18 Aug 2010
The spirit of the game of football
Football is, as we see so often, so much more than a game. It is an emotional experience. It creates and embraces a huge range of emotions, from utter joy to utter despair. From anger, to humour to bewilderment. At the heart of all this, is the poor old referee.
All they have to control the game is a set of rules that they apply to the best of their abilities. But the players and spectator at caught up with the emotion of the game and can’t or won’t always apply the spirit of the game in the right manner.
Unless players and spectators begin to understand and apply the spirit of the game, we will have more ugly confrontations between players and referees at the highest levels of the game, as witnessed at the World Cup Final and a lack of respect for referees at grassroots level from players, coaches and spectators.
It is the referees’ role to apply the rules of the game, but for everyone else to accept the spirit of the game and to respect within the spirit of the game how the referees apply these rules.
The rules of the game of football have not massively changed over the last 140 years. When football started to become popular the legislators of the game were still steeped in the gentlemanly conduct influenced by codes and ethics of the era of Queen Victoria. These fine gentlemen considered that the spirit in which a game was played more important than the written rule of the game. So these administrators laid down a few rules, mainly governing physical play, but it was expected that players and spectators would accept these rules within the spirit of the game.
Over the years there have been changes to the rules, but the inner soul of the game has been the main consideration of the administrators when making these changes. Arguably, this has been demonstrated by Sepp Blatter and the refusal to implement technology at the recent World Cup.
What might also be useful is to think about what Fair Play in Sport is!
Fair Play in sport is a code of conduct which respects both the written and unwritten rules of play. Opponents are accepted as partners in sport. Fair play is expressed through spontaneous actions which applaud sporting excellence, which show concern for opponents in distress, which acknowledge defeat with dignity and victory with humility. Sport with fair play enriches the quality of life.
STANLEY F. LOVER