Thursday, June 17, 2010

Soccer: 'The Beautiful Game' or 'Beautiful Maim'?

Soccer is a game of sneaky attempts to maim and wound. These attempts are hidden from view by misdirection, smarmy smiles, superlative acting. 

And the cherry on top? The victim of the abuse is complicit in covering it up.

Let's unpack this by comparing soccer to rugby.

In soccer, you're NOT ALLOWED to hurt your opponent. Point blank. And there are reams of rules governing how you can engage your opponent.

In rugby, you're REQUIRED to hurt your opponent. And the laws governing play are in place to prevent you from MAIMING your opponent.

Because soccer rules prevent physical contact with opponents, a lot of time and energy and brainpower is put into players learning how to hurt their opponents without being seen. 

In rugby, the violence is in the open. In soccer, it's hidden.

In rugby, the violence is an acknowledged part of the game. In soccer, it's a big, dirty, secret, one that every player is party to, every ref is party to, every supporter is party to, every broadcast camera is party to.

In rugby, when violence is perpetrated, our response is, 'Whoooof! That hurt!' In soccer, when we see an illegal tackle, a crushing of foot bones, a deliberate break attempt at the knee, we go, 'Hahahaha! What a sneaky tackle! Heheehe! Ref didn't see it! Good for you, mate! Clever play!'

Soccer continues to allow this kind of abuse. And we celebrate it. In my view, this creates a climate of tolerance of hidden abuse. How many men secretly think it's okay for them to punch their wives, girlfriends, children, as long as noone finds out? As long as the abuse remains hidden? As long as the marks are confined to out-of-sight places?