Growing up as a boy, I played all sports as
competitively as I could. I tried to win at all times and losing was
painful to say the least.
Watching over my sport, was my mother and father and
their rules were simple, you never argue with the umpire or referee and
you play fair at all times. Good sportsmanship was placed above winning.
It was these values which my parents taught me, that I
have tried to give to my children, whether it be tennis, cricket, rugby,
soccer or hockey. In all sports, the rules of sportsmanship remain the
In the World Cup of 1996, I watched as did millions, the
"great" Maradona rise to punch the ball into the English net.
Maradona's celebration with his team mates
convinced the referee and his assistants, that the goal was legitimate.
Later he would compare his hand to God.
During the qualifying rounds of the 2010 World Cup,
Thierry Henry knocks the ball into the Irish net with his hand,
effectively ending Ireland's hopes of playing in the World Cup. Like
Maradona, Thiery Henry throws an Oscar performance. His body language
suggests the goal is legitimate. In short, like Maradona, he cons the
During the England, Germany match in the World Cup in
South Africa, Frank Lampard's shot clearly crosses the line. Later
Manuel Neuer tells the media proudly that his body language conned the
referee into believing that the ball was not over the line.
Maradona, Henry and Neuer all have one thing in common,
they cheat. These are soccer players that are paid in millions of
dollars, not only for their soccer skills, but for their cheating
In my two sons bedrooms, large pictures of these very
same players adorn the walls. These are their role models, these are the
people they aspire to be like.
As they sit mesmerized by the skill and antics of these
soccer superstars, the behaviour of these stars undermine everything
that I have tried to teach them. In short, diving, tripping, cheating
and conning the referee, are things to be admired, even to earn money
from. And this is what we call "a beautiful game", no less.
I believe it is a reflection of our society as a whole.
As the human population moves through 7 billion, our species cheats more
and more in sport, business and politics. The rich get richer, the poor
gets poorer and the resources of the planet get less.
The soccer stadium in Nelspruit, cost 140 million
dollars and hosted 360 minutes of football. Green Point Stadium cost a
staggering 600 million dollars. These magnificent stadiums, built at
huge cost, so that the cheating gladiators can display their skills to a
world wide audience of more than a billion people.
I wonder how a person living in a five by six metre tin
shack in Philippolis in sub zero temperatures who can't get to the
stadium, let alone afford a ticket or even watch it on TV, feels about
his government spending more than 2 billion dollars on soccer stadiums.
In a hypothetical exercise, lets presume the South
Africa Government took the same money and recreate a huge national park, a
Serengeti of the South, where the indigenous animals could roam free and
the springbuck migrations could re-instate themselves.
A place where lions could once again roar down the
canyons. Where the cheetah, the fastest animal on earth, could run down
the springbuck, where endangered wild dogs and black rhino could thrive.
A place where the bushmen could continue their traditional lifestyle. A
place where the four great cats that Asia has failed to conserve, the
lion, the leopard, the cheetah and the tiger, could once again interact.
This mega park would attract tens of thousands of
visitors from all over the world. It would create jobs for game guards,
game guides, trackers, mechanics, butlers, chefs, waiters, housekeepers,
camp managers, bookkeepers, accountants, scientists, marketers, public relations
managers, singers, actors, photographers, filmmakers, journalists.
A place where nature could balance herself between
predator and prey, tourists and land, income and return, harmony and
exploitation, spiritual and economic wealth. A non destructive,
I suggest that if the South African Government has this
kind of vision, we would be able to play for a long, long time a "Truly
Tread lightly on the Earth