Sport Needs A Clean Champion After Tennis & Football Debacles

Posted: February 20, 2015 in Football, Tennis
Tags: , , , , , ,
Djokovic Celebrates

Djokovic celebrates his Australian Open victory

The first six weeks of 2015 have already seen two major sporting finals take place as the calendar year has kicked off in emphatic fashion to help divert our gaze from the trials and tribulations of real life.

However, these have not gone the way many would have hoped within the sporting community, with both the Australian Open in tennis and football’s African Cup of Nations both being blighted by some severe cases of gamesmanship that frankly seemed of an improper nature on the way to the crowning of the victors.

Both Novak Djokovic and the Ivory Coast were guilty of feigning injury in order to play mind-games with their opponents on way to claiming their respective titles, and one wonders as to how long until the rules are changed to prevent such ridiculous acts being performed in order to unnerve their competitors.

Djokovic is quite frankly one of the most talented tennis players to come onto the scene in recent years to dethrone Roger Federer, so it beggars belief that he would need to resort to such underhanded tactics in order to triumph over Andy Murray – a man whose ATP ranking had plummeted over the previous six months.

Murray had been much improved to muscle his way into the Australian Open final having overcome his Wimbledon conqueror Gregor Dimitrov and Thomas Berdych to land another shot at claiming his maiden championship Down Under, and he had fought back well from a set down to level the match in the second.

Djokovic Injury

Djokovic receives treatment on a dubious injury

Having secured an early break in the third, it looked probable that Murray could once again defeat the talented Serb to claim gold, until his momentum was undone by an injury timeout for Djokovic to deal with supposed cramp.

Murray’s body language seemed to believe that there was nothing wrong with his friend and opponent, but yet he let the actions of the supposedly weakened Djokovic get to his performance, with the eventual champion raising his game to edge the third set, before obliterating the Brit in the fourth with a 6-0 victory to claim the title.

Whether there was any genuine injury to Djokovic is something that only he will know at the end of the day, but given a man of his talents, there was a sour taste left in the mouth that he had appeared to resort to underhanded tactics in order to claim a remarkable fifth title at the Melbourne Grand Slam.

Ivory Coast Celebrate

Ivory Coast celebrate their African Cup of Nations triumph

One week later in Equatorial Guinea, some of us tuned in to watch Ghana take on the Ivory Coast to land the African Cup of Nations, a match that went down to the wire as neither side could be separated and a penalty shootout was required to crown a champion.

Two dreadful penalties has seen Ivory Coast fall drastically behind early in the shootout, before two equally poor efforts from Ghana had allowed the Elephants to clamber back into the contest, with Seydou Doumbia levelling the scores at 2-2 with four penalties taken apiece.

It was at that point that Ivorian goalkeeper Boubacar Barry threw himself to the ground at the side of the box, claiming cramp and calling for the trainer to come on to treat him.

With there being no substitutions at this point, leaving Ivory Coast having to place an outfield player in goal should he not be able to continue, it was painfully obvious to anyone witnessing the game, that Barry was feigning injury, forcing Andre Ayew to sit and stew on his heavily important penalty for a further couple of minutes.

Boubacar Barry

Boubacar Barry hits the turf during the penalty shootout victory

Ayew clearly recognised what his adversary was attempting to do as he aimed a torrent of abuse in the direction of Barry after he converted his penalty, and the Ghanaian even came back for a second helping at the Ivorian ‘keeper after Jonathan Mensah had stuck away the first kick of sudden death.

Barry was not done there though, as he crucially denied opposite number Razak Brimah’s spot-kick at the end of the first rotation, only to once again go down claiming injury and calling for the trainer, potentially to get out of taking his own penalty and have a more established taker step up in his place to secure the victory.

Whilst the referee saw through things this time and booked Barry, it came as a disappointing end to a fascinating contest that he was able to get up and score the winning penalty that clinched Ivory Coast their first African Nations title in 22 years, breaking the hearts of the honest Ghanaian side in the process.

Whilst neither man technically broke any rules (barring time-wasting) it proved wholly unsatisfactory that the first two major sporting contests of the year were not decided by superior ability or will to win, but by playacting and mental mind-games.

Sport is supposed to give us that distraction from the realities that life brings and allow us to engross ourselves in an epic struggle between two players or teams, but this was taken away from us in truth by the underhanded actions of the eventual champions.

With major championships in cricket and rugby now underway, one hopes for a more amicable way to see a side rightfully crowned come the conclusion of these tournaments, especially in two sports that are very much renowned for holding sportsmanship at the forefront of their games.

Both sports have endured their troubles in recent years, with Mankading having reared its head in cricket in particular again last year, but there is a desperate need now within the sporting community to see a champion crowned in clean fashion, without having to resort to borderline cheating.

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