I have been a huge fan of soccer since the very beginning of my conscious life. I know it as football – the way they call this game in Europe. So, I might accidentally, as a matter of habit, be using “football” instead of soccer sometimes – please excuse me if that confuses you. Soccer remains my favorite sport, though I was doing many other kinds of sports: basketball, volleyball, tennis, ping-pong, swimming, skiing and skating. It is the only sport I watch and keep track of. I absolutely love this game that has a lot of elements interesting to me: flow of the game is often very unpredictable; there are so many strategies and tactics, each having different set of requirements; a significantly weaker team can turn the tides against the stronger one and etc. Watching football closely, I could not help noticing issues it has.
Ethical behavior as a concept does exist, however players and even officials break this concept easily in many cases. Match-fixing is one of the issues that occur quite often, especially in Italian football. Italy has a long match-fixing history with Calciocaos – the loudest fixing scandal with severe consequences for one of the teams – at the pinnacle. Calciocaos scandal ended with Juventus, one of the great teams in football history, being kicked to lower division, from Series A to B, for one season, which costed them two titles, reputation and a very talented player. Despite facing huge risk of punishment, teams keep practicing match-fixing. In fact, Italian league (Series A) is under investigation due to recent scandals.
Football officials are not saint either. FIFA, association that is supposed to deal with controversies, corruption and unethical behavior, is rotting from inside. There was a huge bribery scandal involving FIFA chiefs last year. How can be ethical practices enforced when governing body is corrupt itself? How do we know they are not involved in the match-fixing practices?i
Those are the larger scale problems. Now I would like to talk a little about football issues, not as global, but still important. Soccer has instant-replay prohibited for some reason. Some say it adds more drama, randomness and emotional element. Others say that not having instant-replay allows unfairness and foul play. I personally think, that instant-replay is not that important, though would it be present, no unethical behavior would not have been so common. Here is a compilation of obvious foul plays.
I also wouldn’t like to watch a replay and waste 30 sec just for teams to check for offside – that would partly take the joy of watching the game. Besides, soccer also has a special place for referee, who is just as important as players are, has reputation, skill level and qualification. Implementing instant replay would make all those referee qualities mentioned above meaningless, since it would always be possible to just look at the replay. Anyways, in my opinion, if a team is really better than the other one, then the former team will win despite all the dirty plays from the latter, as in the 2010 World Cup Final.
I have actually suffered from foul play. Lack of instant-replay is only one part of the problem. Rules do not cover all possible situations in the game. It is quite difficult to determine whether a foul is hard or soft. Moreover, soft fouls do ruin the game, however it is not right to punish heavily if mistake was unintentional. People abuse this fact and sometimes play dirty. Some even adopt the dirty play style and foul just because of a habit. I have been injured once due to the “soft” foul.
Even though I have been criticizing football, I still do love that game. Soccer would have been better and there would be no need for instant-replay or other measures, if everyone was playing clean.
In the end, I would like to show a Youtube video of Maradona’s Hand of God, where Diego Maradona – legendary Argentinian player – scores a hand-ball and it got counted. Another video is dedicated to Paul Scholes – he plays for English national team and Machester United at the moment – who unsuccessfully tried to copy Hand of God.