FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Handing It to France

by BINOY KAMPMARK

It was not something to be proud of.  I’m not going to party.

–Bixente Lizarazu on French qualification for South Africa 2010, TV Channel TF1, Nov 20, 2009

That much air time, and column space, is being given to this issue might be seen as worrying.  But football matches have a habit of transfixing global audiences.  No sport attracts more money or tribal interest.  The largest sporting event on the planet is FIFA’s World Cup, which is set to take place again in South Africa next year.

Should France’s Thierry Henry have done the gentlemanly thing and repudiated his neurotic, basketball like act which led to the sinking of the Republic of Ireland in the 103rd minute?  This was certainly no small incident, touching on qualification for World Cup qualification.  Surely no incident since the ‘hand of God’ intervention of Argentina’s Diego Maradona against England in the 1986 World Cup could have proved so upsetting or controversial.

Discomforted football viewers may see Henry’s behaviour as blight requiring swift removal.  Henry has now joined calls that a replay should take place, having initially been coy as to his role in the double handball.  ‘Blame the incautious referee’, he seemed to be suggesting.  Such a move, if anything, has attracted accusations of insincerity.  Nor has the Swedish contingent refereeing the match been spared, attacked by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.  Martin Hansson, and his linesmen, had ‘forfeited its right to continue to take charge of major international matches’ (LA Times, Nov 20).

Henry’s career risks being irreparably harmed by his imprudence on the field.  The Irish are up in arms, flooding social networking sites and other media with indignant calls for replays.  Protests are being planned against the French embassy in Ireland.  Irish captain Robbie Keane quipped that Henry ‘almost caught [the ball] and walked into the net with it’ (LA Times, Nov 20).  The French feel a sense of burning shame. Their manager is unpopular.  The team is disliked, an under-performing, lack luster unit that has done much to lose fans.   The crown of the glamorous 1998 team is not just tarnished but discarded in the mist of a distant past.

Some sports place moral obligations on players to own up, a point made strongly by former English footballer Gary Lineker.  Snooker and golf fall into these categories.  These sports are, however, individual pursuits, rather than collective enterprises.  One can only really foul oneself in such instances.  Henry’s confession would have erased the goal and jeopardized the team effort.  Then again, in losing the match, he may well have edged himself into the pantheon of all-too-few fair-minded footballers.

Henry’s individual conduct has a broader dimension to it.  Terms such as fairplay in a gigantic, moneyed sport have come to be seen as necessary nostrums for the fan base.  Football organizations have a nasty habit of foiling the underdog, making pathways to qualification seem like mine-ridden obstacle courses.  Keane was certainly left in no doubt that Sepp Blatter of FIFA and Michel Platini of UEFA were ‘texting each other, delighted with the result’.  Fair play has been happily ditched by business interests.

The characterization by Keane, which gives one the impression that the football world is divided by brave proletarian strugglers in the face of arrogant toffs and aristocratic bullies, is a touch stretched.  Incidents of bad sportsmanship do happen, even between the superpowers of football.  Again, Maradona’s 1986 foray into football controversy should not be forgotten there.

Besides, international footballers tend to be cut from the same cloth these days.  The modern breed of player is blooded in the same internationalized leagues, where second and third grade leagues matter little.  The national flag is less important than the premier club insignia.  Loyalty to purse, Mammon and the chairman of a major league club takes precedence. There are huge financial implications.

The argument for a replay is not as strong as it seems.  Errors are the natural province of any sport, and punishing them in this manner might unsettle an already fallible game.  Heartfelt apologies and regret may be better than a replay, and that should be left to the maligned Henry and the French team.  Otherwise we might see the rather unpleasant spectacle of a mortal Maradona stepping up again to confront his English opponents in a ghastly rematch.  No one surely wants that.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail