January 04, 2005

On Sportsmanship

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/4130167.stm

I watched Manchester United play Tottenham Hotspur this evening, the latter having been the recipient of my support for well over 10 years. To summarise the match: Man U were dominant in midfield, but without Rooney and RVN were unable to create too many decent chances (Also thanks to MoM Ledly King). When they did, Paul Robinson was equal to the challenge. Spurs created a few half-chances but never really threatened, except in the last 20 minutes when the game became a little more free-flowing. 1–0 to either side looked increasingly likely.

Then there was the incident, which some commentators have called the worst "decision" in Premiership history. Roy Carroll came out of the area to clear (poorly), then retreated hastily. Meanwhile, the ball came off a few players and ended up with Pedro Mendes around the half way line on the Spurs right. He hit it first time, attempting to lob Carroll. Nice idea, but it appeared the Ulsterman was back on his line and in no trouble.

However, a fleeting glance off the ball meant he dropped it, spooning it across the goal line. With a horrified look that matched those on the faces of the United supporters behind him, he turned, and despairingly scooped it out of the net after it had bounced a yard over the line. he gets up, and to his surprise he sees that paly has continued. Old Trafford was in uproar, as was The Bar.

Now, the referee and his assistant were clearly incompetent. It has been claimed that the assistant was too far away from play, but from the replays it is apparent that he was clearly at least in line with the penalty area. For the distance the ball went over, that was close enough. Either he gave up watching, thinking Carroll had it, or he's biased. Either way, he shouldn't be officiating.

Roy Carroll, on the other hand, knew. He knew it was a goal. He knew that there was no getting around it afterwards with the replays etc. Surely he should have done something about it, made it obvious it was a goal? Did he? No, he just carried on. He implicitly lied to the ref, to the rest of the team, to Tottenham, and to both sets of fans. It defrauded Spurs of 2 points, which come May could mean a significant loss of revenue (It's £500,000 per league place, let alone any European ramifications). It brought the game into disrepute. In short, he should be severely punished, and I hope he gets what he deserves.

However, he could have saved himself the outrage of a nation of fans, the shame of being a cheat and any disciplinary measures by being a sportsman. What's happened to Sportsmanship? Even in one of the most gentlemanly sports there is, cricket, many batsmen stand their ground when they know they've got an edge, putting the umpire under greater pressure. Today Boeta Dippenaar got a huge edge which carried to a slip – not the wicketkeeper, a slip – and he was given not out. Besides the incompetent umpiring from Daryl Harper, he could have walked off the field. I'd like to think I would have.

How can we respect sportsmen, who earn the adulation of millions, when they're nothing but cheats?


- 10 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Hi,

    I saw the cricket incident you are referring to, though not the football one. I am a keen cricket and football fan, and I know how frustrating it is when decisions go against you in both sports. However, I think in both sports you have to say that in the end these decisions will even out over the course of a Test match/season. Cricketers especially feel that they will inevitably get a fair few bad decisions over the course of their career, so they should therefore have the right to benefit from some lucky decisions. And in fact, modern day unpires actually don't like it when players do walk – Adam Gilchrist, who has made a recent decision that he will walk whenever he knows he is out (and to his credit has stuck to that decision) was criticised, not praised by an umpire recently, who said that the umpires have a job to do and players should let them do it!

    I wouldn't worry about Spurs – a point at United is very creditable, from what I hear Spurs got a bit lucky with a couple of decisions and I can promise you that at some stage of the season, one of your players will get lucky with a decision or two that will win you a match – in fact Jamie Redknapp got lucky earlier on in the season when he wasn't sent off against Everton and you went on to win. What annoys me more is when one referee seems determined to hand the title to a side – witness Mike Riley, who I am convinced is in the pay of Roman Abramovich (and no, I'm not an Arsenal fan, I am a West Ham fan). Also mistakes are more annoying when they are made in Cup matches and ODIs, when there is less chance that they will even themselves out.

    It's also interesting that some offences, such as the Roy Carroll's offence today, seem worse than others. There's an interesting article about this on a cricketing blog, here

    05 Jan 2005, 00:29

  2. Biased I may be, but I wouldn't expect anything else from Manchester United.

    05 Jan 2005, 00:30

  3. Would you expect anything different from any other Premiership – or even football league – team? How many times have you seen a player say "actually, no, ref, you've got that one wrong, we don't deserve a penalty/ their goal should stand / i should be sent off for that tackle". Even in the bad old good old days stuff like that didn't happen.

    05 Jan 2005, 01:38

  4. It's why acts of sportsmanship are so valued in modern sport. My fondest football memory in the last five years or so was when Di Canio caught the ball after the Everton keeper injured himself. What was particularly impressive in that instance what that nobody would have blamed him for scoring, after all, no West Ham player was at fault for the injury.

    But Manchester Utd are one of those teams who I (perhaps unfairly) characterise as being particularly prone to gamesmanship. I seem to recall a Champion's League match of a few years ago, in which they played Valencia. A Valencia player went down due to injury late in the game, with his side leading, and a teammate duly kicked the ball out of play, expecting it to be returned. It wasn't, and Man Utd played on.

    Though as a self-confessed ABU-er (Anyone But United), I'm not really the best placed to comment on it.

    05 Jan 2005, 02:03

  5. I'd love to think that sportsmanship would come into it, but unfortunately it is down to who pays their wages. What would happen to Carroll if he put his hands up and said, sorry 'guv, that was a goal. Ferggie would have killed him!

    05 Jan 2005, 09:24

  6. Thanks all, for your responses, and especially Daisy – a very interesting article.
    I particularly liked Mike Brearley's comments, but I think this is a slightly different matter when thought about with respect to the match officials. In a cricket situation, as Brearley rightly says, the batsman is effectively put on trial, and the umpire(s) have to make a decision. Last night there was no contentious edge (which a batsman may claim he didn't feel). There was no "was he, wasn't he?" offside decision, or a judgement made over a bad tackle – there basically wasn't a judgement. The referee, who must have been about level with Mendes (Who thought it was in) must have said "I dunno", shrugged his shoulders and carried on, which is downright pathetic. The linesman was closer too, and if the 4th official can't do something about it, then they might as well employ me to hold up a board with added time on it. Were they all not looking? At least cricket umpires have to make a split second decision involving slight deviations in the path of a ball travelling at 80 mph.
    As do, of course, the players. You might not know if you've edged it, or caught it, and the commentators can look at things on 1000 frames per second replays and use the snickometer. I guess what I'm trying to say is that cricketing decisions are harder than a big ball bouncing a metre over a line. There was no way Carroll could have got away with it in the modern televised age, but Gilchrist's walk was over a decision that was within reasonable doubt, and you're right, umpiring decisions do even themselves out. As do footballing decisions, offsides, unpunished tackles (Roy Keane dragging his studs over Marney, anyone?) and the like. But this was a goal, pure and simple, and I think Carroll should have owned up. I can't wait to hear what he has to say about himself (probably nothing).

    PS. I didn't actually see the Dippenaar decision, but it carried to Flintoff at slip, not Jones. How wide was the ball going to look like it wasn't edged?

    05 Jan 2005, 10:29

  7. I remember that Di Canio incident, and I also remember Harry Redknapp not sounding too pleased about it after the game! I agree that it is nice to see people making ethical decisions in sport, but it's not something that has ever been prevalent – even in the "gentleman's" sport cricket, in the supposedly less professional era of the 30s, there was the Bodyline tour.

    I've since seen the Roy Carroll incident and I don't think he actually behaved too badly – from what I could see, he didn't get up and protest that it wasn't a goal. It's not in the same league as Maradona's Hand of God, where Maradona not only deliberately cheated but also ran away celebrating, and was blatantly lying. In the Carroll incident, the officials were basically pants. And as another ABU-er, I feel that United do get more favourable decisions, along with the other two big clubs. How do you explain that United went for nearly 15 years without conceding a penalty at Old Trafford? Luck? Officials are intimidated by the crowd, the manager and the press – they know that if they get anything wrong against one of the big clubs, they'll be slaughtered, so they err on the side of caution.

    Also, I saw the Dippenaar decision, and it was poor – there was a very definite noise and the ball deviated – it really should have been given out. But Flintoff was the bowler, not the catcher, and the ball did carry to the keeper, I think. And at least you can say about that decision that it was largely irrelevant – South Africa will win the Test, and would have done so regardless of that decision. Blame the umpires for bringing us off for "bad light" in the last test. Bastards…

    05 Jan 2005, 22:33

  8. Yeah, that was annoying. But apparently that's what Vaughan and Smith had agreed prior to the series starting.
    Yes, Flintoff was the bowler, I misread the report – sorry! I've been really disappointed by this tour so far. I know Windies and NZ weren't the greatest opposition in the world, but I think our batting line-up has been complacent, and that's been the reason for our downfall. Scoring more in our 2nd innings than our first in successive tests is not good – can we only perform under pressure. We're clearly going to lose, possibly before lunch, but a part of me hopes we coudl save it. A century from England's ninth best all-rounder of all time, The King iof Spain, would be wonderful ;-)
    Wishful thinking.
    I still think Carroll should have brought it to the attention fo the officials, and I persist in claiming that I would have done. Admittedly I don't paly sport at such a high level (A few birds and a couple of toddlers in the park is the biggest audience that has watched my batting prowess. Ahem), but when I do, I like to think that I am a "sportsman".
    Anyway, I think this conversation is just about over, but i'd like to say it's been a pleasure exchanging views with you, Daisy. Your blog has been added to my favourites :-)

    05 Jan 2005, 23:54

  9. One of the worst decisions I have ever seen came at Oxford. Jeroen Boere, who played for my team (Southend) at the time, kicked one of the Oxford players. The referee sent off Leo Roget for the same incident. Boere is white, Roget is black. It's quite a serious case of mistaken identity! That referee was Barry Knight, now on the Premiership list!

    As for the cricketing comments, as someone who has played a lot of cricket at a decent level I never walk, and I know very few people that do. The umpires are there to make a decision in a highly competitive environment and that is part of the game. You can't complain when they make a mistake either against you or in your favour because they are only human.

    There is far too much sentimentality in grassroots sport. When you play in friendly cricket matches I virtually get a standing ovation when you walk out to bat. In the first XI league game you get some interesting comments from the slip cordon, the short-leg and a glare from the overseas U19 international.

    That's sportsmanship!

    11 Jan 2005, 23:17

  10. Luke Appleton

    Does anyone know where there is a video of it? I need it for a school project.

    12 Dec 2006, 09:12


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