Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Maradonna Moment

We used to have a saying when I was young to the effect that cheats never prosper. An incident occurred in last night's soccer match between France and Ireland which questions that premise. A goal by Ireland had cancelled out one by France in the first leg and the match was heading towards a penalty shoot-out. Then late into overtime, France scored the winning goal. It was scored by William Gallas, but he received the ball from Thierry Henry who illegally handled it before hooking it back across the goalmouth to be headed in. The goal should have been disallowed and Henry might well have been dismissed the field of play. After the match Henry admitted the offence but claimed that it was the referee's responsibility to spot it. Indeed, had he drawn the referee's attention to the handball, he would have been denigrated by his own team and the French supporters.

However, that is what an honest man would have done. It is hardly honest to protest about fouls committed by the other side and then turn a blind eye to one's own misdemeanors. Honesty is really tested when you suffer for it.

Sports fans the world over turned on the football star, who enjoys a global profile partly thanks to an advertising campaign by Gillette, the shaving brand, that placed him in the very top tier alongside Tiger Woods, the golfer and first $1 billion athlete, and Roger Federer, the man who has won more grand slam tournaments than any other tennis player. The sponsors expect to inflict no punishment on him; they say that he can't be blamed for the referee's mistake.

Diego Maradonna committed a similar piece of dishonesty in 1986 at the World Cup finals. Maradonna was at time thought of as the finest footballer of his generation. After that match, his reputation sank. He became a cocaine addict; he became obese; and he went on the manage the worst Argentina team for half a century. He was recently banned from anything to do with football after an outburst of bad language against the press. I guess he couldn't live with himself after cheating like that. Thierry Henry had better beware.

No comments: