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Football – Losing Its Sporting Spirit?
There is something about association football that is very appealing. The game is played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries and has the highest TV viewership in the sport. What makes football so popular? Has he retained his sportsmanship?
I know football in England well both on television and in the stands.
Some argue that foul play ruins the game. Experts talk about the so-called “tactical foul” as if it were acceptable. As if taking unfair advantage was acceptable. However, isn’t cheating detrimental to fair play?
We hear of “professional foul” as when it is said approvingly “He took one for the team” for an unfair advantage perhaps stopping a dangerous attack on goal. His offense resulted in a yellow card from the referee.
Likewise, the “diving” can be blatant. More difficult to officiate is the player who falls unnecessarily when there is any physical contact with the tackler. It’s more common. When a player is apparently injured only to pick himself up a little later and immediately run flat out on the pitch, the fans become very outraged. Indeed, the simulation of an injury aims to cause a stoppage of play and to give a break to teammates or to encourage the referee to banish a red card by expelling the opposing player from the field.
Some argue that a “win at all costs” attitude sometimes develops that kills the spirit of the game, such as throwing the ball by hand into the net. Better to enjoy football for its own sake than to believe that the only thing that matters is whether we win or lose.
Being a sore loser hurts sportsmanship
It’s good to see opposing players and coaches shaking hands after a game, with both teams praising each other for their efforts. Similarly, the crowd cheers when a player takes the ball out of play if a player on the opposing side is injured so they can get help.
However, bad losers complain about all sorts of things. When winning at all costs dominates our hearts, we will be really fed up after a loss. Unhappy with the referee, substitutions, bad luck.
But maybe the opposing team deserved to win in all honesty. They didn’t cheat but showed skill and effort. How many times have you agreed “Yes, we were overrun, overrun, overrun and beaten: the better team won.” Everyone is attracted to those who seem honest and fair. Even children know what fairness is and get very upset when they cheat.
Verbal abuse in football
Football is just a game. But being hidden in a crowd, some people want to be verbally violent. They openly express hostility towards players of the opposing team, match officials or people of a race different from their own. Some fans have even been known to abuse their own players who have made mistakes.
Even in the amateur game, abuse directed at the referee may continue from some players, coaches and supporters. Some parents were heard yelling and cursing at the referees in front of their own children. Unfortunately, football culture now has its vicious side.
Loss of community sportsmanship
Being part of a stadium crowd can be a wonderful experience. Just being there, and part of the drama and wit of the game with its thrills and unpredictability is a big part of the fun. Live the 90 minutes with its ups and downs, its satisfactions and its disappointments.
Yet without live football on English terrestrial TV, people watch the highlights of the day’s game and seem happy to see goals, red cards and penalties, and not much else. Even watching live football pay to watch TV lacks the community aspect of football as a sport. Instead of being part of the crowd, the viewer is looking at a distant location.
Loss of competition in football
Modern top-flight football in England has been changed by pay TV. He has invested billions of pounds in creating astronomical agent salaries, transfers and fees. And to some extent, all that money has bought success on the pitch and a commercial windfall. Otherwise, why would businessmen want to invest primarily in top Premier League clubs? So much so that others can barely compete and the same few top clubs are there or close to the top by the end of the season.
Income disparities between different leagues were once narrow, giving teams in lower leagues more chances of victory thanks to good veterans and talented young players with various cup competitions open to them. There is now an absolute chasm between the top and the other levels in the game.
When the playing field is so uneven, it unfortunately reduces the unpredictability that is vital to the spirit of sport. Matches featuring one of the wealthiest clubs can sometimes become an exhibition with a losing conclusion rather than a competition.
Orientation towards money in football
The average Premier League salary is around £200,000 a month, or £2.5m a year. Fans are constantly trying to gauge player engagement versus revenue, fees paid versus performance. Some commentators therefore suggest that football is now about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. While it’s true that football has become mostly about money, it seems to be spoiling the top-flight game.
Conclusion on sportsmanship
Sport can be deeply satisfying to play and watch when the sportsmanship of the game is present. It means being honest with ourselves about our team’s performance, showing consideration for everyone involved, celebrating participation in shared fun, and playing fair.
“Everything that is good and true, just and fair, and also honorable, has a strong and hidden power in it to attract people’s minds.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher)
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