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Thursday, August 2, 2007

To Swear or not to Swear, that is the Question in Manitoba

A new rule in Manitoba, Canada, has been instituted with immediate effect. Using curse words or swearing will produce a red card from the referee's pocket.

"That policy became a zero-tolerance rule yesterday. There will be no warnings -- any player or coach caught swearing will be ejected from games sanctioned by the Manitoba Soccer Association. Referees will not be allowed to use their discretion, said association director Hector Vergara. 'In other words, a referee's not going to have the flexibility to say that's OK today, but it's not OK for tomorrow. It's simply not OK. It's going to be strictly applied to the letter of the law.' The crackdown is aimed at improving the sport's image and making games more family-friendly. Vergara said he's received complaints from parents who refuse to bring their kids to matches because of abusive language."

Source: London Free Press, "Swearing foul added as soccer red card in Manitoba," 2 August 2007.

The article didn't address one important distinction: Is this for the English language only? I mention this because in Canada, there is a dual-language culture in certain areas. Notably, in the Eastern regions such as Quebec where French is spoken. And where some do not want English spoken. But I also mention this matter due to my own experience many years ago in Washington, DC.

We used to have a referee officiate some of our high school games games. He was a short man with a very heavy German or Austrian accent. He used to arrive about five minutes before the game started. Then he would call us all to the center circle. "Gentlemen, there are two things you need to know. First, the goalkeeper is like a virgin. Do not touch him or I will throw you out of the game. If he has one finger on the ball, that is possession. (He used to bend down to demonstrate this). Second, I speak five languages."

Five languages. We all knew he spoke German, but had no idea about the rest. My team was a Noah's Ark, as we used to call teams, from that era: We had an Argentine, German, Irish, Italians, Mexican, and one Senegalese. The latter spoke French and a tribal language. Who among that melting pot was ever shown an early exit? An Irish guy who yelled out something in German one day to test this Austrian polyglot... ;-) We used to play against the "German School," which was actually a men's team. They used to call us a particular term that helped us to better understand intercultural communication on the soccer pitch.

I can still see the smile on Mister Ref's face. We didn't know any of their names, except for Coach Lincoln Phillips, of Howard University. He used to honor us with his presence on a few occasions. We were instructed to call them "Mister Ref." This Canadian rule is a good concept. Soccer, if anything, teaches us about discipline. You can't use your hands. You can't make mass substitutions or bring players in and out such as in American football and basketball. In the old days, there were no substitutions. If a team had an injured player, they played with 10 men.

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