it go down as one of the greatest moments in South history; I certainly hope it doesn't, anyway. And I'm not sure how Fernando will feel about it in years to come. But as someone who has for a very long time actively disliked these phony and mostly unnecessary stoppages of play, I hope that it may finally put an end - at this level at least - to the whole charade. Somehow I doubt it though. The hypocrisy the outrage is built on has been built up over many years, and its cultural foundations run deep. This incident will be a one off. The other types of poor sportsmanship - the lack of duty of care to fellow players, disrespect to the officials, taking advantage of the laws of the game for purposes other than which they were intended - will be repeated week in, week out, and barely a whimper will be raised in the manner it was raised for this incident.

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