So Euro 2016 kicks-off in exactly 10 days. I for one can’t wait – the games, the occasion, the atmosphere and producing the tournament for beIN Sports out here in Qatar but more than anything I am intrigued to see if the new rules that were recently implemented by the International Football Board have a positive effect on the tournament and the game as a whole.
Most of the new rules are neither here or there as far as I’m concerned but what I really hope for is the clamping down on cheating and feigning injury. It’s a horrible stain on our game and something has to be done for the integrity of the sport as a whole. For example, Pepe’s pathetic behavior in the Champions League Final was nothing short of embarrassing. If it was up to me he should be retrospectively banned for attempting to get an opponent sent-off by feigning injury. If that’s not cheating I don’t know what is.
Whatever happened to sportsmanship in our game?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the first thing my late dad instilled in me when I first started playing the game was to shake the hands of my opponents at full-time no matter what. Lisbon Lion Jim Craig told me many moons ago he taught his kids exactly the same act. It’s the way it should be!
Real Madrid’s captain Sergio Ramos once the initial celebrations died down last Saturday immediately went over to the Atletico team and gave each and everyone one of them a handshake and an embrace. For a moment my faith had been restored, a touch of class but the Pepe incident had left a bad taste in the mouth.
I fully appreciate that it is a near to impossible job for the officials to police this type of behavior and stepping into retrospective bans is unsteady territory as let’s be honest bans will be handed out left, right and center but it needs to be monitored.
I like so many other football fans find it deplorable when players simulate the act of “showing a card” at a referee when fouled in hope that the perpetrator receives a yellow or worse still a red card. I believe these players should be automatically booked for that act alone. If that was to happen I wonder how long it would take for this act to stop. I’m harboring a guess here but probably not long! It’s a very simple solution to another stain on our game, eradicate at source – job done!
What about diving? It’s another callous act which has crept into our game in the past few years. Please don’t give me this nonsense about players trying to gain an advantage, it’s cheating!
We are very much in danger of losing the spirit of the game if we accept those that leave trailing legs behind defenders or stick a leg out so it looks like they’ve been tripped in the act of shooting or going round an opponent as part of the game. I hope you’re reading this Ashley Young! It’s called conning the referee which in turn is cheating. In my humble opinion, they only way to stop this is to educate.
And while I’m at it something must be done to stop blatant time wasting. To be fair to the officials most are across this and act accordingly but how about this – once the game reaches 90 mins no more substitutions. In injury time coaches and managers strategically make substitutions to kill the clock or disrupt the pattern of play but with this hopefully it will make players and managers think again about how to see out a game fairly.
From a young age our next generation of players must be taught how to play the game the way it should be played. Coaches and teachers alike have to take more responsibility when it comes to the spirit of the game. For us to eliminate the teeth-grinding components of the professional game a zero-tolerance attitude at school and youth level must be implemented.
Professional players must also recognize that they have a responsibility to the next generation. I’m sure most of you reading this column are aware that referees during pre-season visit clubs to give talks to players and management on the rules of the game. Why not allow teachers or county FA leaders to visit the same clubs and remind the players of their responsibility to the younger generation – a workshop if you like?
I have to say having watched a number of European Leagues over the past few years it makes me immensely proud that thankfully the problem of cheating and feigning injury in the SPFL is minimal, long may it last. I also have to add that my old friend Derek Adams whose Plymouth side narrowly lost the League Two play-off against Wimbledon on Monday showed his true class when he clapped throughout the Dons trophy lift. That is sportsmanship personified.
There is so much to love about our game; it brings unparalleled joy to millions upon millions of people around the world so I implore those that can make a difference, please keep our game beautiful!
Ally Begg’s column is sponsored by Dolly Digital, a freelance Graphic and New Media Design Studio based in Aberdeen. Check out their Aberdeen FC-related products now.