Cheating and the Importance of Not Condoning It

Painting showing a hand touching the World Cup trophy

Ireland versus France football handball

Life is a game! Games are part of life! Soccer is only a game and I’m not a big enthusiast, but I enjoy watching it from time to time. Like many, I feel bothered by Thierry Henry’s hand ball incident in the Ireland versus France match.All the world saw that the referee and officials made a wrong decision and that France’s win depended on cheating. I don’t in any way blame Thierry Henry. In the heat of the moment he reacted instinctively. All the players in the match were highly fired-up and that is normal in sport. I, like so many others, am bothered because FIFA has effectively condoned cheating as a means of winning football matches. The implication is that if the cheating is not detected by the referee and the officials at the time it occurs, then it is perfectly acceptable to win on that basis. The message is cheat! go ahead, it’s a valid tactic and you might get away with it. What is more, there is huge money involved in international football and the incentives to cheat in all sorts of ways are huge. Of course the rule book supports the FIFA decision, when read selectively! In any set of rules there is a hierarchy of principles, but which principle is the primary one? Is it the principle of fair play? If FIFA’s highest principles were applied to athletics then athletes who were found to have cheated retrospectively through using drugs would not be deprived of their medals. Effectively they would be congratulated for having gotten away with it!

Sport is only sport, but attitudes are attitudes. And attitudes do not recognise any barriers between the games that constitute life. Terrorism is cheating. Genocide is cheating. Extracting confessions from suspects by torture is cheating. Misleading shareholders and abusing company directorships or chairmanships in order to make personal gains are cheating. Political corruption is cheating. When it comes to it, the only defenses we have against all of these things are our attitudes, our sense of right and wrong.