Going through the links on my blog I “stumbled” across From the Left Wing again, and found a post that captured a few of my thoughts about football and the role of cheating in the sport. Titled Henry’s Handball & the Moral Ambiguity of Football, it’s fairly obvious what the post covers.
Football is a game that stirs emotions. Managed by humans, mistakes are bound to happen - fouls that are missed, clean tackles that become punishable offences, diving, calling a ball out when it remained within the field of play, giving a goal kick when it was clearly a corner, etc. Oh, and handballs.
Any of these offences can have drastic consequences - but I think handballs are rarely used to the same effect as Maradona and, recently, Henry have done. Perhaps that’s why Henry copped so much flak but FIFA did nothing. I would say it’s almost become accepted that players dive and are (mistakenly) awarded penalties. I could imagine that if FIFA made a decision on Henry, they would set a precedent for all kinds protests against rule-breaking actions that result in a goal/could have resulted in a goal.
And wouldn’t they be busy bees if they had done anything with Henry. As Jennifer Doyle writes:
It becomes part of your game. It becomes part of the opposition’s game. If it’s part of the opposition’s game, it should be part of yours. Circular argument, but you have to wake up and realise it happens.
Handballs, offside calls, the identification of goals and the discounting of goals, calls for aggressive tackles and diving - all are made by referees without the help of video replay, and are vulnerable to human error and players know it - and the most competitive exploit this. It becomes part of your game.
I think Australians are too naïve when it comes too this. We generally play by the rules, but someone else will spoil the party. And when the game is over – we’re left with nothing.
Even if you refuse to include it in your game you must accept that it occurs. You must make sure that you do not give the opposition the opportunity to cheat in a way that is catastrophic to your team. I won’t name or describe the best example for us, as I think that it is obvious.
Personally, I’ve never handballed in an un-obvious way (I have had brain snaps in the middle of the park where I’ve obviously stuck my hand out, made contact and sworn at myself/burst into a giggle fit at my idiocy) and diving isn’t in my repertoire.
“Cheating" is an art in this sport.
But I recognise that football can be subjective. I won’t pretend otherwise.
I exploit this. I won’t pretend otherwise.
I indirectly address referees.
I abuse opposition officials if I notice them unjustly interfering with the game (as a coach, I don’t taint my players – I will simply give my team instructions or cheer them on but especially loudly when the linesperson happens to be in front of me. Or specifically, their ear is in front of me. Their faces are gold when you see their paranoia develop - Surely it’s just in my head that she gives louder instructions while I am there.)
I waste time. I like to think time wasting is a special talent of mine, particularly as a goalkeeper.
I claim the opposition’s ball.
I play until the referee stops me. Dribbled the ball out? Carry on until the referee tells you otherwise. Similarly, don’t stop because you think the opposition has dribbled the ball out. We’ve all been caught out before.
Lots of white lies. You probably think that they’re not as bad as handballs and diving in the box…
Let’s return to I play until the referee stops me. I have gotten away with football murder. I was so good, I convinced all but one team-mate (who was on the goal line with me), our coach (at the time, my eagle-eyed dad) and the opposition attackers. What if I got caught? Well, I would have played dumb and accepted the referee’s decision.
For the record, I have only ever had one yellow card. For indoor. Apparently slide tackles are illegal.