Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail