Johannesburg - Is it pure coincidence or good timing? I’m not sure, but no sooner was I talking about the divers and cheaters in soccer then the Australian cricket scandal happened. And that’s what it is – a scandal.
But, as I mentioned last week, it’s been going on in soccer for a long time, so why are we surprised when it happens in another sport?
Remember the cycling controversy and Lance Armstrong? In how many more so-called sports is it happening that we are not aware of? I have long been of the opinion that there is no such thing as sport any more.
Oh, there’s participation in what appears to be a sporting capacity, but it’s not sport – it’s business, and a very lucrative or expensive business in terms of individual or team events.
Long gone are the days when people took part for the enjoyment of the event. I remember in the 1960s when the maximum wage of a soccer player in the UK was £20 a week. Yes, £20 a week.
In those days, players trained twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday), and played a game on a Saturday afternoon. Those days are long gone and will not come back.
Do you remember your parents telling you that money is the root of all evil? How right they were. Today, the more successful one is, the more money can be earned.
Professional players are earning salaries that look like telephone numbers, and those are not annual salaries – those are weekly wages.
The integrity and honesty that once permeated competition at all levels no longer exists. It is but a distant memory and the desire, nay the need, to win is paramount.
Our children are emulating their heroes with little or no knowledge of what they are doing and, sometimes, sadly, with the active encouragement of their mentors and parents.
So what can be done to eradicate this cancer?
It’s hard to know, really. The desire to win will always be there, but how one wins is important.
The match officials are the ones who have the power to stop it, but they need the support of the powers that be. Sadly, those same powers that be are, in some instances, the very people who are propagating the shenanigans and are part of the problem.
From a soccer point of view, the referees need to be independent and free from any form of influence by soccer politicians. We need to be able to make our decisions without any threat of retribution and be safe in the knowledge that our decisions will not be overturned 24 or 48 hours after a game.
Red cards are regularly overturned and I believe many referees fear that happening, hence their reluctance to issue the ultimate sanction in the first place.
We need to be strong in the face of this adversity from the footballing hierarchy and, if we make a mistake, then so be it. It won’t be the first or last time that a match official has got it wrong.
Law 5 in Fifa’s Laws the Game says: “Decisions will be made to the best of the referee’s ability according to the Laws of the Game and the ‘spirit of the game’, and will be based on the opinion of the referee, who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game.
“The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final. The decisions of the referees, and all other match officials, must always be respected.”
In the words of former UK prime minister John Major, it’s time to get back to basics.
More rule changes – Law 13 (free kick): “If an opponent who is in the penalty area when the free kick is taken, or enters the penalty area before the ball is in play, touches or challenges for the ball before it has touched another player, the free kick is retaken.”
I’ll deal with Law 14 (penalty kick) next week.
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