When did the sportmanship die?

Written by dandan

Once upon a time I had a hero called Dennis Compton, he was the archetypal sportsman, besides playing football for Arsenal and England, he also played a bit of cricket for Middlesex and England and in between, fitted in 5 years fighting in the Second World War.

Coming from a less than privileged background, he joined the Lords ground staff and played cricket in the summer and football in the winter. Winning League championship and FA Cup winner’s medals with the Arsenal, whilst at the same time being the most loved English cricketer of his generation. An attacking batsman who, devoid of all the protective gear of today, faced the most feared fast bowlers from all around the world on pitches left uncovered and open to the elements at all times. Compton accumulated a vast number of runs and a reputation for his bravery, sportsmanship and the ability, and like Ian Botham, he could party all night and carry on batting next day as though he had spent the night in his bed.

He was the David Beckham of his day, the first man to advertise products as a result of his sporting fame. He was known right up until his death in 1997 as ‘The Brylcreem Boy’ – the hair cream he advertised throughout his career. He never made any real money and had to work in the media after his retirement to keep the wolf from the door.

I met him a number of times in the years prior to his death and he was never less than polite and a joy to talk with and listen to.

I mention this just as a comparison to Messrs John Terry and Nicholas Anelka, wealthy football players who wouldn’t know a sportsman if they fell over him on their way out of whatever nightclub is the flavour of the moment.

These gentlemen, having both been chosen to represent their respective countries in the World Cup. An honour recognised as the pinnacle of any professional player’s career, and the dream of every kid or fan that ever kicked a ball.

They have debased that honour by criticising the team’s management not just within the confines of the team, something that although not encouraged is at least accepted in certain circumstances but deliberately in Terry’s case, in front of the full media circus.

The fact that it matters not to either of them if they never play again, being as they are financially secure for life, does not detract from the fact that these were the actions of two bitter and selfish men.

How should their actions be viewed when judged against the like of Dennis Compton and what does it say about the values of the game we love?

So when did the sportsmanship die, is football alone in its cynicism and love of self?

Does cricket still have it? Remember the actions of Freddie Flintoff and Brett Lee in the last home Ashes series.

Golf certainly still has it, as all golfers report any personal transgression, with instant expulsion from the sport for any failure so to do.

Should Terry and Anelka be treated in such a manner? Anelka was sent home, should John Terry have received a similar response? Capello, ‘the strict disciplinarian’ has come out and said that Terry made a mistake, but maybe his worth to the team makes him less dispensable than Anelka.

74 Responses to When did the sportmanship die?

  1. James says:

    The bigger the money, the less the sportsmanship.

  2. zeki says:

    When Abrahmovic took over at Chelsea, and then even worse when Man City got taken over by arabs

  3. Mike L says:

    Very well made point.

    I’ve also been wondering where sportsmanship has gone. Not just in terms of the actions of Anelka and Terry, but the whole nature of our “beautiful” game. Almost every player on view at this world cup is trying to con the referee, obtain an advantage by cheating and have punishment imposed on their fellow players.

    Play acting when they are hurt (and this isn’t just confined to the Ivory Coast and Chilean players) is now so widespread it is embarrasing to watch. It is so extensive we are on the verge of accepting it! Sportsmanship? Gone.

    I love my team and still get a buzz when I prepare to head to the Emirates, but I tell you, this cheating (that’s what it is) is a “cancer” in the game and is the one thing that will drive me away.

    We need to shame the players mercilessly and show how much it is dissaproved of. It is the only way to stamp it out.

  4. SharkeySure says:

    Well said Mike L.

    Worse still is the biased reporting/highlighting of it.

    You rightly clarify that its much wider than the two countries that have most recently been highighted.

    Gerrard’s dive on Fri nite that was as clear as day on the slo-mo replay, was greeted with complete silence by the commentary team.

    Keita of the Iivory Coast is slated to the heavens, whilst Lucio, Fabiano, and Bastos all barely deserved a mention.

    To my own personal roll of shame, Id also like to give special mebntion to Chiellini and Cannavaro for their determined and sustained campaign to get Rory Fallon sent off.

    Medal of honour has to go to Sergio Busquets. Very few players disgust me in the way that that young man does.

    Nothing in particular from him at this WC so far, but I know he’ll be looking for any opportunity, that might come his way, to besmirch the beautiful game with his disgusting antics.

  5. SongtheGreat says:

    interesting post..

    but the answer is quite easy im sorry to say :)..

  6. 26may1989 says:

    Good points, well made – I wish I’d got to meet Dennis Compton.

    As James says, the simple answer about why and when sportsmanship in football died goes back to money. If you want to see football with much less cheating, the sad thing is top level professional football has to be avoided.

    I love good sportsmanship and hate the culture of cheating that affects football in particular. But it isn’t just football of course: cyclists have been on performance enhancing drugs for decades for example. Faked blood injuries in rugby anyone? And even before the tidal wave of cash hit football in the 1990s, there was loads of cheating.

    But you’re right, diving, exaggerating and faking have become serious problems in our sport. The one at the WC that upset me the most was Uruaguay’s Suarez, whose persistent diving was eventually rewarded with a penalty and the end of the World Cup for the South African keeper, Khune, who was wrongly sent off. Disgusting behaviour by Suarez.

    Personally, I don’t understand how these players aren’t incredibly embarrassed when everyone sees them pathetically faking an injury. But since the players, with few exceptions, seem to have no self-respect, it becomes a question of punishment. Obvious faking or exaggeration should result in retrospective bans, simple as that.

  7. Rasp says:


    Rigthteous post dandan 🙂

    Although as many have pointed out, ‘money is the root of all evil’, there are still individuals of quality in today’s game who manage to perform with integrity. Probably every team has one or two, Alex Song, Sagna and Arshavin all play the game according to the rules.

    Unfortunately every team has some at the opposite end of the ‘sportsmanship spectrum’, I suppose the finger would have to be pointed at EE, but I think he has tried to get it out of his game.

  8. Gadget says:

    Mike L, I agree, but this is all part and parcel of success being measured purely in trophies. If a winners medal and glory are the only things of worth, then eventually cynicism will take over and one will do whatever it takes. Afterall, the players are human, and if there’s one thing that’s been shown to shatter the illusion of human kindness, it’s the pursuit of trinkets.

    I do rue the fact that all this faking goes on, but the authorities are passively encouraging the players to do such by refusing to progress beyond the archaic means of officiating, as are the media, pundits and fans. It’s so widely accepted that should a player anticpate contact in the box, he should knock the ball ahead and go down at the slightest of touchs. We as fans can do our part to change that side of the culture, but video tech would do an even larger part.

    As for Terry and Anelka, both have acted very very stupid and selfishly. My personal bias (as I think Domenech is a buffoon) caused me to side with Anelka at first, but now I think he and the French players have acted with a distinct lack of pride and class. They don’t have to play for Ray, they’re there representing their nation. Ignore him if you must, but you do what works.

    If Capello had a pair (or a better squad selection), he would have sent Terry home. Terry should never be a captain again. The mere fact that he alone had the press conference implies enough. Joe Cole is not the messiah, the team are playing rubbish, and Cole is no alchemist.

    The so called golden generation was nothing but fool’s gold: start over.

  9. London says:

    One of the easiest ways to address the balance is for players who play act by holding their faces when they clearly have not been touched there, alla Busquets, to be fined and banned by a video committee in the same way as they review red card decisions.

    Name them, shame them and ban them.

  10. SharkeySure says:

    “Name them, shame them and ban them.”

    As the ‘voice of reason’ (according to London !) I second that motion.

    Players wil not dive if they get punished for it. Just like defenders don’t hack down CFs in the box for fear of the consequences.

    Its pretty simple really.

  11. Arsnik says:

    Any good players for us out there at the world cup? Oh I forgot … if they’re world class then they’re probably far too expensive for Arsenal. We only shop in Aldi … don’t laugh its got some promising brands you know. F.F.S. Wenger just buy us one world class footballer for once!

  12. London says:

    “I do rue the fact that all this faking goes on, but the authorities are passively encouraging the players to do such by refusing to progress beyond the archaic means of officiating, as are the media, pundits and fans.” (Gadget)

    This is one of the most insightful comments I have read in months. The fact that there is no mechanism for Kaka to appeal against that ridiculous red card and no means for the Ivory Coast player to be punished for his cheating high light the depth of the problem on one hand and bring into focus how easy it would be to rectify it on the other.

  13. London says:

    Morning Sharkey

    I think I said the “voice of sanity” although I can’t remember what it was exactly about now, I think Rasp and Chary were going of on one of their tangents.

  14. Rasp says:

    Tangents? moi?

  15. London says:

    Cattle prodded 😉

  16. dandan says:

    Morning all, for those who point the finger at money, why don’t Golfers Cheat then….. I am with the glory hunting pot winning culture, look at the mass of considered reasoned post’s on here already today and then look at Arsnik 11.35. And you will see the attitude is not only player driven.

  17. Big Raddy says:

    Super post and some great comments.

    The Compton’s went to my Junior school (Bell Lane Hendon) and we were very proud.

    As GAdget and others have said, the solution lies with FiFA, UEFA and the FA. Steps can be taken retrospectively and after just 3 or 4 high profile cases the cheating will stop.

    Or as the FA prefer to call it …. simulation 🙂

  18. harold says:

    Like Nas said “Hip hop is dead.” So true,so true.

  19. Rasp says:

    Hi Raddy,

    Unfortunately the last time the authorities chose to take some meaningful retrospective action it was over the Eduardo ‘simulation’. Typically, they couldn’t have got it more wrong in their choice of target or even the rationale of the charge.

  20. 26may1989 says:

    Rasp, I agree that Eduardo was hard done by in the Celtic incident, but I wouldn’t mind a few wrongful convictions if that were the price for concerted action against cheaters.

    But even if the authorities did have the guts to take the players on, they would have to focus on the obvious incidents – there would still be examples of exaggeration (e.g. de Rossi vs. New Zealand) where there may have been a foul but the victim made more of it to make sure he got the call – I doubt those could be followed up with punishment.

  21. Big Raddy says:

    True, We can but hope.

    But it really does destroy the game. Kaka’s 2 yellows were ludicrous.

    I am still angry about Bilic “simulating” in the WC SF ’98 and getting Laurent Blanc sent off. He stopped a decent bloke playing in the biggest game in the World. I imagine Blanc will never forgive such a craven action.

  22. Big Raddy says:

    I agree 26/4/89. However, as you say the more obvious cases can be punished, which could filter down to less clear offences.

  23. SharkeySure says:

    “…choice of target” – therein lies the problem.

    The various FA’s and media outlets will continue to pick and choose who they will and won’t punish, based on all sorts of criteria except for the actual cold hard video evidence of the simulation itself.

    How Gerrard does not have ‘a reputation’ for diving is beyond me. There’s going down easily following ‘light’ contact, and then there’s blatant unalduterated diving. Gerrard is a master of the latter.

  24. Rasp says:

    I agree 26may,

    I’m sure if it were the ‘favoured clubs’ that suffered the most poor decisions, something would be done.

  25. SharkeySure says:

    Fair do’s that Rivaldo got a ban for his ‘(very!) amateur dramatics’ in Jap/SKorea.

    Its about the only belated chastisement that I can think of. Are there any others..??

  26. rockylives says:

    Really well said Dandan. The ‘simulation’ of injury, the diving, the shirt pulling – these are seriously reducing my enjoyment of this WC.
    I thought the old ‘fall down and keep rolling’ trick had been ridiculed out of the game years ago, but I’ve seen several versions already in this WC.
    It would be so easy for the authorities to bring in a system of retrospective punishment – why don’t they? What possible advantage can there be to letting it go on like this, ruining the spectacle and driving people away from the sport? I can’t figure it out.

  27. Big Raddy says:

    It is the problem of having dinasaurs running a modern game. It has changed beyond their recognition, and as with most Older folk, they do not trust modern technology or it’s ability to improve the game. Not having over the line technology in the ball is plainly ludicrous.

    Football needs retrospective action or even better touchline video refereeing as they have in Rugby.

    Just seen Gourcuff sent of for nothing. A video ref would have seen there was no intent.

  28. Big Raddy says:

    I accept that such technology would not be available in the Championship and below, but the vast majority watch the PL and WC where it is certainly feasible.

    Some of the refereeing at this WC has been laughable. They need help…..

  29. Rasp says:

    I totally agree Raddy. The game has changed, the rules have changed, yet the officiating has remained stagnant and devoid of modern technological assistance. We don’t still time the 100 metres with a stopwatch because bettter technology is available – the same should apply to football.

  30. rockylives says:

    It’s inevitable that it will have to come in – perhaps when the Blatter generation has shuffled off…

  31. Rasp says:

    I feel sorry for France because their hearts have not been in this WC and I feel very sorry for Ireland because they would have made so much more of the opportunity given the chance. Modern technology showed they had been cheated out of their rightful place in South Africa and still the authorities did nothing.

  32. Big Raddy says:

    Where is Irish? She must be loving this….

    But. There are 3 Gunners out there doing all they can for France. Do you think it will affect their paly next season?

  33. Rasp says:

    France are going home, 2 nil down after 37 minutes.

    Four Arsenal players on the pitch – hardly the winning mentality we want to nurture in the players, still at least they’ll get a rest 😉

  34. Rasp says:

    Hi Raddy, are you already listing Gallas as a non-gunner. You’re probably right as he’s out of contract. Clichy is only playing because Evra has been punished.

  35. kelsey says:

    This will all backfire on us if we only had only one player out there, the abuse of Arsenal being a french club will gather momentum, but who cares, as long as our players are focused.Wonder what Wenger is thinking.

    I can see the next tabloid headlines “Wenger to manage France” 😉

  36. kelsey says:

    Galls is off, Silvestre is off, and Campbell is leaving his options open.

  37. Big Raddy says:

    Kelsey. Thankfully Blanc has the job!

    Lloris flapping for their first was not a good sign . Hope we don’t sign him. He has the same problem as Coco – no command of his area.

  38. Rasp says:

    I agree kelsey, but I can’t add their names to the widget until the club make it official. I was tempted to list Koscielny as I believe it is a done deal and will be announced before the end of the WC.

  39. rockylives says:

    A Scottish acquaintance of mine said Sol has bought a house in Glasgow, close to Neil Lennon… could be boll*cks though. It was second hand information, so no real provenance.

  40. Big Raddy says:

    Reminds me of the excitement in North London when Robbie Fowler bought a huge house in Hampstead. Then he started buying more and more! I think he has over 200 now….

  41. rockylives says:

    Ha! That’s it – Sol’s going to become a slum landlord in the Gorbals!

  42. Big Raddy says:

    lol RL

  43. SharkeySure says:

    Also laughable…..

    16:20 Commentary France v South Africa
    That’s France captain, Thierry Henry. He took the armband off Alou Diarra as soon as he came on.

    Thierry Hery – ego man !!??

    Thats like when Beckham used to wear his captains armband in training.

  44. Rasp says:

    Looks like France have also spoiled SA’s World Cup with that goal. It’s a sad end to TH14’s international career.

  45. Big Raddy says:

    SS. I think it was a demonstration. TH was saying that he is proud to be French and proud to be Captain, (just as Becks was for England) and not a part of Evra’s group odf dissenters.

    And he will go out of International football as Captain of France – a country he has represented with B S & T

  46. rockylives says:

    I was going to write something nice about Thierry but then I thought that Irish would get on here and kick the cr*p out of me (metaphorically, of course).

  47. Rasp says:

    Oh go on Rocky, Irish has said she has nothing to add to the TH debate and doesn’t want to offer a post tomorrow.

  48. Rohan says:

    Have to say I feel sorry for the Arsenal boys out there today….
    By the looks of it, it looks like Evra, Anelka, Abibal and perhaps Ribery were the instigators of the rebellion of sorts….
    Hope they never play for France again. What a bunch of egotistical selfish ( insert word of choice here )

  49. SharkeySure says:

    Fair do’s Raddy (4.44) thats another angle.

    Oddly enouh I’m really not Thierry’s biggest fan, and I’m prone to taking the darker of two options when assessing his behaviour.

  50. rockylives says:

    I suppose my feeling about TH14 and THAT handball is that – as today’s post so eloquently points out – we have moved into an era where cheating for advantage is accepted by everyone in the sport (except perhaps fans and some journalists) as perfectly normal, even reasonable.
    So morally there is no difference between TH’s handball, Gerrard’s dives, Busquets’ simulations, all the shirt-tugging, the ‘professional’ fouls and so on.
    Yes the handball had a big impact (it led to a goal that denied a place to Ireland in the WC), but it’s the logical outcome of the prevailing attitudes in the game (and in the game’s governance), so I think TH was unfairly singled out.
    That’s it…

  51. dandan says:

    Don’t these so called football journo’s who keep writing that we are looking at other fullbacks because Clichy might leave, Know about Kieren Gibbs and Armond Traore.

  52. dandan says:

    What price our french players catching a direct flight to the UK and their London homes then off on holiday. Rather than run the gauntlet at Charles De Gaul airport.

  53. rockylives says:

    Evening Dandan. Great topic today. I would love there to be a head of steam building to bring sportsmanship and fair play back into the game.

  54. rockylives says:

    It’s not so long ago that cricketers, even in a Test Match, would ‘walk’ if they knew they had nicked the ball on the way to a catch, even if the umpire hadn’t seen it. Then, sadly, that stopped too. But at least the cricket authorities brought in technology to eliminate doubt.

  55. dandan says:

    I am afraid it wont happen Rocky the pressure to win at all cost is to great, mores the pity.

  56. irishgunner says:


    Did y’all see Domenech’s face MUWHAHAHAHAHAHA ah the French surrender once again.

    To answer some of the questions I saw today aimed at me, I shall answer:

    1. Yes, yes I enjoyed the last couple of miserable days for the French. So too did Liam Brady – he said they deserved it for their arrogance especially Evra who “offered” to replay us on his playstation – plenty time for that now doesn’t he. I agree Liam, I agree.

    2. Raddy – No, I don’t think it’ll affect our French players. Gallas is gone I’d reckon. Diaby is too laid back to let himself get affected while Clichy and Sagna were a minority in the French camp who can hold their heads high for actually trying.

    3. I wrote a post on TH14 explaining my stance. Again, its not that we feel we “deserved” to be in South Africa just wish that we had been knocked out fairly and when we weren’t knocked out fairly UEFA/FIFA, Domenech and a lot of the French players laughed at us so now they’ve all got their just deserts.

    In the end, Rep. Ireland didn’t need the World Cup to have a good summer but by pissing about and going anti-France (not in a malicious way) we had our fun inspite of it all. To quote Pink:

    “So what? I’m still a rock star,
    I’ve got my rock moves,
    And I don’t need you,
    And guess what, I’m havin more fun
    And now that we’re done
    I’m gonna show you tonight
    I’m alright, I’m just fine
    And you’re a tool so”

    Ireland will keep rocking 😀

    Now, I just feel the need to add that I find some of the comments that went around blogland from English fans/people (not anyone here to clarify) very hypocritical about how the Irish should shut-up about what happened and just accept it. I have one name: Maradona!

  57. London says:

    Good Post Dandan

    It worries me that we are part of the only nation who thinks about sportsmanship in this way, I just don’t see other countries complain about cheating as we do; perhaps, they are as guilty as we are of not criticising our own players, alla Gerrard, but I also wonder if it is linked to cricket what with it being the gentleman’s game and all that.
    I like cricket don’t get me wrong but there is something about the mental over spill into football that worries me. I am originally from Italian immigrants so I am allowed to slag them, in my mind when it comes to football they have always been the biggest cheating bastards ever to take to the field……..by contrast though, they have a lot of stars on their shirts — they win and they don’t care how they do it. Is winning at all costs wrong? Not in Italy and unsurprisingly to me cricket is no where to be seen.
    Just a thought.

  58. dandan says:

    London, Pride was a big thing in my youth, yes I did play a lot of cricket and cheat back then was a label you did not want to carry.
    As far as cheating in cricket goes even WG Grace had his moments, but it really was the more modern Aussies with again a win at all cost culture, who started the rot and they were not all guilty.
    But Miller, Lindwall, Bradman the guys who played against Compton, were as straight as they come.

  59. dandan says:

    Aussies no doubt would argue that Larwood, Lord Hawk and the body-line series was cheating, certainly Bradman didn’t like it, so you takes your money.

  60. 26may1989 says:

    @ London: “Is winning at all costs wrong?” Yup, it is. And interestingly, there are Italians who agree – some of those who are pissed off with decades of cheating, bribing, diving and the rest of it have gravitated to rugby, which is perceived to have a dignity and savage grace that Italian football has left behind.

    Another Italian, Paolo di Canio, showed another way to observe the spirit of the football (whatever one thinks of his politics). He was lauded across Europe for refusing to take advantage of an injured goalkeeper when he was playing for West Ham.

    It might seem clever to do an Inzaghi swallow-dive to cheat your way to the top, but sportsmanship is so much more impressive and inspiring in the long run.

    I don’t think playing fair is particularly cultural – the English are just as likely to cheat as anyone else (Owen, Rooney, Gerrard and Terry in football, Atherton, Broad and Anderson in cricket, Dean Richards and Harlequins in rugby etc). But if people here or anywhere else value sportsmanship enough to take a stand on it, excellent.

    And we Asrenal fans have showed we care about it too – he might have been wrongly victimised but one of the big reasons Eboue was targeted by Arsenal fans was the perception he was always diving. Remember, one of those dives earned the free-kick in the European Cup Final that saw us take the lead. And yet, Arsenal fans grew more and more impatient with Eboue’s theatrics. And his rehabilitation in no small part rests on the fact he has virtually stopped diving.

    And rockylives, while there’s certainly less walking in modern cricket, it still does happen. Eg, see Adam Gilchrist, who was playing international cricket until a couple of years ago.

  61. jaygooner says:

    Sportsmanship still survives. Yeah Denis and his brother Leslie were true gentlemen, have a look at Roy Hodgson. People take the piss out of his accent and his “outdated” values, but Hodgson is an incredibly intelligent person, never mind football manager, he is polite respectful will listen even if what he is hearing is pure drivel, he will then explain and try to help the drivelist (is that a word?) to get to a reasoned answer, he has managed at all levels, yet remains a remarkably humble man. Those tossers in South Africa could learn a lot from Roy Hodgson, but then I guess they would just take the piss out of his accent and his “outdated” values. Roy Hodgson in my opinion continues the values of true sportsmanship

  62. dandan says:

    Magnificent post jaygooner, could not agree more, Hodgson for England would do me nicely.

  63. Big Raddy says:

    Me too. Let’s start the Campaign.

    Do you think Wenger is a “sportsman”?

  64. Rasp says:

    Morning all,

    We get some really good comments from bloggers overseas overnight (BST), its a shame that no-one is about to debate with them.

    I suggested some time ago that it would be good if we could find someone abroad in a different time zone who could keep an eye on the site by night. If anyone knows a gooner abroad who might be interested please let us know. We could even have a second night-time post from abroad on occassion.

  65. rockylives says:

    Excellent comments from 26thMay and Jaygooner.
    When Fabiano handled the ball for one of Brazil’s goals earlier this week there was a weird moment when, after allowing the goal, the ref seemed to ask him whether he had handled. He said no. The commentary team thought it was hilarious that the ref should even think of asking the question because surely no-one could expect the player to tell the truth and see the goal disallowed. Their clear implication was that it would have been naive, silly and even unprofessional of Fabiano to have done so.
    Their comments summed up everything that’s wrong with professional football. The world game would be much the better if players really did say “sorry, no goal – I handled it.”
    There have been one or two instances I can remember in the EPL of “fouled” players trying to tell the ref not to give their “fouler” a card, but that’s about it (apart fro Di Canio).
    I’ll be accused of being a naive dreamer – but why should honesty and fair play be naive?

  66. dandan says:

    How about TH14 he is going to The States lol. Yes I do, Raddy. I think it shows in his agitation when he sometimes has to defend the indefensible

  67. charybdis1966 says:

    Hi Raspers, that would be the far east gooners and those State-side as their times would overlap. Difficult question that one as some of the coments you see here coming up in the small house is quality stuff.

  68. dandan says:

    Off on a 50 mile drive to babysit, see you all later,wonderful life this retirement.LOL

  69. Rasp says:

    Morning chary,

    I agree we would have to maintain the quality and integrity of the site. It could only happen if a like-minded fanatic came along and expressed an interest – just a thought.

    As has been said already, 26may and jaygooner are excellent bloggers who write intelligently and it would be nice to offer them a more interactive forum when the rest of us are in the land of nod 😉

  70. charybdis1966 says:

    Yes Raspers, it’s similar to the problems at an american blog – I was involved in a flaming war with Stoke fans while it was the middle of the night for the blog author. When we woke up and saw the wreckage – it must have been an eye opener !

  71. Rasp says:

    New post …….

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