Violence threatens to kill off sportsNot the agents, not the swamp of ads, not the tattoos, not the free spirit reflected in the hair of athletes can harm sports. Okay, sports would be better off without this muck but here’s what kills sports: violence.
Except for those who compete legally to turn each other into a lump, others who practice it without proper authorization don’t realize that they are destroying the game. The demise may not happen overnight. But slowly and surely it will come and get the game. Just like drugs.
This month marked another week of violence in the world of soccer. And I don’t mean bone-crushing tackles or sacks by the likes of Jevon Kearse, with 6.5 sacks in eight games. No, we all want him to continue that.
What we don’t want is another classic spit-in-the-face incident at a soccer game, the kind that sparks a bench clearing. Recently, both the British and Turkish football associations were charged by the UEFA with improperly handling just such a fiasco among players on both sides, at the EURO 2004 qualifier.
We all know what that means: No jail time. The UEFA already announced it would assess some sort of fine. Will it put a dent in the players’ bank account? Not a chance.
On the domestic scene, we’ve just witnessed the worst incident in Korean professional soccer’s 20-year history, as supporters of Chunbuk Hyundai Motors ― they call themselves the Mad Green Boys ― decided to break a couple of windows, bash the Suwon Samsung Bluewings players’ bus and send a commando unit to their locker rooms to wreak havoc.
For the first time, officials of the K-League have decided to file criminal charges against those fans involved. Yeah, it’s a step in the right direction, but it should have come a lot earlier.
For how long have we seen players chasing refs as if they were on a hunting safari, with coaches standing by to lend a hand? Then we have the classic karate duel between players fully equipped with spikes. Players running like a roadrunner before a mob of fans is nothing new, either. Yet little is done to protect the refs or prevent any of these hot-headed players or fans from getting too physical.
In Europe, the police have a file on those hooligans who create most of the trouble. Often, the seats where such supporters are sitting are sealed off with barricades, with riot police standing at the ready. If we are to hope for an atmosphere where families can safely enjoy a game, that may be the next step we have to take. In the National Football League, the standing rule is that you can’t touch the ref no matter what. Trip and touch the ref accidentally, and you can still be thrown out of the game.
Granted, some of these guys in zebra stripes couldn’t manage a peewee soccer game. But a ref is still a ref. He needs to be protected, and players need to be guarded as well. Players ought to know that they’re the ones to suffer when fans stop going to games. Multiple game suspensions, a real fine ― whatever it takes to stop those who can’t control their temper, we need these policies in place now.
Don’t underestimate the power of sports. For those who live and breathe it, anything is possible. Sports has an indefinable power. In 1994, the Colombian soccer player Andres Escobar was killed outside a bar after he had accidentally scored for the opposing team. That such a tragedy has not happened here does not mean it won’t.
by Brian Lee