Cheating, or just playing the game?


Have we reached the stage where the art of cheating should be taught to children as no more than a basic technique of football? Examine the differing reactions to Suarez (because he gloated), Neuer (because he denied an Englishman) and Jeremy Robson (because his young lad was the one taking liberties). Is there, Jeremy wonders, just a spot of hypocrisy in our approach to bending the rules? …

Following up on the article from last week about goal line technology, a lot of the debate here on Salut! Sunderland has extended from “righting the wrongs”, resulting from poor officiating, through to a more comprehensive analysis of the problems associated with cheating, which from here on in may be referred to as “Suarezing” or “being Suarezed”.

It’s questionable whether there is any moral difference between Suarez and Neuer the German goalkeeper who got away with cheating in a more comprehensive way than Suarez.

Manuel Neuer denied a rightful goal by cheating. He grabbed the ball as if it hadn’t crossed the line and booted it away as if nothing had happened.

Suarez at least got sent off and Ghana were awarded a penalty kick. The record books show that he committed a foul and was punished for it. Neuer served no suspension and was given no card. Who committed the greater sin?

Gyan missed the spot kick that was awarded, but Frank Lampard was denied the luxury of another shot at goal. Suarez has caused much uproar due to his comments after the match.

The football observing public seem to be more incensed by Suarez’s comments regarding his own behaviour, than the cheating itself. It’s unclear why this is the case. It’s equally uncertain why his actions have been condemned as cheating when players handle the ball in the box week in and week out. These events are forgotten almost immediately, and rarely talked about after the weekend.

What’s different about Suarez then? How many of us are just complete hypocrites?

My own son who is a promising goalkeeper takes great pride in keeping a clean sheet whenever possible.

In the half a dozen games we have played this season he has only conceded four goals, of which he will proudly tell you that one was a penalty and another an own goal.

After a recent league game he told me as we were walking back to the car: “I pulled that kid down Dad when he went past me.”

They had won 2-0 and the home side had been denied by the referee missing it. Ask my boy why he did it and he will tell you honestly. The player had beaten him, and rather than concede the inevitable goal, he will foul the player and take his chances with the penalty, in the hope that the kick may not result in a goal.

Do I admonish him, tell him not to do it and that he shouldn’t cheat? No, I tell him that it’s all part of the game and that he needs to make sure that it isn’t obvious. Was my little lad “Suarezing?” You must be joking! He might have been “Neuering,” but that’s different isn’t it?

24 thoughts on “Cheating, or just playing the game?”

  1. John John. “He committed a dishonest act.” What was dishonest about giving away a penalty?

    Get a grip! We are talking about an 8 year old giving away a penalty.

  2. That’s absolutely correct Tony. I think that whilst the debate has concentrated on those that were caught and penalised (ie Suarez), and those that weren’t (Neuer; who doesn’t even seem to have been perceived as a cheat by the majority), is really the one that got away. Henry’s cheating (was he caught?) wasn’t punished. The issue is not so much about cheating and gamesmanship so much as it is about ensuring that there is some justice and punishment which is appropriate to either, whether that be a penalty goal or retrospective punishment for an event of which the entire world is aware at the time or after the event.

  3. As they say, you are just another father/human being who goes along with the tide. It would have been nice for the future of mankind if you had said to your son that cheating is wrong. He committed a dishonest act – you cannot get away from that, and it is your duty to encourage him to be honest.

  4. Don’t get me wrong. I do agree with most of these comments. But, don’t you think that this is why other countries, who may not care as much, win more trophies and medals? Cheaters don’t win only if they get caught.

  5. atheadley. You have once again completely missed the point that I was making. It was not distinguishing between different forms of cheating simply making an oblique reference to the complete nonsense that has been spouted about Suarez whilst Neuer has completely escaped criticism as a result of people confusing the cheating and being punished for committing a foul.

    One of them cheated and the other didn’t. Most comments that we’ve seen in the media have not only confused the two completely. I wasn’t differentiating between different degrees of cheating as you put it, at all, I was making the point that the real cheat had escaped criticism. Figured that out yet?

  6. Jeremy as I said you just do not understand the concept of cheating. It is not irony to try to differentiate between permitted degrees of cheating, it is a reflection of a complete lack of sportsmanship

    Most of the posts have been well argued and support a different approach to your own

    Yes I would totally condemn Da Silva cheating against Newcastle and I would take no satisfaction in GAINING A VICTORY IN THAT WAY. Mind I would laugh like a drain at the penalty miss you describe

  7. Well said gerconnolly. I have to be careful what I say here. A mate of mine (who is now in a position of public prominence) happened to be stood very close to Thatcher on an occasion several years ago. He said to me “She was only about three or four feet away. I could have belted her into the middle of next week!” He must so often wish that he had, and so many more of us wish that we’d had the chance.

  8. It’s a good point, Luke. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself and what you did or didn’t do. But it’s a lot easier to take the high road when there aren’t massive amounts of money at stake. It’s why the amateur game was always regarded as so much cleaner — that is until amateur became “shamateur.”

  9. I’ll need to come back and read the majority of comments at a later point when I have time.

    My stance on cheating? I despise it.

    I’ve never cheated at football, and I’ve never cheated at tennis. (There’s much more provision for it in tennis as well given you call your own lines, so it’s not hard to do.)

    I’ve been a victim of cheating more often than I care to remember, I know it goes on. The old adage at tennis coaching is, “If they give you a bad line call, just give them one back.” Unfortunately that’s what it has become these days – an eye for an eye.

    I’ll continue playing within the rules of the game, my conscience would never accept it if I cheated so I’ll stick to the rules. If people want to cheat – then they can cheat, whatever. I’ll continue with my fair play though. I prefer my way.

  10. Leave the old girl alone to see off her miserable days in abject luxury.
    It will soon be time to organise the dance!

  11. @Malcolm – “Thatcher, in my view has a lot to answer for in this country. How this applies to the rest of the world I haven’t thought through – but it’s enough for me to blame her for now.”

    Please, no need for further application.

    I fully agree with your argument, and personally would rather see a sport without cheating (or rather, unpunished cheating – sometimes circumstances determine actions, which is why I will defend Suarez’ actions. I’ve ignored his words, because I’m more interested in footballers feet than their mouths).
    At the end of my post I called for some credit to be given to the official who saw the handball and handed out the punishment without the aid of any technology. This was a (very) thinly veiled call for FIFA to use the technology – the unpunished cheating, unjust decisions et al could ALL be removed from the game with less disruption to the game’s momentum than the surrounding of referees in the face of injustices.
    I hate to say it, but when it comes to discipline football WILL NOT be entirely fair until FIFA take a leaf out of Rugby League’s book (I HATE Rubgy League 🙁 ) and the referees decision is respected because it IS definitively right.

    So given that we’ll probably never see football played entirely fairly…why should the good people be punished for fair play? They are, thus, being encouraged to cheat just to stay on level terms with the rest – and FIFA are wholly (ir)responsible. Someone should send Raoul Moat round to Sepp Blatter’s in an attempt to save our sport from eternal ridicule. It is, after all, the injustices of football that lead to these debates, and fun as they are I would rather not be having to discuss this again. We all know the answer – we all know within seconds the truth of incidents off even ITV’s footage (if you ignore the commentators and watch the screen).

    Still, back to more common ground…

    …if I could get an hour in a room with Thatcher…

  12. Malcolm; that was a great post, and worthy of a seperate reply. The question of morals is always going to promote some debate. This one has spawned more than anticipated! I don`t have an issue with my son taking down the player and risking a penalty. I don`t for a moment see that as cheating. He knows that there is a likelihood of giving away the penalty. He takes the choice because he is capable of quickly working out the odds in his favour. He might save the penalty, or he might not. That`s just about playing the percentage game. He doesn`t do it because he has the intention of deceiving the referee, although that might happen. That`s life; decisions go against you and the go for you.

    I threw this example into the mix, very much to see how peôple would react, and I think that the debate which has followed illustrates the difficulty that we all have when it comes to moral reasoning. Your point about speed cameras is a good one. If people`s perception is that speed cameras are there to improve road safety then the response of the conscientious citizen will be to respect their presence and see the utilitarian benefit. On the other hand, if they are seen as a devious means by which the government can generate revenue (a more likely scenario) then their cynicism is justified. Just at the weekend I was driving down a local highway that has a speed limit of 80klm ph. There`s a short section where the limit suddenly drops to 60 kph and then 70 before rising back to 80. The reason for this is that there`s an elementary school alongside the road. I slow down when I expect there to be children around regardless of whether there`s a school or not. School has been finshed for a week here we are at 8-30am on a Saturday morning and Ontario`s finest are parked at the side of the road catching anyone who is over the limit. There`s nothing there but the school. Is this improving road safety. Of course not. Would I slow down outside of school hours. Probably not. Context and specific knowledge are critical components of any moral dilemma. A lot like your experience in Eppleton Club all those years ago. Few things are absolutely black and white. Apart from those buggers up the road!

  13. atheadley wrote ”
    LOL how could I possibly condemn you? You are clearly totally incapable of even understanding the concept so one cannot blame you.”

    You perception of my levels of reasoning are on par with mine about your sense of irony atheadley. My comments about `Neuerezing`were intended as irony as I was underlining the point about hypocrisy. Everyone blamed the linesman and referee for Lampard`s non-goal and nobody mentions the bloke that was closest to it. He had some stones to boot the ball away like that in the full knowledge that the ball was two feet over the line. Suarez committed a foul and got punished for it and everyone says that he was a cheat. He wasn`t, and I was dusgusted by the blustering and adulation that followed.

    Were it Paulo Da Silva handling the ball at 1-0 to us in teh final minute at SJP next season would you be as quick to condemn Paulo for it if Alan Smith walks up to the spot and blazes the ball high into the Gallowgate. I rather doubt it.

    Sorry if my post caused some difficulties for the hard of thinking.

  14. Jeremy, this whole article and the responses to it have started off a whole philosophical debate in my head, which is preoccupying me when I have other things I should be doing. It is not for me to tell others how to bring up their children but I do know that the attitudes a parent displays to their offspring, will have a huge effect on their own attitudes when they become adults. My only piece of advice about parenting would be to ask oneself “what sort of person do I want my child to be?”

    My own father worked down the pit at Eppleton Colliery. I don’t suppose the words “gosh” and “crikey” were the preferred profanities but I remember how shocked I was around my 18th birthday when my dad took me down to Hetton Big Club and, after getting my membership cards from the committee, took me into the bar. One of his work mates used the F word and he used it in reply. That was the first (and one of the very few times) I heard him swear. Even today, approaching pensionable age, those words don’t offend me as such, but the context in which they are used can and does. I hate it for example, when at non-league football, a player yells abuse at a linesman (or woman sometimes) when there are young children standing right alongside. I hate it even more when fathers encourage their kids to do the same and I witness that frequently at the Stadium of Light.

    Sport is a metaphor for life. It’s an old cliché but it’s true. Rules are there to ensure fair play. Fouls are committed and penalised. It becomes cheating when a foul is done deliberately. In my mind there is a huge difference. It may only be the perpetrator who can say for certain that the intent was there. Personally I would suffer feelings of guilt, self reproach and no pride if I knew I had achieved something by deliberately transgressing the rules. I have a moral code of conduct, instilled in me by my father that I try to live life by.

    There is always some degree of hypocrisy when talking about morals. The normally law abiding citizen who gets worked up about speed cameras. The office worker who takes a pack of highlighter pens home but would never think of holding up the local jewellers. Attitudes change over time. Society’s views change. Martin McGuinness and Nelson Mandela, forty years ago were seen as terrorists by many who now regard them as respected politicians. Whatever ones views about the rights and wrongs of British involvement in Afghanistan, there is no doubt that the reaction to the deaths of British servicemen and women is significantly different to that which prevailed in either of the World Wars. Peoples’ attitudes – society’s attitudes change.

    Thatcher, in my view has a lot to answer for in this country. How this applies to the rest of the world I haven’t thought through – but it’s enough for me to blame her for now. Simplistic maybe, but during her period in office, social conscience and responsibility for one’s own actions became replaced by the “out for what I can get and screw the rest” mentality. People grabbed their British Gas shares, bought their council homes and allowed the wealthy and exploitative the freedom to line their own pockets in the name of “personal freedom.”

    I see little difference between that and the attitude that it’s OK to cheat if it brings success. It shows a lack of respect for the game and those who play it. Try not to break the law but accept the punishment it brings when you do. Bad laws need changing. Ask Mandela and Tutu. There are ways to do that, some easier than others. But is a cynical exploitation of the rules for personal gain justifiable? Decide for yourself

  15. I cant quite keep up with this one.
    If a goalkeeper brings down an attacker,he will be sent off and a penalty awarded.It might be called cheating but to what gain?From a strikers point of view behing pulled down by the goalkeeper is a result.
    Labouring a point I made a few days ago.
    Bring in a penalty goal for handball on the line. Nothing else would need to be changed.
    I dont think Suarez cheated by handling.It is a natural split second reaction to defend the goal but his gloating afterwards was sickening.
    Penalty goal please.

  16. Jeremy’s response to his son’s action was human. In its own way, so was Suarez’s goalline handball – and yes, though he should have been long in the dressing room by the time the penalty was taken, so was his joyful reaction when Gyan missed. Jeremy is right to say his subsequent comments have caused even greater offence than the original offence, and that is a (commendable) human reaction too. And how many goalkeepers would have behaved more honestly than Neuer?

    All that said, Salut! Sunderland would be massively hypocritical if it condoned Robson junior’s professional foul or, indeed, the spread of adult disregard of the spirit of the game to school playing fields.

    You probably can’t do it any more but Steve Bruce had the right idea when commenting on the disgraceful play acting of Ilunga after Kenwyne Jones pushed him:

    “To go on like Ilunga went on, I would have been embarrassed. I’d have smacked my kids’ arses if they had done anything like that when they were playing football.”

  17. People have been quick to condemn Suarez for cheating. That wasn’t cheating it was just professional gamesmanship. He didn’t cheat at all.

    LOL how could I possibly condemn you? You are clearly totally incapable of even understanding the concept so one cannot blame you.

    Anyway what does my opinion matter? A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. In my opinion you are A CHEAT, you are arguing in favour of cheating and are endorsing your son’s decision to continue the family approach to sport.

    I hope you gain satisfaction from his victories. The question is where do you draw your line because that is all we are arguing about.

    How about that case in South America where a defender shot a winger that he was unable to catch. Was that cheating or is he only allowed to break his leg in your book. Are drugs acceptable because your boy needs to jump higher in goal?

    Why have any rules at all if you don’t intend to comply with them when it suits your purpose.

    For the avoidance of doubt Jeremy these clearly extreme points I am making are to argue the case for not cheating, not a serious attack on you and yours.

  18. Bill. Neuer has admitted that he knew it crossed the line and he has also said specifically that he kicked the ball away quickly so as to reinforce the impression that it hadn’t crossed the line, and to make it more difficult for the referee to bring the play back. Neuer realised that if he stood with the ball in his hands he would have helped to make the referee’s decision much easier for him. Standing there with the ball in his hands would have made the referee wonder if there was a question to answer.

    I’m wondering why atheadley is castigating me for my comments about my son pulling down the opponent. Does he expect the boy to tell the referee that he has committed a foul? The referee didn’t see it and that’s the way it goes. It’s almost impossible to develop young players these days without them resorting to shirt pulling, holding and diving.

    Salut asks the question of whether “cheating” should be taught as part of the game. Too late Salut, it already is. People have been quick to condemn Suarez for cheating. That wasn’t cheating it was just professional gamesmanship. He didn’t cheat at all. He committed a foul and was sent off. Thierry Henry handled the ball, creating a goal and was only found out after the event. That’s cheating. I can just imagine the scenes if players were overcome with a sense of honesty to own up every time they committed a foul. “Sorry ref, that’s a free kick, I just tapped his ankles.” When was the last time you saw that happen in any standard of football? It must have been Robbie Fowler with the penalty incident against Arsenal, which is more years ago than I can remember.

    Like I said earlier it’s all just hypocrisy to a greater or lesser degree. Incidentally my little lad came flying out of his box to try and stop an attack in his game tonight with three attackers bearing down on him at speed. The kid with the ball skipped past him and although he had been pushed wide managed to put the ball into the net from a tight angle.

    Coming back in the car his sister said to him. “Next time there’s a player coming at you like that just take him out. Don’t worry about the ball.” It might not sound very Corinthian but such cynicism will be required if he wants to get anywhere in this game these days. I’m no less a hypocrite than anyone else in this. Sane reaction to an insane world.

  19. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. And, not having kids myself, I’m not about to lecture Jeremy on the tenets of being a father. I like to think, though, that I would have told the lad that what he did was wrong and that cheating in general is wrong. I don’t think I’d have gone as far as telling him not to do it — I’d let him make his own decision.
    What also has to be taken into account, though, is the blatant cheating that Jeremy’s son sees routinely happening in the world of professional sport. It goes all the way to the top and it’s not confined to football, by any means. Just as FIFA and the FA are rotten to the core, the International Olympic Committee wouldn’t bear close scrutiny. Nor would the Formula One grand prix governing body. Where money is the chief motivator, all else become subservient to profit. That said, I’m not suggesting Jeremy tell his son to stop cheating until someone makes it worth his while!
    Finally, let me ask what is probably an extremely naive question: Is it possible that Neuer didn’t realize the ball had crossed the line? Please, don’t all sneer at once.

  20. Cheating is cheating in my book Jeremy but you raise an interesting moral question. None of us are saints all the time and I pride myself that whatever sport or game I have played I have tried to consciously stay within the rules and spirit of the game. Except once. When fielding at cricket, I chased the ball to the boundary and picked it up just over the line. In my head, Jiminy Cricket “how apt!” said signal a four but I didn’t. We were well behind in the match and destined to lose anyway. Did I lose sleep over it. Probably not.

    Or twice. Playing bridge, I needed to work out where the Queen of Spades was to make my contract. One of my opponents wasn’t holding their cards very close to their chest and I saw a black Queen so I played them for the card. Unfortunately (and serve me right) I had glimpsed the Queen of Clubs and failed! Justice was done. I’m sure there are other examples.

    The fact is, no matter how hard we aspire to perfection, none of us is perfect. But for every one who cheats, there is someone who has suffered through their actions. The arbitrators and governing bodies maybe cannot stamp out cheating, but where they have the power, they should do all they can to minimise its effects. A handball in the box. Award a penalty if it’s a defender. If he prevents an obvious goal, award a penalty goal. Overule the goal if it’s an attacker who subsequently puts the ball in the net. The technology is there at the top level.

    Everyone has their own level of morality and sense of pride. I couldn’t take much pride in a victory knowing I had cheated to achieve it. There are dodgy builders out there, who will charge old ladies thousands of pounds to fix a leaky roof by moving a few tiles around.

    There are MPs who claim living expenses whilst living with their boyfriends then vote to deny single mothers housing benefit.

    There are wealthy golf playing accountants who will run over their clubs and claim the insurance for a new set when they miss a short putt, then happily help a millionaire save a fortune in tax whilst calling people on invalidity benefit scroungers.

    It’s not a level playing field (especially at Underhill) this world we live in. I believe it would be a happier, not to say fairer place if everyone lived and played honestly. The fact is they don’t so governing bodies must do all they can to enforce the rules and get the right result as often as is humanly possible.

    Right now I’m off to polish my halo!

  21. No it is not different and the game is poorer for your attitude because it is no longer a sport which has become as fake as all in wrestling and we are a bunch of idiots paying the money we do to watch games rigged by cheating.

    It is our loss and shame that life has descended to a point where lying and cheating is admired and we teach our children it is ok.

    It is entirely different playing to the letter of the law and winning only because you cheat.

    I have no doubt that my opinion will be in the minority because the world has moved on but it is your loss, fake blood in rugby, picking the seam of the ball in cricket, performance enhancing drugs in athletics and cycling. All in the name of being admired as a sportsman don’t make me laugh.

  22. Finally a balanced piece regarding Suarez here on Salut! I remember doing similar to Suarez as a kid and being told by the ref, “You know I should be sending you off for this…” before he produced the yellow. The reaction of young Master Robson was pretty much mine – I was willing for whatever punishment because I knew what I had done, and I’d had little option but to do it. The sincere proclamation from so many that they wouldn’t do it is part downright lie and part of a British fair-play ethic that makes us good losers. The question we really need to ask is, are we happy being good losers or do we really want the success enough to do ‘whatever it takes’? It might not take cheating, but to win at the top level you need a certain amount of things to go your way, and succesful sides clearly make their own luck – even if that luck is the inability of officials to see the obvious. Suarez cheated – but was caught and punished on the spot. He will miss the biggest game his country has played in in his lifetime – perhaps ever, given the worldwide appeal of the modern game. Neuer…well…perhaps instead of criticising Suarez, we should congratulate the ref for seeing the incident at full speed from one angle with no replay?

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