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Updated: March 25, 2014 23:25 IST

Gamesmanship is cheating, undoubtedly

Dileep Premachandran
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Dileep Premachandran
Dileep Premachandran

The ‘dark arts’ left such a bad taste in the mouth

At its best, and worst, sport holds up a mirror to the world around us. The immediacy of the action and the intensity on display tend to amplify both the memorable and the dreadful. So it was on Sunday night, as millions around the world, in dozens of different time zones, tuned in to watch a football match that has its own sobriquet – El Clasico.

The rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona goes far beyond the football pitch. For many years, during the reign of Generalissimo Franco, Real was seen as the team of the establishment.

Barcelona, at the heart of the movement for a Catalan state, was the outsider, the ‘rebel’ side that those suspicious and disillusioned with the Spanish nation could rally around.

On the field, the two have dominated Spain’s La Liga. Real leads the way with 32 titles, 10 more than its great rival. Outside Spain though, it took a long time for Barcelona to be seen as Real’s equal.

Real, after all, won the first five European Cups (1956-60). Barcelona didn’t win its first till 1992. This season, as Carlo Ancelotti’s Real goes in search of a tenth success [the Decima] in club football’s biggest competition, Barcelona is seeking its fifth.

Sublime to farcical

Sunday’s match had everything, from the sublime to the farcical. There was Andres Iniesta’s Exocet-like finish for the opening goal. Real’s response included a couple of magnificent crosses from Angel di Maria, both of them converted by Karim Benzema. The second featured exceptional control and a volleyed finish worthy of the very best.

With Barcelona needing nothing less than a victory, it required an immense display from Lionel Messi. It got it too. With half time beckoning, his trickery, nimble footwork and presence of mind from Neymar brought Barcelona back on level terms. As a spectacle, you would have struggled to find a better or more entertaining half of football.

What followed was nowhere near as edifying. The second half featured three penalties, each of them controversial.

Not good role models

Just how far should gamesmanship go? We’ve become almost blasé about players feigning injury and diving to win free kicks and penalties. Sadly, the millions of kids who grow up watching such games come to believe that such behaviour is acceptable, that cheating to give your team an advantage is fine.

Let’s not be confused by the semantics. Gamesmanship is cheating, pure and simple. It’s also hard to offer a response to football sceptics who see players toppling over like they’re matchstick men and question why it should be called the beautiful game.

The most wretched aspect of it all is that it’s often the very best players that are the worst culprits. There have been times in recent seasons when the likes of Ronaldo and Luis Suarez have dived so flagrantly that you were surprised not to see a swimming pool beneath them. It’s rarely the case that a manager or coach comes out and openly criticises one of his players for these antics.

El Clasico could have been the highlight of the football season. In so many ways, it was. Shame then that the ‘dark arts’ left such a bad taste in the mouth.

Dileep Premachandran is the Editor-in-Chief of Wisden India

More In: Football | Sport

All over the world, football writers, are talking about the El
Classico, but here we have a Cricket writer talking about only the
negatives of the game.

Football has its own charm, as the on field referee has to make split
second decisions without Video replay.... WE (Football) fans love it
for that reason...

Cricket Umpires have an option of Hawk Eye, Snicko-meter and also now
the players have the DRS... so please dont compare Football with
Cricket.... and pleas stick to cricket.

from:  Simeon
Posted on: Mar 28, 2014 at 12:57 IST

Also, Neymar didnt assist Barca's second goal. The boat came off Carvajal's boots and Messi reacted with an amazing speed and control.

from:  Rajesh Ramachandran
Posted on: Mar 26, 2014 at 15:10 IST

It was a pleasant surprise to see an article on Football in The Hindu's 'Cricket' pages. Unfortunately, it is in poor taste. It would be nice if the writer made clear which cheating event he is talking about. The first penalty was a foul, albeit just outside the box, and there was contact for the second and third as well. Another ref might have seen it differently, but that is how football is. Most of those players run with the ball between 28-35 Kms/hr and a small contact is enough to bring them down.
Journalists devoted to football, around the world, are writing about this classic match with delight, and this writer picks up on some negatives, which is quite a matter of perspective. He could have written bout the planet's 22 best players playing their hearts out, or about the genius of Messi or Iniesta or about the brilliance of DeMaria or Benzema, but he chose a negative subject is such a pity. It would be nice Cricket writers stick to writing about Cricket.

from:  Rajesh Ramachandran
Posted on: Mar 26, 2014 at 15:03 IST
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