Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The World Cup 2010 has now come to the quarter-final stages, where eight teams are left with the chance of lifting that ultimate football trophy. There are 4 teams from the South American continent - Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay & Uruguay; 3 teams from Europe - Germany, Spain and the Nethelands; and a solitary team from the African nations - Ghana.

England, as always played out a disastrous (and high profile) tornament, losing to their arch-nemesis Germany in the round of 16 in a 4-1 mauling. To be honest, I did not expect the 3 lions to progress further than they did in their previous outing in 2006, which ended in a penalty loss to Portugal in the quarter-finals stages. But still, given the number of supposedly "world-class" players (if we access their individual performances in their respective clubs and their 'market value' in the transfer market) in the squard, I totally expected them to at least reach the same stage as their past performance in 2006.
But Germany made sure that did not happen. And from a neutral's perspective, that is a good thing, since England really doesnt play attractive football..... Turns out they dont play effective football as well.

However, the England match did produce a good talking point - courtesy of a Frank Lampard first half attempt, which sailed over the German goalkeeper and hit the cross-bar, bounced once OVER the goal-line, before the unabashed goalie hurriedly picked it up and pretended as if nothing had happened!
From the video replays (which was available and broadcasted almost "live" during the match itself), it was clear as day that it had been a wondrous goal, which would've brought England parity (at 2-2) which they'd hardly deserved. Unfortunately for England, the Referee and his line assistant somehow missed it, and the "goal" was not given.

Expectedly, many die-hard England fans cried foul, and rounds of referee bashing and conspiracy theories were circulated in the internet and some tabloid papers. The call for video technology to be used in football also grew in strength, as players, managers and football personalities threw their weight behind the motion. Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA finally admitted that it would be foolish to not consider such a call in the forseeable future.

But what got me ticked was an article in Today's papers - on how it was deemed "okay" for a sports person to cheat, as long as he "wins". In the article, the German goalkeeper was quoted as admitting that he saw the that ball had clearly crossed the line, but he quickly picked it up when it bounced and pretended that nothing had happened. It was further mentioned that he felt it was "lucky" that the referee was fooled by his act.
That sounded really dishonest to me. In fact, I find it downright despicable.... Surely, as an athelete/sportsman, the highest regard should be given to one's spirit of sportsmanship? That involves having a high integrity and a healthy respect for the sport as well as for your opponent. Since when has a 'dirty win' been as good as any other win?

It's interesting to find many instances where a sports-personality is shamed because he/she attempted to gain an unfair advantage over the opposition, in order to win. Think all those cases of performance-enhancing drug tests on atheletes... But yet, I discover that when there is a great difference in treatment between individual sports and team sports (and in particular, those involving countries). Individual sports would include many types of sporting event where typically, the sportsperson vies for individual honors and his/her allegience doesnt really get into the picture. A great example would be golf, and to a lesser extent tennis. Here, people tend to remember the champions, but may not necessarily remember (or care) where he/she hails from.
Team sports, on the other hand involves a lot more passion and support from their fan base, and the typically has some tie-in with their country of allegience. Football would be the classic example. Table tennis, swimming, diving, gymnastics are also other team sports which attract a lot of attention due to the intense competition from the typically strong nations.

In individual sports, it seems to me that there is very little sympathy for a sportsperson who has been discovered to be cheating in his event. People readily condemn the dishonest act and vilify the person for his lack of basic sportsmanship. So what if he/she has just won the championship? So what if he/she has been a great champion for the past 10 years? A single unsportman-like behavior is sufficient to cast him as a villian in everyone's mind.

Not so with a team sport though. You can cheat, you can bluff, you can deceive... you can virtually do anything.... as long as you WIN. And of course, as long as you dont get caught IN THE ACT. It is okay to admit afterwards about the dishonest act, even boast about it.... as long as you WIN...??

Isn't there something fundamentally wrong here?