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A political red card

Football supporters around the world enjoy matches played at the highest level with the most advanced technology to assist referees in making tough decisions to keep the sport respectable and as fair as possible, especially when the difference between victory and defeat is at stake.

Transformative moment: David Beckham receives a red card during the 1998 World Cup second round against Argentina. It was an episode that led indirectly to England’s elimination and made him the most hated person in the country for a period. The former Manchester United star took his punishment then turned the worst of times into a positive by becoming an England legend, media darling and global icon

Although fouls are committed in every match, with consequences, players are very much aware that the third eye of camera technology is observing their every move.

When the going gets rough, and it does in just about every first-class match, the intensity of the moment causes players to think more about victory than the camera, which never blinks during the match. As a result, occasionally, some of the leading players cross the line, forgetting for a moment that no player is above the rules of the game.

A player will throw his hands in the air as though he is innocent, until a camera review reveals it was a foul that warranted the ultimate penalty — the dreaded red card and marching orders from the game.

This technology is used in other major sports including world-class tennis, where today often a ball called out was In by a margin so thin that the human eye could not make the detection.

All this technology at times can be painful, when a decision goes against a favourite player. However, rules are rules, and respect for maintaining the highest standards should always be the main goal in every sport.

The late Gordon Robinson, a journalist and sports commentator, would always end his radio programme on ZBM with the words ”play the game hard, but play it clean“.

A good motto for life.

It seems there are lessons for all in a world where there are moments where political leaders fall terribly short in following laws designed to benefit the people they are committed to serve. This is never a problem with dictatorial regimes, where power is maintained often with lethal force. Even the free press are banned from operating as they do in countries that adhere to democratic principles.

Just as international sport has been enhanced by technology for the benefit of players and supporters, the world of politics could benefit from closer scrutiny of leaders in democratic jurisdictions who drift from principles that promote honesty, decency and truth.

Most of the world is quite familiar with recent developments in the most powerful country on earth, America, when their leader committed one of the greatest political fouls of all time by unleashing a mob to attack at the heart of the nation’s democracy — the Capitol Building in Washington, where officials were in the process of certifying an election that he lost.

Without rehashing the horror story witnessed around the world via modern technology, that administration attempted to throw their hands in the air, claiming innocence of any wrongdoing. With blatantly clear evidence showing otherwise, much of the world choked on how anyone could deny such carnage shown in vivid detail.

That denial by the former administration was in a way similar to a big foul in the penalty area of a crucial football match, with the culprits claiming they did nothing wrong — even as replays left no doubt as to what happened.

In some political arenas, reality is what those in power choose in misleading people, even with clear evidence that truth has been bypassed for political gain. Sport can teach a great deal about how we conduct ourselves in victory or defeat. That is why it is always a welcome sight to see players — winners or losers — greet each other after a match, as though everyone won.

That behaviour should always be encouraged by those in responsible positions of leadership. We know the competitive spirit at times can be brutal in any sport, and that flaws occur in behaviour when things go wrong. For that purpose, at least in football, the red card carries instant punishment.

Before most big football matches these days, it is encouraging and comforting to see players kneel before the starting whistle to protest racism across the planet. The silent statement is key in helping to promote diversity.

Hopefully, people the world over will realise that real winners are those who know how to lose with dignity. That is a quality urgently needed in trying to improve life for all who seek freedom, peace and justice.

If it takes the world of sport to teach that lesson, then let the games begin.

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Published February 20, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated February 19, 2021 at 1:21 pm)

A political red card

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