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Thoughts on sport, showing off and winning gracefully

Poor Roma. The Italian football team – which is actually pretty good – has so far not had a good time of it against Manchester Utd. And with Ronaldo, the Portugese ace forward scoring a hatful of goals for ManU, the pain gets worse. Even more so when this young man, who hails from the island of Madeira, not only possesses incredible skill on the ball, but relishes sticking the ball between an opponent’s legs (known as “nutmegging”), flicking the ball in such a way as to bamboozle a defender, etc. Electrifying stuff to watch. Ronaldo, to an extent that many highly-paid players do not, understands that football these days is competing for wallets and time with all manner of entertainment.

But some of those who come up against him do not like it very much. I can sympathise, up to a point. But I do not think this man sets out to grind his opponents’ faces into the dust. It simply his way of playing the game. If the current generation of footballers cannot take it when a winger players coruscating football, god knows how they would have handled the late George Best, who used to take on opponents for fun, even put his foot on the ball to take a breather, then make a face and challenge them like a matador (he could also play a bit).

This sort of stuff does raise issues of sportsmanship, though. There is a fine line, not always easy to draw, between outrageous skill on the one hand and taking the mickey out of an opponent, on the other. Sport, as Brian noted the other day, can tell us a bit about life in general. Great skill is something to marvel at, but we generally do not like taking the piss. But on this occasion, I do not think that the arguably best footballer of our times is doing that. I was far too young to have seen Best, Pele or Di Stefano in their prime, but I am grateful, even as a supporter of another team, to watch this wizard weave such magic.

7 comments to Thoughts on sport, showing off and winning gracefully

  • llamas

    I once had occasion to watch a highly-rated international skeet shooter perform.

    In the shoot-off, it was him and one other shooter. The other competitor called for a bird and shot, and the umpire raised his hand to signal a lost bird – a miss.

    The shooter turned to the umpire and said ‘Pardon me, but I believe that I hit that bird. Are you sure?’

    And the umpire said ‘Yes, I’m sure. You missed it.’

    And the international said ‘Well, you are wrong. I was watching, and I saw the bird hit.’

    And the umpire said ‘My decision is final’.

    So the international comes up to shoot, calls for a bird, and deliberately shoots about 30 feet behind it. The umpire raises his hand for a lost bird, and the international says ‘There, now we are even.’

    He won anyway, but it was important to him to win fair-and-square.

    Winning gracefully is a lost art, especially in the major team sports, where ‘talking trash’ now seems to be de rigeur.



  • Ronaldo may be a bit of a childish twat, but oh boy can he play. The likely semi-final between Manchester United and Barcelona is a rather mouth watering prospect

    That said, Ronaldo probably mainly gets up other player’s noses by being better than they are and being a little too obvious about the pleasure he gets from this. This is not a great failing, particularly.

    llamas: The thing I find strange about that story is the referee insisting on his decision, even when both players were in agreement about what had happened. This sort of thing happens in tennis for time to time, and when both players agree that the ball is out, then umpires will overrule their original decision. And in cricket, the umpire only technically makes a decision when asked – if there is agreement between both teams he doesn’t even get to rule. Umpires do occasionally say after matches that they would have ruled a batsman out, but since there was no appeal to the umpire, there was no ruling and the batsman continued his innings. Standards of sportsmanship are a good deal lower in both those sports than was once the case, but there are still plenty of incidents of good sportsmanship in both.

    (I sound like an old fogey. Was there really a golden age of better sportsmanship? Perhaps not, in truth).

  • Kevin B

    Michael, there probably wasn’t a golden age, but nostalgia is good for the soul sometimes.

    When the, (invidious), comparison between Best and Ronaldo comes up, the point is often made that Best played against such paragons of sporting virtue as Ron (Chopper) Harris and Jack (“I’ve got a little list”) Charlton and their compatriots and with a lot less protection from referees.

  • RAB

    Well golf still has some of this about it.

    Think Woosnams 15 clubs.

    I’m sure he had a hissy fit with his caddie, but not the judges.

    Or Bob Charles who signed his card at a Major for more shots than he had played (he still would have won) and was disqualified for infringement of the rules.

    Did he do a Macinroe? Hell No!

    He just shrugged and resolved to get it together better the next time.

  • I’m not overly familiar with your football, but in ice hockey, an expert puck handler can, when challenged by a defenseman, push the puck to the d’s left, spin his body to the right 360 degrees, and pick up the puck behind the d. The d is left flat-footed, out of the play and quite embarrassed.

    The Winger who did the stunt then is in position to take a free shot on goal.

    The defenseman gets angry over it and his play suffers for possibly the remainder of the game.

    Certainly taking the opponent off his game is a proper tactic in football, eh?

  • mike

    “an expert puck handler can, when challenged by a defenseman, push the puck to the d’s left, spin his body to the right 360 degrees, and pick up the puck behind the d. The d is left flat-footed, out of the play and quite embarrassed.”

    “taking the opponent off his game is a proper tactic in football, eh?”

    For your further englightenment Col. Hogan, I commend this to you.

  • Yes, Mike! Virtually the same play. I like it when the best players really shine.