Big brouhaha about yesterday's (November 18, 2009) world cup play-off between France and the Republic of Ireland. In case you missed the game, here is a description on the BBC website. Basically, one of the French players handled the ball, and it was not noticed by the referee. (We are talking about soccer for US readers)
My personal opinion, is that there is something called sportsmanlike behavior or conduct. It is a notion that is well understood by the general public (reference the many videos and articles on the net on « unsportsman like behavior ». There are large debates on ethics in sports, be it from performance enhancing drugs to judging. The opinion is that the money involved in sports today has made many strive for performance at any cost. As many sports men/women are idols for their fans, society would like them also to me role models. Somehow, this has slipped a bit in reality.
I don’t believe Thierry Henry did the handling deliberately. But he did know he did it, and that it would be shown on TV in the replay. So it was a case of « its OK as long as I am not caught ». Referees do make mistakes. In tennis the technology is providing instant replays and the players can ask for confirmation of a call. But sometimes you see a player change sides despite a call, conceding the point because he saw where it landed. And the commentator mentions it, and the public salutes the fair player.
Behavior in sports is not totally defined by the authorities, so calling this a « moral » question is pushing it a bit far. In this case – the player claims he did his job, and the referee should do his. And the referee missed it. There was no lying involved. No deliberate cheating. Given the stakes however, it would take a good deal of « moral courage » to self denounce oneself to the referee and give up the point (also face the hatred of a nation). This would only be possible if the team supported such a move, as well as the national federation. And frankly, it is not in the football culture. Launching discussions on the subject is the only way to help change the culture.
Bottom line, the game was more about winning than playing. Thierry Henry might be a good player, but he is not a good sportsman.