“Can they not see that this conduct ultimately leads to violence?”, a remark made by a French friend of mine recently. He was really upset by the world cup final incident largely because of the conduct of the players. Speaking yesterday, Zidane said “My act is not forgivable, but they must also punish the true guilty party, and the guilty party is the one who provokes.” In this light, do we condemn the violence or the conduct which causes it?
Zizou was under immense pressure in the final – the whole French team had been formed around him, and the final result arguably rested heavily on his shoulders. It was one of these shoulders which was almost dislocated in an Italian challenge just prior to his headbutting incident as he was relentlessly marked and hounded by the Italian team. However, Materazzi took the hounding to a new level by insulting Zidane’s family on top of nipple tweaking, shirt pulling and all the other crude insults. If you take a man and pile more and more pressure on him, at some point he will break. To me, the measure of the man is how much pressure he can take before that point is reached. In Zidane’s case, I take the measure of his worth as pretty high.
But this also raises the question of when is violence justified? Premasagar previously wrote about spiritual ethics, and in particular Ahimsa, spiritual non-violence which is different to the absolute non-violence preached by Gandhi. Here, I am reminded of a story about Lord Krishna, where he promised to bear 1000 insults from a certain individual. This he did humbly and without reaction… until the 1001st insult. At this, Krishna whipped out his sudarshan cakra and effortlessly chopped the guys head off.
“They were very hard words. You hear them once and you try to move away,” Zidane said. “But then you hear them twice, and then a third time. I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions. I would rather have taken a blow to the face than hear that.”
I have to say that I think Zidane showed quite a lot of restraint, even in his moment of madness. He could have smashed Materazzi in the face, but chose a soft body blow to knock him down. This in light of the fact that Italy had used all their substitutes and had Materazzi gone off injured, it would have been 10 men against 10. Not that any of this was penetrating the red mist of Zidane’s mind at that moment. His animal instincts had taken over, his humanity crushed by a tide of insult. Which brings us back to the original point – do we condemn the violence or the conduct that leads to it?
I think that is what was disappointing for me with this world cup tournament – the flavour of diving, insulting and downright cheating that left my tongue tasting like an ashtray in a Brazilian pub the morning after their defeat by France. For me sport was always about sportmanship and comeraderie. Take this away and what do you have? War!
War represents a “win at any cost scenario”. The best warmongers are those that can afford the highest costs. The US, for example in it’s middle east campaign. Chelsea in their premier league campaign. Perhaps the best way to tackle the conduct issue in sport is to tackle the cost issue. If we put a minimum and maximum wage cap on both players and managers according to a Prout system, maybe, just maybe, the players will be able to find their way back to playing the game for the reasons that they started playing in the first place – the love of sport. Isn’t that also the reason why we watch it?