Say Sorry in Soccer

Like many others I’m an addicted sports fan. My main attention is soccer, but not only. It means that my wife and I will never argue over the morning paper, because I’ll immediately dive into the sports section, a completely needless section for her. It also means that watching sports on TV is a way of life and that world sport events like Olympic Games, NBA finals, etc. receive a clear priority over life other ‘nonsense’. Like those fanatic fans, I’ll admit that the roar of the crowed in a stadium drags me like a magnet, and a ball that crosses my way I must touch it or bounce it, even if I’m wearing a business suit. As I said – like a magnet.

I play nonprofessional soccer from my childhood days and while entering my 65th year I’m still playing. Most of my friends moved to the observer’s seats or to their home armchairs and I’m still jumping, running and shouting on the floor.

A neighborhood soccer game on a small field (five-a-side) is a Friday popular tradition in Israel. School yards, all over Israel, are all occupied on Fridays’ afternoons. “Rules” are similar everywhere – a school you play in is a “marked” territory and nobody can play there without your permission. Since people in my age normally don’t play soccer, so my son introduced me to his friends and I’m playing with them in their “conquered territory”. My son is 39 years-old, he retired already from the game, and I’m still there, playing with his gang. It is true that they choose me when no other choice is left. It is true that I play more as a goal keeper since I can’t meet their pace, and yes, they call me to retire, but yet it is a real fun for me and they pay me a lot of respect. If I’ll score, and it doesn’t happen much, they will cheer and make fun of the other team how and old guy like me ‘kicked their ass’.

And I, in a gesture of old people, I buy them t-shirts on my birthday with a print of my age. I started with ‘57’ and I’m on my way to give them the ‘64’ t-shirt. There is one condition that I include: They have to take a group picture with me wearing the new shirt (see the picture on the next page). And I file the pictures on my computer and sadly count the changing numbers.

 But I wanted to share with you something else. I wanted to share an Idea that will probably moderate violence and aggression in soccer games. It relates to the players rather than to the spectators. It relates to those players that after committing a foul will usually turn their back, curse or spit. And here is a small idea that can insert some basic civilized behavior in soccer:

When a yellow card is being presented by the referee, it means that a severe foul was performed. The player that committed the foul, may he agree or disagree with the referee will be required to shake hand with the fouled player. A hand-shake is meaningful. It shows regret, recognition of the mistake and mainly expresses a civilized way of saying “sorry”. Did you notice how appreciated are players that do so on their own initiative?  If the player refuses to shake hands, he gets another yellow card and is immediately ejected. Is it too much? I don’t think so.

And what happens if the offended player refuses the hand-shake? He will get a yellow card as well.

Some may say that it is a compelled act. But, don’t we force education? Don’t we teach our kids, again and again, to say “thank you” or “sorry” even if they don’t like to do it?

I believe that the whole scenario of the hand-shake brings a culture of saying “sorry” and a polite and gentle attitude. It is something similar to the hand raise after committing a foul in the American basketball. And the crowed will watch, maybe absorb…and… it may penetrate to other areas…

And if my idea can’t be legally adopted, coaches may adopt it and enroll their players to do it voluntarily.

Fireworks (42)
Shuka, Thursday, November 12, 2009


These are the T-shirts of last year. It is me in the center. The white hair guy

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