Malaysiakini Letter

M'sia vs Indonesia: Whither sportsmanship?

Azril Mohd Amin
Published:  |  Modified:

It doesn't matter who flashed the Indonesian goalie with a laser pointer in the recent game in Kuala Lumpur. The fact that it happened at all has damaged Malaysia's reputation among those who may have been watching, or even among some Malaysians themselves.

Further, an intelligent analysis of the consequences of this single act for the second of the two-game series might have suggested suspending the first match as a viable option for officials, in spite of losses due to ticket refunds.

Why? Football is well-known in Europe for having riots after certain games, in which people are indiscriminately injured and even hospitalised. What will the potential be for riots in the follow-up Jakarta game?

This laser-cheat bears a scary resemblance to terrorist acts – it is something no one would have imagined beforehand. It came as a complete surprise. Who, among honourable people, would have thought of such a thing?

Most of us are raised by our parents to obey various tenets of sportsmanship. After all, since the Greek Olympiads, sports tournaments have been a policy carefully designed to minimise other, more violent or war-like behaviour between peoples. Sigmund Freud would have called athletics "substitute gratification". William James called sports "the moral equivalent of war".

But now, for the first time we know of, some technology has been introduced from among the spectators to ruin the "rules of the game". Without these rules, we can no longer consider sports a sublimation of more dangerous violence. The "game" has become a "battle". Between Malaysia and Indonesia at this particular point in history, the tinderbox could not have been more explosive.

We learn the ethical procedures of business and trading in great detail. We are told again and again how certain types of cheating, dishonesty, or indebtedness will hang about our necks on our Day of Judgment. As Muslims we read the last sermon of the Prophet (s.a.w.), we can assume such details would also apply to competitive sports.

The reputation of some of us football fans has now, once again and right here in our beloved Malaysia, been tarnished in front of the advanced nations who happen to hold all the modern-day power. And why do they hold so fiercely to such power? Perhaps it's because they feel developing nations such as ours cannot be trusted to do so.

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