Chivalry Will Never Die
The sport of soccer saw something so rare yesterday that it merited its very own blog post. As Bremen captain Aaron Hunt raced towards the goal with the ball, he fell in the penalty box and the referee, thinking Hunt had been tripped by a defenseman, blew the whistle and awarded him a penalty shot. Only Hunt wasn’t tripped by the defenseman, he wasn’t even touched; his fall was through no fault but his own. What makes the story so compelling is what Hunt did after the whistle. He brushed himself off, and once he knew the ref was in the wrong, he walked over to him and notified him of his mistake.
Now, for those of you who are not soccer aficionados, the signifigance of the act was amplified by the fact that players routinely and deliberately engage in acts of “diving” to draw free kicks…but not on this day. Hunt showed true sportsmanship and offered a sign of honesty that many thought had disappeared from today’s game.
He stood by his actions in the post-match interview, saying to a reporter, “It was clear to me I made a mistake. We don’t want to win like that.”
It really brought a big smile to my face the entire time I was watchng the replay. The opposing team member’s reaction went from aggressive fury to genuine surprise and relief when he had learned what Hunt had done.
I have always been a lover of soccer, but almost as much as I love the game do I detest those that dive for undeserved opportunities. It taints the sport and leaves me with a sense of unfullfillment after I have seen a match that was plagued with them. Soccer will not be able to evolve as a sport, and has in fact degraded, because of the emergence and prevelance of such cheap tactics. In my eyes, when a referee has missed a call and nobody corrects the miss, the game is forever marked by controversy.
Another infamous example of a blown call came during the 1986 World Cup, when legendary Argentinian player Digeo Maradona actually punched the ball into the goal with his hand, an incident now cemented in history as the “Hand of God goal.” The referee missed the illegal act and as England became irate both on and off the field, Maradona simply joined his teammates in celebrating the stolen point. Of course, with instant replay this could have all been avoided, but that’s another blog post entirely.
This argument does not come without its detractors I’m sure, as many believe Hunt should have taken the penalty and let the blame fall squarely on the shoulders of the referee. Most of the time, players indeed play with this win at all costs attitude and do what is necessary for the team while ethics fall by the wayside. I’m not saying don’t be competitive, but don’t convince yourself that sacrificing fair play for a win falls under the umbrella of real competition. I hope that one day players realize that and decide to remove diving from their strategy entirely.
As for Hunt, he has and forever will have my respect. What’s even more important was that, as the captain of the team, he set an excellent example for his teammates. Anyone that is willing to give up a major scoring opportunity in a professional sporting event to keep his honor intact merits big-time commendation.