Tonight, somewhere in what used to be the Russian Eastern Bloc, England play Italy in the semi qauarter final of the European Cup. For those outside the European backyard, this is a game of football, or as my friends in America call it...Soccer.
Actually that's ideally what we call it over here, because we also have rugby football, which is not unlike American Gridiron football, but without the armour and thick padding. One pundit said that the difference between our two games is that soccer is a game for gentlemen but played by thugs, whereas rugby is a game for thugs played by gentlemen. Which brings me to sportsmanship.
Only in golf can I think of a game where the players will volunteer to penalise themselves for the most minor and silly offense, such as the ball moving a millimeter in a strong wind after the golfer had addressed the ball. A full shot penalty and nobody else spotted it and yet it could be the difference between winning the Masters or coming in as an also-ran!
In Soccer the very idea of a player owning up to an unseen infringement is laughable and would probable be subject to a large behind-the-scenes club fine at the least. Some of the things soccer players do as a matter of course:-
- Claim it's their throw in when they obviously kicked the ball out.
- Take a "dive" in the penalty area without being touched.
- Claim a corner kick when it's a goal kick.
- Roll around in agony until the referee awards a fowl and gives a yellow, or red card to the opponent. Then get up, wink at the cameras and take the free kick as though nothing had happened.
- Make a sliding tackle into an opponent's legs with boot studs uppermost. Many a career has been ended this way.
- Get paid ridiculous sums of money, then spend it on wine, women, fast cars and flash clothes. The rest they waste!
Golfers play a leisurely game of around 4 hours, hitting a little ball with a range of sticks and a lot of thought. The fewer hits they make the better they do and never once do they raise their voices. They dress immaculately and never have long straggly hair, or shaven heads. A complete blunder of a shot costing thousands will be met by a "Gosh!" ans a reprimand.
And yet many top flight soccer players are excellent golfers and I have to presume their behaviour on the golf course is totally different, or we'd have them claiming the ball isn't really in the bunker, that their opponent tripped them with a sand wedge and writhing around on the green in agony if the putt doesn't go in. Who'd be a referee in a golf match. So boring!
Not so many years ago (all right about 80) it was common for a cricket match to be between The Gentlemen and The Players. The gentlemen were wealthy amateurs and on the team sheet they would be called Mister, The Players were professional sportsmen who were not wealthy and they were addressed by their surnames only. The Players were treated as second-class citizens, even though they more often than not won.
It's now half time in the England v Italy match and so far there's been no penalties (claimed, or otherwise), no writhing histrionics and no goals. It's been played in a very sportsman-like way. I wonder what's on the other side!
Enjoy the week and......
Blog on, dudes!