Thursday, November 19, 2009

'That' handball

Ok, let's get things out in the open. People cheat. They do it all the time. There are very few of us who could honestly say we've never cheated at anything - ever. I can't.

(Before I go any further and get sued or accused of nefarious activity of my own, on the basis of cheating by nicking this photo from the BBC website, I'd just like to give a shout to them, and AFP.)

In sport, it's rife and I think, especially football (which is sad to say as a supporter of the game). Watch any football match and you'll see shirt pulling (not allowed) diving (not allowed), people rolling around in agony (and then up on their feet in two seconds) and so on.

We're told by those in the know (people unprepared to take it on) that it's not cheating, it's about gaining an advantage (albeit illegally), and if the ref didn't see it well tough - let's all blame the man in black that someone else cheated.

And to a degree I accept this. Play hard (but fair). If the ref (in any sport) was to penalise every single breach of regulations, one of two things would happen.

1) cheating or undertaking nefarious acts to gain an advantage might just be eradicated as people come to realise that you just can't get away with it, and/or

2) matches would take so long a 90 minutes footie match would take a day to complete. So it happens and you live with it.

Think about the shenanigans that goes on in any penalty area at a corner. Anywhere else on the pitch the ref would blow for a foul. In the area pople get away with it because the ref would be giving 20 penalties a match. But why doesn't one of them (or the ref's association) say, OK we will. It would soon stop it.

But then there are instances like last night where Thierry Henry, so deliberately and obviously cheated to gain an advantage it's hard to stomach. But who's getting the flack?

Mostly, the ref. I heard Liam Brady, Assistant Irish Manager on the radio this morning effectively say you can't call what Henry did cheating, the problem is the ref didn't act on it.

Oh please. Come on. Give the ref some slack. He may have missed it. He may have seen it fleetingly and though it was one of those regular "handballs" rather than a Diego Maradonna moment. Whatever, if he saw it he should have given it. But he didn't.

But that doesn't detract from the fact that a role model to millions, deliberately cheated in a match being watched by millions, so blatantly to everyone (except the ref) and then had the gall (gaul?) to sit down at the end of the match and tell Richard Dunne, yes I handballed, but hey I'm sorry. Have a nice summer, I'll send you a postcard from South Africa.

Other notable Frenchmen have said how terrible this was and they're not proud of what happened. I'll bet they'll be cheering loudly when France play their opener next summer.

FIFA have done their usual retreating from the firing line issuing a statement saying the ref's decision is final. Gutless.

I don't accept this wasn't cheating at the most dreadful level at all. Henry should be retrospectively penalised. Make him miss the World Cup.

It's hard to argue that there are degrees of cheating. It should be black and white, but it aint. But there are some circumstances where someone should stand up and be counted. Henry, FIFA, the French Football Association, anyone.

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