Wigan against Blackburn on a cold November afternoon. Normally not a game that would catch my imagination and certainly not one that prior to this weekend I imagined myself writing about come the start of the week. But one incident has really got me thinking about the way that we treat footballers and what we expect from them when it comes to sporting behaviour. The corner move between Yakubu and Morten Gamst Pedersen has caused a huge amount of debate across the airwaves and in the press. Was it cheating? Should the officials have spotted it? What should be our response?
Personally, I have found it worrying the amount of times that I have heard people say that it was all part of the game and that the players had no responsibility to help the officials reach the correct conclusion. I can’t disagree more. This was a case of a player, Yakubu, knowing full well that a goal should be ruled out and not saying so. I have had enough of the lack of morals in modern sport but to a point I can deal with it. But this incident is beyond the pale.
At any point from Pedersen taking the corner to the moment the ball hit the back of the net, the Nigerian could have spoken up. There is absolutely no excuse for him. What happened on Saturday was cheating and unfortunately blame appears to be everywhere apart from at the feet of those responsible, the Blackburn players.
Roberto Martinez, in his post-match interview, claimed that the referee and his assistants should have spotted the lack of a touch. Pundits analysed the positioning of the officials and appeared to conclude that they were at fault. Yakubu claimed that Blackburn “had got away with one”. This at least was true – but only because he allowed the desire to win to override his responsibility to play by the rules.
This is the bottom line in this case. Yakubu, as with all players, not only has a duty to try and win the game but also has a responsibility to uphold the laws and spirit of the game. Too often football seems to have completely lost sight of the fact that it is a sport and that can not be a good thing for the future of the game.
We all want to see players doing all they can to get those three points but we also have to bear in mind that there has to be a line somewhere. If we start to accept Yakubu’s attitude as the norm then how long until we accept that diving is a legitimate attempt to gain an advantage and that asking a referee to book an opponent is acceptable behaviour? Football is important to a lot of people but if it becomes more important than upholding the difference between right and wrong then it really is in trouble.