Killian Woods discusses the reasons why people may be turned off the tried and testing world of sport
A topic as emotive as sport can shake its fans to their core, and bring out a side to people that would not normally raise its head in public. Sport in general has many favourable factors, but even at its most enjoyable moments, it is often the negatives that shine through. There are many aspects to sport that people cannot stomach; most can be bundled into more finite categories such as cheating, while others are foul entities within themselves, like hooliganism and racism.
Drug use in sport is one of the most contentious issues – seeing top-class athletes using drugs for recreation, or to increase their chances of winning, is usually enough reason for them to be shunned by their once-devoted fans. When Andre Agassi admitted to taking crystal meth, the former world number one tennis player was frowned upon by fans and his fellow pros alike. Household names of modern day tennis such as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were verbal in their disgust at the announcement, while Martina Navratilova compared Agassi to suspected baseball cheat Roger Clemens. Though Agassi’s drug taking would have been considered only a ‘class two’ offence at the time, and he would have been forced to served a mere three-month suspension under ATP rules, the once-revered star now has his name tarnished in the minds of avid tennis fanatics worldwide.
Other high-profile cases include Diego Maradona’s positive test for drugs during the 1994 World Cup, cited by many as the principal reason why the Argentinian cannot compare to the likes of Pelé as the greatest player ever. Likewise, the ill-fated decisions of former Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu stick in the minds of fans who feel little sympathy for the extent of his ban and fine, as a result of a second cocaine offence.
Another aspect of cheating people find hard to palate is acts of blatant deception in games themselves. An obvious example of how sport can enrage an entire nation is Thierry Henry’s handball in the lead-up to the extra-time goal that secured a World Cup berth for France. Most people took offence to Henry’s refusal to acknowledge his wrongdoing there and then, adding insult to injury. This lack of respect shown towards fair play is common in football, but other sports have embraced the concept for a long time now.
Curling is an example of how fair play can exist in a top-class competitive situation. If by chance a player’s foot hits against the stone of an opponent, the offender more often than not will bring this act of accidental foul play to the attention of their teammates and opponents. This code of honour is a shining example to others of how self-adjudication can exist in sport.
Though cheating is an intolerable facet of sport, a bigger cancer exists in certain sports and specific cultures in the form of racism. While some might think that racism is a dying trait in our modern society, in recent years there have been many high-profile cases of racism and acts of prejudice at major sporting events. Many of these incidents seem to crop up in Spain, where a particularly intolerant and disgusting section of the public see fit to harass players for the colour of their skin.
During his time at FC Barcelona, Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o was regularly singled out by factions of the away support, and on certain occasions Eto’o had to be restrained by his own teammates as he attempted to walk off the pitch in protest at his treatment. Similarly, during an international friendly in Spain, held in Seville in 2004, England’s Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole were picked out by the crowd and maligned with insulting monkey chants. We would like to think that this element of dogmatism has been purged from the British and Irish communities, and though this may be, other elements of prejudice are inherent amongst football fans.
Liverpool and Manchester United are two of the biggest football rivals in Europe and the world, and because of this, both clubs always enjoy getting one over on their counterparts. However, the extent which these two football clubs go to insult their rivals is for the astounding, if not sickening. It disgusts me that hooligans will spend their time composing chants about Liverpool fans murdering each other in Hillsbrough, while recent YouTube videos from a rally of a Liverpool supporters’ union, Spirit of Shankly, hit home harder. Seeing a Liverpool fan singing about Manchester United players dying on a runway in Munich was enough for this writer to pack away his Liverpool memorabilia once and for all, and renounce his support for the club.
Sport is a vital component of our lives and provides sanctuary for many from their trials and tribulations. No one should be able to take the joy affiliated with sport away from us, and only the positives should be focused upon – but we must always remain aware of the negative aspects to sport, and constantly strive to rid them from our games.