Wanja talks to his children, today about…
The perfect world in Putoia reminds me a little of “Pleasantville” or “The Truman Story” and somehow, as a reader or viewer, you have to wait for the “twist in the tale”? When does Truman notice something, when does he want to explore the world, when does someone fall in love and get colour in his face, unlike all the others, when does a player not hit the basket with the basketball, so that the crowd is silent with bewilderment because such a thing has never happened before? Let’s see. But since most of the talk at first was about earthly football, there is not too much left to report about “a perfect world”. Here in Putoia, however, it was tranquil, quiet, and in and in front of the stadiums the atmosphere was comparable to the “summer fairy tale” of 2006 during the World Cup in Germany, when for five weeks a mood of unity, anticipation, enthusiasm, solidarity, and a general sense of celebration prevailed, which basically affected everyone – whether football fans or not. Only here it was actually a bit more beautiful, when you get right down to it.
Wanja had his way of making earthly conditions – outside the 2006 World Cup – accessible to the children. Why they listened so attentively? It was simply fascinating. And they knew, little by little, that they had their father to thank for the “heavenly” conditions here. So it was worth it. Apart from the fact that, after the rounds of conversation, one could look forward a little more to what lay ahead. Football. The way it was supposed to be, the way it was fun, the way it was fair and just, the way everyone loved it, whether players or spectators.
Wanja opened today’s round: “Fair play? How do you imagine it?” “What kind of question, Dad? What is the opposite? Does it exist or did it exist?”
“Fair play is always. Right. One abides by the rules. That doesn’t make it fair play. You could put it like this: Fair play is when one experiences an injustice in one’s favour and foregoes the resulting advantage. Does that make sense?” “Ok. As an example: the referee gives us a throw-in, although our player – as he himself perceives and is therefore certain – touched the ball last. We do take the throw-in – you shouldn’t contradict the referee, that wouldn’t be good for the game in the long run either — but we throw the ball directly to the opposing team. D’accord?! But that does happen here and not even that rarely.”
“Okay, great. But do you know what it was like on Earth?” “To some extent, yes. In any case, it had little to do with fair play as we understand it.”
“Absolutely right. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of that, there were even prizes for players who behaved in a particularly fair manner. But before I tell you a few examples, I’d like to tell you the story. Do you want to hear it?” “Yaaaa.” rang out, as if from one mouth.”
“Very well, but it takes a moment to really understand it well. There’s no question, of course, that players respected each other much more in the old days, that people intuitively shied away from attacks that could have hurt their opponents. For example, there used to be a rule called ‘head too low’. Can you do anything with that?” “Hmm, no, what was that?”
“As I said before, intuitively you would have been wary of doing your opponent any harm, even if it was for glory and honour and later more and more for money. Nevertheless, one would not have kicked at the ball if an opponent’s head had been nearby. So you pull your foot back, even though the game is called football. You’re supposed to be allowed to, but because there’s a head near the ball, you don’t get the ball because you don’t even try, you waive your right out of concern for the opponent’s head and a resulting injury.” “That’s clear, isn’t it? You don’t do that, do you?” “No, you don’t do that. Right. But ‘head too low’ meant precisely that in this situation it was not one’s own fault, but the opponent’s, who held the head too low. There was no exact height specified, but it was somehow clear to everyone when the head was too low.” “Yes, a perfectly sensible rule.”
“That was also just an example of fair play. At some point the rule imperceptibly disappeared from the rulebook. They didn’t care about ‘wimps’ and everyone kicked anyway, after all that was going on. And they hit their heads all the time, whether with their feet – which had long since risen far above head height due to increasing athleticism – or with heads that rattled together, or with elbows that flew everywhere in the air, especially when the opponent also jumped up and could thus be kept at a distance. The excuse and the reason why this was often no longer punished was: ‘you jump like that, with bent elbows, that’s what everyone does’ and no matter how much blood gushed from the wounds, no one cared and it was not a foul or even a red card. Unfortunate’ was the word. In the penalty area, the rights for the defenders increased considerably, because when Kouemaha kicked Sebastian Prödl once in the face, while Prödl, at 1.94m, was trying to get the ball over the line in an upright position and not only collapsed bleeding after the kick, but was also taken straight to hospital, the decision was to ‘play on’. Neither foul nor penalty nor goal nor red. Just a half-dead player and a 0-0 at the end.”
“Do you have the pictures of the scene? You have to show us that? It’s too scary to be true, isn’t it?” “I’ll show you, of course.”
The children were shocked, as anyone else who had any residual feeling or sense of justice would have to be. It just couldn’t be. And it didn’t help that a) it was considered a wrong decision and b) Kouemaha went to the hospital immediately after the game to check on Prödl’s condition and apologise. It had happened and spoke volumes for the terrible development that earthly football had taken and which apparently could not be stopped.
“But the story of alleged fair play is far from being told. These were rather small introductory examples to make clear in what wrong direction it all went. The frequent game situation I wanted to tell you about was the following: a player is lying injured on the ground. The opposing team is in possession of the ball. The referee does not seem to notice anything. A player of the team in possession of the ball plays the ball out of bounds. The player lying on the ground is treated, and the team now in possession thanks to ‘fair play’ plays the ball back to the opponent after the throw-in awarded to them. The spectators clap because they recognise this as fair play, appreciate it, like to see it and are grateful. Do you think this sequence is an example of ‘fair play’?”
“Yes, it could be called that, couldn’t it? What’s wrong with that? Could well happen here too, only there are very few injuries here and besides, if someone had done something to himself, you would notice immediately, including the referee, and the game would be interrupted anyway. Nobody would just lie there like that anyway.”
“So it was, as I described it, perhaps at the very beginning actually a kind of ‘gentleman agreement’ that one behaved like that. Only you can hardly imagine what the earthlings have made of it in the course of time?” “That, from all you have told us and shown us so far, we can only guess at. But go on.”
“First of all, it was the case that whenever a player was down and a counter attack, often even a promising one, was underway, the team was forced by whistles from the crowd to play the ball out of bounds. At the same time, it was logical that the player lying on the ground often did not have even the slightest serious injury, but rather took advantage of the situation, after losing the ball himself, following up unsuccessfully and falling, because he could no longer reach the ball, and simply remained lying there. There was no examination of his injury and perhaps it was impossible. An indication in any case that he often continued to play after brief treatment without any restriction.” “Fair play turned on its head there, didn’t it?” “That’s exactly why I’m telling it. All that ever happened was that pointless rules were made in the wrong direction and their exploitation was incumbent on the players, but they made ample use of them. You can’t blame them, as you know, because…?” Here the children could answer again as if from the same mouth, they knew that “… the result was all that mattered on earth and every means to achieve success was right and was not only prescribed by the media but also sanctified afterwards.” Even if authenticity losses are possible here in the transmission of this wording, the meaning was exactly this. One could have added here that not only did every loser play a subordinate role and was considered a loser and an Erolgloser, but he was picked on by every trick in the book, in the mildest example with ‘he lacked cleverness’. How could it be, for example, that Jürgen Klopp was such an outstanding coach who reached a final SIX TIMES with his team, but, because he did not win any of them, was held up as a prime example of unsuccessfulness, while all the others who were eliminated in the last 16, quarter-finals or semi-finals would not only have swapped places with him, but also remained absolutely untouched in their assessment, i.e. were not considered ‘unsuccessful’, although they had come much less far than Klopp? All of this was pure nonsense and all media fabrication. But who were they trying to tell here?
“The scene described,” Wanja continued, “developed even further. The ball was often played out reluctantly but forced, often the anger justified. The spectators still clapped, perhaps, but only routinely, as everything all around was put-upon and stank to high heaven. Playing the ball back was also done rather reluctantly and most of the time the ball that was played out of a promising situation — just forced out by spectators who started whistling – was not played back at the spot in question but was hit far into the opponent’s half, towards the baseline and, as soon as it came down there, was immediately followed up to force a ball loss, which of course succeeded often enough, it was a farce all around. And when the officials realised at some point that there was something fishy about it, they issued a new rule that ONLY THE ARBITRATOR had to decide whether to order a stoppage of play. This too was a farce, because of course he was out of his depth and the spectators continued to whistle – mostly, of course, those of the player lying on the ground – forcing the referee to stop the game either way. Apart from the fact that often the opposing players simply stopped and did not act at all, pointing to their own ‘injured’ player, whereupon the counterattack simply had to be stopped. If a goal had been scored from this scene, it would certainly have been disallowed. There was nothing wrong with it – and no one there to stop the nonsensical goings-on. Fair play? A joke and nothing else.”
“How should it have been done, do you think?” As usual, Vanya always started with Adam and Eve, but here he only said briefly : “Like this, of course. It starts with the fact that we want to play his game, that we abide by the rules, that everyone knows that there is no use in transgressing them , that we want to entertain the spectators well and that the result is NOT the only thing that matters and not even the most important thing, even if we continue to play our sport with ambition.”
Yes, that made sense.
“But the actual most graphic example of the depraved football world in relation to ‘fair play’ on earth is yet to come. Are you ready?” Nodding in agreement.
“There were prizes for particularly conspicuous fair play. Presumably because it was so rare? Now one shouldn’t condemn the basic idea. But the decision? Take this example: at the 1996 European Championship, in the first group match between Croatia and Turkey, the following scene occurred four minutes before the end: after a corner kick by Turkey, the Croatian Vlaovic was up and away on the far side, on his way to scoring the 1:0 for Croatia after all. The only one who could have stopped him was the defender Alpay Özalan, who, however, had only one chance to knock him down. Tear down, run in, one of the options. What do you think he did?” “Hmm, the question is not so easy to answer. The topic is ‘fair play’, here specifically prizes. But otherwise we also know that there was a disproportion between rule violation and penalty. So I can’t figure it out,” said one of the boys. The others also remained silent and thought. “No, what happened then?”
“No, he didn’t foul him. Vlaovic kept running to the goal and scored 1-0 and Turkey was eliminated.” “Hmm, yes, ok, now what’s spectacular about that?”
“First of all, Alpay couldn’t be sure that the striker would actually sink the ball. Moreover, it is not certain that a set tackle or knocking down the attacker would have been successful. Moreover, if he had committed an emergency stop, he would have found himself in the stands because of the suspension, which would have resulted in a red card. Then there were still a few minutes to play and they could have equalised. It was also not yet certain that Turkey would be eliminated after conceding this goal. So his behaviour could also be interpreted as ‘well-considered’. I could kill him now. Then I’m out. Maybe we’ll keep it 0-0, but we could still lose because I’m out. If I knock him down, I won’t play in the next game. The spectators will whistle, the world will point fingers at me as a vicious sinner who only knew how to help himself with an emergency stop and thus robbed the opponent of a possible victory. We have not yet been eliminated and we have not yet lost. I’m not sure I’ll catch him either. I could hurt myself or him. All this adds up to the wise decision: I let him go, don’t even try the emergency brake’. So: altogether a wise decision, isn’t it?”
“You could say that. So what’s the punchline to this story?”
“You said it earlier. It was about a prize. And that prize was awarded to this player, for a failure to make an emergency stop.”
“Surely that can’t be? If you think about it, a player would receive an award who followed the rules, which suggests that NOBODY ELSE followed the rules?” “That’s about the way you could put it. Apart from all the other considerations which, when weighed against gross unsporting behaviour and simply abiding by the rules, didn’t seem to make such a huge difference. Even more absurd about this whole story, of course, is the cause: why did the world agree that the emergency brake was such a sure-fire, cheap way to achieve one’s goals?”
“At this point, at the latest, it SHOULD have occurred to people that the entire rules are wrong and need to be completely overhauled. To gain an advantage with a gross unsportsmanlike act, as everyone was sure they would? Such a thing would never, ever happen here.”
“Quite clearly, children,” Vanya continued to speak, “nevertheless, I also continued to think about this scene and the prize, how it could come about, or, how it could be made more vivid to the people, perhaps with a comparison? In doing so, I came across the following initial thought: there were actually no other scenes that even remotely came into consideration to be selected by the jurors as competition to the Alpay scene – although it remains absurd that this scene made it into the selection. Nevertheless, the collective conclusion from this is that there was fair play here, there and there and far and wide and nowhere. Surely everyone should realise that?” “You don’t have to tell us that. The Earthlings are strange creatures, but it is to them that you address your message.”
“Right on, yeah, right. I was just wondering if maybe there was a second candidate? Then I had an idea: a player who had a knife with him, smuggled into his sock, and didn’t use it, came in second. He showed it to the referees immediately after the final whistle, who initially feared for their health, but then realised that he only wanted to show it, not use it against them. As I said: only second place, although it was actually obvious that he had failed to commit a greater offence than Alpay, and was therefore actually ahead. But here the point of demonstrability prevailed: with Alpay it was obvious, for the spectators, the player with the knife had clear disadvantages there, so Alpay moved up to 1st place.”
“Dad? That’s called ‘sarcasm,’ as far as I know?”
“Yes, there’s something to that. But I thought of more examples. One like this: you buy a brand new bicycle and leave it on a major thoroughfare without plugging it in. You hide and watch, the people and the bike. The first thousand walk by without even noticing it. The one thousandth looks at it and realises that it is not connected, you can see that in his surprised reaction. Only he doesn’t think of stealing it. Rather, he is thinking about how or if he should/could protect it until the rightful owner arrives again? Finally, he goes on his way. After six hours, someone arrives who you can see is looking for an opportunity to take it. However, in the end it seems too conspicuous for him, as there are too many people on the road. Late in the evening, however, when there are hardly any people there, he passes by again, presumably on his way back. He sees the bicycle still standing there. He struggles with himself, knowing that he would not be caught now. But: he leaves it there anyway. Now, finally, they have found the candidate who can be awarded the prize ‘most honest man in the universe’? They quickly run after him. He doesn’t have a guilty conscience, but he is still afraid. Finally, you get him, hang the certificate around his neck and present him with the proper prize, without him ever thinking that he would somehow be rewarded for his bad thinking? Does that perhaps make it more vivid? He was the only one out of hundreds of thousands who considered committing a crime and had the opportunity to do so – and he gets a prize for it? One would only have to add that in the same period, eighty-six bicycles were stolen in the entire metropolitan area, all of which were hooked up. “
“It remains the case, Dad, you’re being sarcastic.”
Gascoigne Helmer? Michael Owen Alpay Tottenham goal after fair play