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Honesty in football, a long lost memory



by Walter Broeckx

One of our readers, Adam,  wrote a comment a few days ago and it goes like this: “If you truly wish to ascertain blame then you should look in the direction of “Neuer” and “Tevez” true sportsmen who should both receive awards for honesty. All other arguments are a waste of time. We all think football can represent honesty hard work and fair play yet whilst we have dishonest players we need technology to overcome their moral standards. such a shame that we are not talking about how honest Neuer and Tevez are.”

And this is one of the strongest comments I have read in a long time. The era of a team some 100 years ago that deliberately kicked penalties not in the goal when they got one because they assumed that the foul that led to the penalty must have been not deliberate and they didn’t want to take advantage of this, is long gone.   But Adam’s remark poses us a few questions in fact and is holding a mirror in front of everyone’s face.

Is there still room in the game for winning fair? It is a question that we can ask ourselves and maybe one that most of us could not answer or dare not to answer. Would we take the title if we know we had cheated on our way to win it? I think if we take a deep look in our heart we would celebrate it and pretend nothing was wrong. And for those who would not celebrate it because we would have cheated I can only take off my hat and take a deep bow and admire that person for it’s integrity. I think I would celebrate it just as if nothing had happened like most of us would. In fact this shows in what a world we live and how we all are. And the fact that even I have to admit that I would sink to that level, like most of us would.

In a perfect world where all sports man would be real sports man Neuer would have stopped playing.  He would not take the ball in his arms and pretend nothing was wrong and that the ball did not pass the line. In a perfect world he would have made it clear to the ref that the ball had passed the goal line and that a goal should have been given. But this is not the perfect world and Neuer did what he did and continued the game as if nothing had happened. A reaction that would have been the same for about 99,999999 % of the football players, be them professionals or pub players.

But how would Germany have reacted if Neuer had told the ref it was a goal? Would they have celebrated his honesty? Would they erect a statue somewhere in Germany and give him the highest medal that you can obtain in Germany? I think we all know that the best thing he could do was hide on an island, (why not Robben island as we are in South Africa), and wait a couple of years before coming home. Apart from that one man or woman that has not lost his integrity, no one would give him a round of applause for admitting that it was a goal. I don’t know how well balanced the average football fan in Germany is, but I think it is fair to say he’d better look behind him in the next few years when he is walking on the street.

The press would be all over him and give him all sorts of names. I think foolish would be one of the more acceptable but I can imagine that he would be given names that would go well over the line of what is descent or not. Would he have played another game in the German team? Would his manager tell him to do the same? Would his team mates give him a tap on his shoulder or would they hit him on his nose? I really think that he would walk the path of his predecessor, Enke, and end up alone and with no other option in live than to step out of it.

People call him smart for what he did. And yes, the way our world is running for the moment he did the smartest thing he could do by acting like he did. Any other option would have been suicidal for him. You don’t win trophies for sportsmanship. You don’t win trophies for being an honest man. It only wins you trouble and misery, but no gold medal at the end of the world cup.

At the end of the day we can say that Neuer is not an honest sportsman who is giving the good example. But can we blame him? How much that I would like to blame him for doing what he has done, I think he is just a victim of our modern world and society. We all have our own moral  standards we want to live up to. We all can say we want to be fair and honest. We all can say that we do not want to cheat. But at the end of the day we must keep in mind that the pressure we put on ourselves and on football players as they are part of society, deep down inside we know that what he did was what all other players would have done.

The winner takes it all is the way our society is run. I don’t like it but it is just the way that it is for the moment. Constantly we divide the world in winners and losers and we all want to be part of the winning side as the winning is all. I even don’t want to blame money for this one as I think that if I had such a situation on my field with some amateurs playing for a pint after the game, even there the outcome or the acting of the players on that field would be just the same as it was in South Africa.

We can regret this, and I do regret it, but with all the pressure on the players to win at any cost nowadays we will have to learn to live with it and only a total change in the thoughts of a few billion people all over the world could change it in the future. I think I will never live the day that I see a goalkeeper that knows the ball crossed the line turn to the ref and tell him: “Hey ref, the ball crossed the line you must give a goal”.

If we could change the mentality of the players and if they all would become honest it would be great. But we all know the diving, the doing things behind the back, the pulling, the holding, the cheating will not stop because we would wish it to stop. If by some magic spell we could change that it would be great but I don’t think the spell is out there somewhere. It would mean that we don’t need goal line technology, we even wouldn’t need refs any more as all the players would stop after committing a non deliberate foul. But for the moment we will have to do with the diving players, the cheating, the play on even if the ball crossed the line players.

So given that no one has found the honest-players spell, we could bring in some goal line technology. And even if it is just a small step forward to players don’t have to cheat any more, for this case,  it would bring some fair play in to the game. Because if the goal starts flashing when the ball is over the line and the player would ignore it on the field he would be a bit ridiculous. And most of them don’t mind that they are known as cheaters but looking like a fool is something they don’t like.

And if you are German, you don’t need to feel attacked by this. I think it could be any other country that would have the same thing happening. You just had the “luck” to have the run of the ball this time around. But one day it will bite you back and maybe you can hope that when that day comes, the goal line technology will be in place and working.

Untold Arsenal, fair as fair, honest as the day is long

Making the Arsenal. 2nd edition.  Even more honest.  Well mostly.

23 comments to Honesty in football, a long lost memory

  • geoge

    what about AA saying “no penalty” by wagging his finger. Does that count as award winning behaviour ? I Think it does.But would I if it meant not winning? Not so sure

  • GOONER80

    When the players are honest in the case of Robbie Fowler and Arshavin saying it wasnt a penalty the REF’s dont listen anyway and say go away.

    I think the time issue fifa keep going on about is rubbish, players surrounding the ref takes far longer. since most games don’t have a debatable goal line call it would hardly affect anything so they could easily implement it,

    IMO the thing that needs to be sorted is the offside because there is far too much human error because it is difficult to watch the kicker and the line at the same time

  • Finsbury

    Good point about players surrounding the referee and time wasting Gooner80, :).

    Time wasting, ‘interupting the game’ is such a spurious and ridiculous reason not to introduce any kind of tech, that this excuse has no credibility as a reason to not act in the interests of the sports credibility.

    Yet, in recent days our eardrums have been saturated by an endless drone of facile debate over the difference between a game on ‘the marshes’ as opposed to inside a billion dollar stadium (i’ll just pretend it has some grass and a pitch!) in recent days.

    The debates have been as weak as the excuses for no action.

    Gamesmanship exists in all sports, I don’t mind so much.

    I do have a problem with people who, say, run towards an opponent who is focusing on a football, and then break their legs. It’s happened to four AFC players in recent times.
    I’d like to see Shawcross and friends attempt such actions in, say, a Judo or Silat tournament, where the opponent is looking and focusing at them, not at a football.
    I don’t think they’d last very long.

    What I mean is, it would be nice if some of the officials decided to apply the existing laws of the game, forget about the players.

  • Chevre Chaude

    whilst accepting the main thrust of the piece, I’m not sure whether Neuer knew if it had crossed the line or not.

  • mike

    I was disgusted by the whole argentina team(heinze especially) running towards the referee telling him the linesman saw the replay and therefore is not allowed to change his desicion. Argentina would have won that game anyway they are a much better team.

  • walter

    Sometimes I can be fed up with all the cheating you see on the pitch. But I don’t know : is it our human nature that is the reason or is it the money that makes us so bad.
    I sometimes think that it is the money, but then why do we see the same things in a game between two pub teams? Is it because they try to copy the big ones from TV? Or do we change our personallity when we step on a football field?
    And even though I only have received one yellow card in my career as a player (for telling something stupid to a ref) I must admit that I think I am (or was) no better than the rest. And I never really played for money so it can’t be the money.

    So is it the bad influence we see on TV or is it just us, poor human beings that have not enough backbone to stand up against cheating?

  • walter

    Chevre chaude, in a newspaper I read in Belgium he said that he knew the ball had crossed the line. But the next point is: how reliable are the media. 😉

    Mike, If only to get rid of that Heintze I would love that the Germans go further. I can admit that C. Ronaldo is an exceptional player but hate him for his diving and cheating. But that Heintze is a more average player but when it comes to cheating and play acting he is far better than CR. I just can’t stand watching him on a field.

  • GOONER80

    In tennis they are allowed a number of chance to debate a decision once they have used these up they cant contest the decision. I know it is open for abuse but if both managers were allowed to contest one decision in every game and take it to a video replay this would bring football at the highest level into the modern era. there is enough wrong decisions.

    Every fan can accept the correct decision, but the wrong just leaves you angry.

    John Barnes made the point the other day that if there is an incident off the ball FIFA use video technology to ban that player, so why punish teams for something the ref didnt see, the 4th official could be much more involved and about 54 mins out of the 90 the ball isn’t in play anyways.

    Video technology has only enhanced tennis, rugby, cricket what is the worse that can happen? if it is really bad they can always take it away, I cant see any disadvantages

  • ryan

    i was unhappy when eboue dived for that freekick that led to the goal in the cl (cheap, cheating is all it was and all any diving ever is).

    i don’t want to win through cheating and that’s why i don’t have much genuine respect for half our team. i’ve seen rvp dive countless times, eduardo dives, pires used to dive, henry hasd dived for us and loads for france, ljungberg took a couple of tumbles, i saw senderos dive once (lol…?), toure’s dived once or twice, ashley cole i thought was a twat even at arsenal, lauren used to dive. vieira the hardman? LOL? yeah he could be physical when he wanted, but just like gilberto i lost track of how many times he’d get challenged and he’d throw himself up in the air, mouth open in agony lol. people don’t like the truth but the fact is vieira was no hard man. i even saw alex song take a dive last season and i never expect that from him. cesc too has had a handful of questionable incidents.

    the fact is as has been said, we are not any different from other clubs. 98% of players in 100% of teams are exactly the same. i don’t have any sympathy for a team of diving cheating cunts when an arsenal player divews against them and earns us a penalty, but it’s shit either way and doesn’t make it right. i don’t really understand why people would celebrate if they felt we only won because of cheating. i support arsenal but i refuse to be blinded to all things bad about my club or any other because despite the fact i’m emotionally attached to my club, big time, i still have that thing between my ears which tells me good from bad and right from wrong. if i felt that arsenal started to cheat much more than other teams i’d go support a different team (fulham probably). i support football but at what cost? who cares if you won but you only won because of cheating. you didn’t really win at all it’s all meaningless rubbish. i love the sport but i have a major disliking for almost everything and everyone in it. honesty is basically dead.

    you know when i was a little kid playing for my local team at the age of TEN when the ball came off me and went out i would say it was the opposition throw. and my manager would tell me not to admit it and take the throw for myself. at the age of ten that is disgraceful. you have to blame managers as much as players though. wenger obviously has no problem with our players diving, that’s why they do it. when the opposition dive and cheat just as much it almost makes it understandable, but there’s still no excuse. the question is in the world cup final if you were going through on goal and had a chance to dive for a sure penalty or stay up and have less chance to score (you weren’t actually fouled) which would you do? i couldn’t look myself in the mirror if i’d dived. it’s disgusting that dreams are won and lost on such deceitful play.

  • Fem Dee

    Lets face it: None of us is honest in all situations and all the time. Not the footballers, not me and not even you, Walter.

    This is why there MUST be police, lawyers, judges and prisons. This is why fingerprint, DNA and forensic technologies have evolved around the criminal justice system. This is why FIFA MUST embrace the technologies that aid fair arbitration in blatant and disputable situations in football. Otherwise, the credibility of the entire system will go out the window.

    The footballers are in the field for their great footballing prowess not for higher morals and honesty than the average Joe in the society. Football and fans will be better off not to trust them to incriminate themselves (I think that is the 5th Amendment in American Constitution) but to have the where with all to catch them out when they cheat or fail to volunteer information unfavorable to them.

  • ak47

    i think tech is not being used not only for goal line but other aspects such as diving because with technology being used u make betting an match fixing very difficult. i think their are to many economical variables in football, an refs at the moment hold the cards. The decisions made in this world cup alone i think could prove that point. footballers are pawns in the system like everybody else. i like to think Arsene, because of the person that he is would have at least had a discussion similar to this article, and found that no other team will be honest, and in fact it is such a part of the game that some players almost seem as if they have had a ‘behind closed doors’ type of education on professional fouls, diving and generally influencing ref decisions.
    personally i couldn’t celebrate knowing that we won through cheating unless we had been done by a blatant injustice previously that would have made the difference.

  • Gf60

    There’s much NOT to forgive going on on the field but I don’t think Tevez deserves to be branded. Split second action, taking the goal, did he know for certain that he was offside?

    When you’re playing, you don’t really have a clue if narrowly offside or not. If whistled up, sod it…went too soon. If a goal given, my timing was perfect. Look in the score book if you disagree.

    If Neuer DID see the ball go over the line and said so, then:

    master sportsman of the year for the rest of the world OR meathooks in a Berlin cellar back in Germany?

    Your choice please?

    I’m sure we gooners all pissed ourselves laughing at the spuds over the line no-goal at ManU a few seasons back…if anything a far worse case…and I guarantee that any German old enough did likewise on Sunday and thought “payback time for ’66”

  • walter

    I agree GF60, Tevez is not to blame for his offside goal. In fact you cannot blame any player if he scores from an offside position. It was up to the linesman to spot this offside. From any linesman point of view not seeing this offside must have been “the miss of the season”. I also think that many players when they are in a tight or tense situation – Tevez just had been stopped by the keeper and missed a chance – you don’t always know where you are on the field and maybe Tevez didn’t realize he was yards offside. I think that if the linesman would have done his job, Tevez would maybe be surprised a bit (like all strikers whou are cought offside) but not more than usual.

  • Adam

    I stand by my original comment, during the Brazil game a player handled the ball twice then scored, we all saw the ref approach him laughing and tapping his arm, the Brazillian forward, shoulders raised protesting his innocence mouthed “no no”, For me this was a refferee asking for honesty because he was unsure of the situation. The player chose the dishonest route. as for tevez he saw the replay on the big screen and still harrassed the lineman and ref, He too chose the dishonest route. Neuer im not to sure about, However if the Germans at half time knew of the omission, the whole german camp then chose the dishonest route as they then could have leveled the scores after the interval, “crazy” i hear you cry. the question is “How do you want to win”. can you imagine if the germans had done just that and gone on to win the game as they did. WOW what a world cup moment. We would be hailing their honesty and integrity, the german nation would be hailed as fair and sporting. Butt Lowe and behold (please excuse the pun) what do we have, the implementation of technology to overcome our own failings. “Mr Broeckx I had you down as an optimist”.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    The thing that is strange about ‘the winner takes it all’ is that it is the exact opposite of what is required for successful family units and communities.

    The winner takes it all does not need to be the only way. But it is the only way if you want to get rich real quick.

    I worked once with a guy who was from SE Asia, whose mother put him on a boat to escape a war (she was told it was a ship when she paid, but her son thought a couple of times the boat would sink on his journey of escape). He went back from Britain in time to Singapore, where he set up his own laboratory products business. He decided to set up his business on the principles that he was a family man, he hoped his employees would enjoy families too and so the workplace was set up to be family friendly. No 16 hour days if there was a school concert, a birthday or an important family occasion. They worked hard, but not to the exclusion of all else. His business is expanding slowly around SE Asia and is doing well…

    I worked once for a ski business run by women who were mothers. They were great at what they did and I worked in the Alps for them for a season. No problem going to pick up the kids from school, they made sure they could organise it.

    Both businesses were grown organically, with little risk and as part of an holistic life, not a monastic incarceration.

    It could be done in football IF the administrators ran it like golf. They couldn’t do that without the consent of the clubs they worked with, the managers who ran those clubs and the ability to retain players the fans wanted to see.

    They could impose harsh penalties for feigning fouls or injury. Ten match bans. They could book goalkeepers who go early on penalty kicks. Then retake if it were missed.

    They could allow a referee to change his mind if the player concerned indicated that the decision was incorrect going his way.

    You won’t do it in a league where points are always more important than honesty though. And that takes fans accepting that as read too. How many would do that, eh?

    I’m not so sure that football is pure sport myself. Sport is played according to a set of rules where both sides respect the rules and are punished if they transgress. Well, no one can currently say that sides respect the rules (they don’t), no one can say that referees are not intimidated by managers, which says the managers don’t respect the referees; and no-one can say that fans boos incorrect decisions going their way.

    Perhaps it is better to describe football as a war game, played with a ball rather than with guns? He who dares wins, in war stuff happens, win at all costs, all that sort of thing…….

    Tennis players push the rules with coaching, medical time outs and perhaps other things too.

    Cycling long since ceased being a true sport: dope infested it and it’s still not clear whether it’s clean again.

    Says to me that the sporting ethic is for mass participation, which means that if that’s what you want your child to learn you don’t look up to the pros. If you want your child to learn to win no matter what, that’s different………

    But ultimately, it’s on the terraces that the moral tone of football will be set……….

  • GOONER80

    ADAM

    that is a very good point!!!!!!!!!!!what a moment that would have been. IMO though the germans looked very nervous until they scored the third, you have to look at what if they lost? I think the fear of losing was greater than the opportunity of winning with virtue.

    I think generally competition makes us do strange things,I was taught only to win, and in higher pressure situations winning at all costs takes over, you only have to look at sam allardyce and tony pulis and managers from that ilk to know winning means everything

  • walter

    Adam, maybe sometimes the pessimist takes over for a while. 😉 I would love to see it happen but in this case I don’t think it will happen.

    But sometimes it does happen. I remember seeing the images of a game from Ajax reserves who play also in the Dutch cup. The opponents kicked the ball out for an injured Ajax player. Ajax throw the ball in to Vertongen and he kicks the ball towards the other goalkeeper and to his and the whole stadiums amazement the ball is flying in the goal. It was a great goal to be honest. Everybody shocked but the ref could do nothing but allow the goal. Then the Ajax team let the opponents kick off and gave them a free passage to score a goal to make it level and to erase the inadvertently benefit they got.
    You can check it out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=NL&hl=nl&v=1FsE0-Gpvjg

  • Adam

    Gooner80, I too was taught winning ways. as a youngster i was also taught by the more experienced players how to protect myself on the field (did not work as i was constantly kicked up in the air and suffered some nasty long term injuries) This is probably why i look to honesty within the game and hope for future fair play.
    Mr Broeckx Thanks for the link i find these senarios fasinating, I do know that things will not change too much in football with regards to honesty but i do have “hope”. After all hope is what keeps us coming back season after season.

  • goonergerry

    As a rule players and ex-players only think about winning and they don’t care how-realising that the difference between success and failure is often paper thin. Former English players often seek to justify cheating as part of the game. I believe that this is one of the things which distinguishes players and ex players from fans- who want to win- but want a legitimate victory to savour. The problem we have is that we have been conditioned to think by the media in England that only ex players are qualified to talk about the game-This has to be one of the biggest myths out there. We will never be able to change the culture of the game until informed others- fans journalists etc have a legitimate voice and the media starts employing people other then players and ex-players to comment on games.
    One of the things which I think sets Arsenal apart are their values- and they are about honesty and fair play. Winning without cheating. There are not enough others with the same values in football.

  • fred

    The problem is not cheating.

    The problem is us fans thinking that cheating never happened in the halcyon days of football.
    Charlton handled the ball on the line in the semi-final 66. Stuart pearce did the same by diving to the right to stop a goal at Wembley a few years after Maradona. Cheating has gone on since year dot.
    Of course there are levels of cheating. For a penalty, to score, to gain a free kick or a throw. If we think that cheating is something that is wrong and should be stamped out then we should condem all cheating and not just the ones that are emotive.
    But no we cant do that or the sport would be ridiculous and would leave us with no players to support. So we pick and choose what cheating or who to condemn and by picking and choosing what cheating to condemn we are condoning cheating by default.
    Cheating is like holding morals. You just cant pick and choose when to act by them and expect others to follow your example.

    Accept it, unfortunately cheating happens and we will be punished by it. But also at some point we will benefit.

    I dont like it, but I dont like lots of things I cant do nothing about!

  • gonergerry

    Fred I don’t agree- cheating is one of the biggest turnoffs to a neutral audience. Its ok as long as its not your team which is being disadvantaged. Whats the point in having any rules if no-one adheres to them?
    Perhaps Neuer could not be expected to own up to a goal being scored against his team. But, if the game was replayed and he was banned for a couple of games for failing to bring it to the refs attention, I suspect his attitude would change. In the same way, if FIFA had replayed the Ireland France game and banned Henry for attempting to con the referee- then even he might be inclined to own up. At the moment cheats are allowed to prosper.

  • Shard

    I don’t blame Neuer or even Luis Suarez for what they did. As regards Neuer its really not his job to tell the referee anything. Would the referee listen if he complained about being stamped on or anything like that? Why then is he obligated to tell the referee something which is to his, his team’s and his country’s detriment?

    Not directly related to the article but I don’t really think that diving is really a ‘thought out’ process. It doesn’t matter where your playing. It is an instinctive reaction. however I think its a trained instinct. Which just makes some people divers and others not.. I for one found it nearly impossible to cheat or claim throw ins and such like because on the field I believed I was better than the opposition and didn’t have to do such things. Guess that’s not a ‘professional’ attitude though. Having a kick out when the referee is not protecting you wasn’t a problem though 🙂

  • fred

    gonergerry I dont like cheating either. As I pointed out in my last entry but for something to be done about it will take the fans and supporters being critical of all cheating whether your team benefits from it or be punished by it.
    That is the point I was trying to make. You just cant pick and choose what cheating you decide to be critical of, because at that point you end up invalidating the whole arguement.
    Players cheat to gain an advantage all the time through matches and we should be critical when our players do it as well as others team players.
    Only by doing this in my opinion, can someone have the right to criticise cheating.

    probably could make my point clearer sorry