As a former athlete, I understand that situations can get too heated especially where referees’ calls are concerned — especially with “non-calls”. What I saw yesterday during a soccer tournament for young boys was infuriating, frustrating, sad, ridiculous, and hilarious all at the same time.
The game involved two evenly matched teams of boys around 12 years old. It was nerve wracking to watch at first, until one team’s coach started shouting at the referee over non-calls. He felt that his boys were being unfairly roughed up, and the referee was letting it all go. At the end of the first half, the coach gathered his troop for a rather uncomfortable pep talk.
Without saying the word “retaliate”, I’m of the opinion that he did. He told his boys that the referee is not calling particular moves like shoving with the forearm and bumping with the hips. So he showed them how to do the same trick, and in my opinion, his demonstration looked legal if done the right way.
Come second half, the boys tried to execute the coach’s instructions. If I didn’t hear what transpired during the half-time huddle, I wouldn’t have noticed the difference except that the boys were playing harder. They had to win the game to qualify for the semi-finals. So when the parents of the opposing team started screaming at the referee, I didn’t give it much thought. It’s all part of the game.
And then it started. Parents from both sides got into a shouting match — not just at the referee, but against each other. The match almost got cancelled. The poor boys went to their respective corners, confused. I tried to keep my cool even as I thought fists were about to fly. These are adults acting like kids in front of their own children. I expected them to come back to their senses in three…two…
“I heard you telling your boys to do it!” said one guy. Ah, I told myself, there lies the difference. Apparently, this dude was eavesdropping during the huddle. So it made me think: would they have reacted the way they did had they not heard the coach?
What made things even worse was that even the coach had a shouting match against one guardian (he looks like a grandfather). From among the parents, there were comments like “this is a contact sport”, “play chess if you don’t want physical contact”, etc. Shoving ensued, and I swear, I really thought two guys would actually come to blows. It’s a good thing cooler heads prevailed.
The game resumed, and eventually ended with the opposing team winning with a score of 1-0. The boys shook hands, but the hot heads were still at it at the sideline.
For me, that was a bad move by the coach. Given that the opposing team was getting the favorable end of the referee’s decision, he shouldn’t have involved his boys. What he forgot was that these are young, impressionable boys whose characters he is supposed to build as athletes. I understand that he’s frustrated, but he should have told them to focus more on the game and play according to the game plan. Instead, he encouraged the boys to play the game according to how the referee is making the decisions. What is it that Madonna said in her song? It’s not the game; it’s how you play.
Honestly, I hope they change the coach. The boys need someone who will prepare them to be better athletes and become the best sportsmen they can be. They need a coach who will show them how to respect the game and preserve the dignity of the sport.