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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Howard Webb and Death Threats: Football is More Than Life, Or Is It?

Austria v Poland - Group B Euro 2008
Image details: Austria v Poland - Group B Euro 2008 served by picapp.com

Howard Webb
, the referee from England who is a policeman in private life, made one of several controversial calls so far during Euro 2008. Bill Shankley, the famous Liverpool FC manager, once said, "Football is not life and death. It is more important than that."

Nothing should be more important than life. Not a game that was played last week, today, or next week. Regardless of the sport. These are only games. Life is not a game. But Mr. Webb's life was placed in danger. Here are his comments about the game he called between Austria x Poland:
"In that particular game there was one mistake and that was the goal for Poland, which was offside. To me the penalty was clear and I hope that people later will look at it and realise it was the only decision that could be taken."
Source: ESPNsoccernet.

He has received death threats which should be no surprise given the lack of manners and personal etiquette seen in a world were mere football games are more important than life itself to some fans. But the fans were not the prime sources of the vitriol in this situation.

Very special criticism came from high sources. Namely, the Prime Minister of Poland, Mr. Donald Tusk, along with the Polish coach, Mr. Beenhakker.
"As the prime minister I have to be balanced and collected. But last night I was speaking very differently about the whole thing, I wanted to kill."

And Polish coach Leo Beenhakker was equally incensed, adding: I've never had a problem in 43 years of being in football but this is something I cannot understand. "It's impossible to accept but I am working on it."

Source: BBC News.
Mr. Beenhakker perhaps can't accept that he has never won one competitive game in 9 attempts in his various coaching positions during major international competitions. Which he conveniently didn't mention. Losing 9 on the trot is a problem, Mr. Beenhakker...
Lack of Rationality and Logic

One call or play does not determine a game, but then, if there were in logic in life, we would all be Einsteins.

Whenever we see a bad call by a referee, or a player who misses a key shot or penalty, we are told, "They lost the game. It was their fault. Burn them at the figurative or literal stake."

Pure folly.

Can't people see the larger picture, or have we been so brainwashed that we can't think for ourselves any further or realize what is really important in life? Journalists need to educate their readers, along with themselves. Fans need to remember that these are mere games. Death threats? Over a damn soccer game that will be forgotten by next month? Poland isn't exactly a world power. They had never qualified in 13 previous European Cups before this one. According to the World Football Ratings by Elo, they hold the lofty position of number 30. For those of you who prefer FIFA, 27th place.

Politicians? Why Are They Given a Forum in Sport?

The statements by the Prime Minister were sad reminders that elected officials do not know when to close their mouths. They clamor against the ignorant masses who hurl abuse at men such as Howard Webb or the guy who misses a penalty kick, but then throw fuel on the growing fire by using the word "kill." Even if the word were used figuratively, it sends the wrong message. Aren't politicians supposed to be masters of language and mass media?

If he made a mistake, he will pay for it. But what about the Prime Minister? Politicians create nothing. They unite nothing. Modern media makes them into cultural icons. Why should a Prime Minister or any politician be given a forum about sport? If the penalty were called against Austria, would Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger have said something? Obviously, if he did, it would be quoted around the world.
If one bad call determined the result of a game, then why play 90 minutes? Just go to penalty kicks and save us all the trouble and controversy. Maybe we should decide political races by the same format?

Barack Obama and John McCain can take penalty kicks. No controversy, no negative ads, no talking heads, no debates, no ballot box fixing, no dead people voting, no Super Delegates, and no chad issue in Florida.

The more we complicate life, the easier it should get. The beauty of soccer to me lies in its simplicity: 17 laws. A round ball. 90 minutes. But it is never worth death threats.

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