Gamesmanship is prevalent in the majority of sports and football is no exception, but I often wonder what is acceptable and what is not. How far does it go before it becomes cheating? Gamesmanship, by definition, is the use of dubious (although not technically illegal) methods to win a game.
Personally, I am no angel on the football pitch (even at amateur level) and I don’t like losing, not many people do but there are somethings which are too far and can ruin a game of football.
The game of football in the professional era has come so far that it is win at all costs. It can be all or nothing as Leeds United found out a few years back. Players and managers will do almost anything to tilt the fine line in their favour and naturally a lot of the time they overstep the mark and it becomes down right cheating.
Simulation or diving is the biggest case of this, players trying to deceive the referee to gain an advantage and yet in South America it is often applauded, surely that is not right. It is well noted how easily footballers go to ground now and, in my opinion, that is just clever play as long as there is illegal contact. Making sure the referee sees the foul is fine, if the player goes down there is no problem as the game should be stopped anyway.
Many people vilify it completely and the unsportsmanlike habits of modern footballers are supposedly slowly “killing the game”, that’s what Sir Alex Ferguson claimed.
Breaking up the flow of the game is another tactic defenses will use. Holding on to the ball so a free kick can’t be taken will allow the defensive unit to reform, this can really get on my nerves especially if it comes after a professional cynical foul. This sort of thing can destroy attacking opportunities for teams which is not right. The main trouble with it for me is that there is no real disciplining for the players, a yellow card means nothing in return for winning a game (taking one for the team as they say).
Should a different system be brought into play, something like a sin bin system in rugby, its hard to know, we will just have to live with it and FIFA aren’t going to change anything at this present time. I’m delighted the referees have really stamped down on kicking the ball away, which is just a bit childish and petty. We’ve seen a number of players that have been given a second yellow and sent off for doing this, and it seems to have worked, players know they are in trouble if they do it now.
Goalkeepers dabble in gamesmanship at penalties, jumping, waving (looking at you Jerzey Dudek) and doing anything to get inside the shooters head. Some even claim the ball is in the wrong place… err its on a bit white spot!? Can you blame the keepers though, the lottery of a penalty shoot out, the last minute penalty which could win a trophy could you say you wouldn’t try it? Your mind can be uncontrollable under that sort of pressure.
There is a very fine line between gamesmanship and cheating, some of it is clever and other bits of it is petty and needless but for X million quid it could just do the trick.