I watched the 1st Youth Olympic Football semi final yesterday night, where Singapore, my home country, faced Haiti, a team that was thrashed 9-0 by Bolivia in the group qualifying round. Naturally, Singapore was a favorite coming into the match.
As the saying goes, in football, anything can happen. And true enough, Singapore was stunned with a 2-0 defeat, thanks to a goalkeeping blunder, and a controversial penalty converted in the last minute of playing time.
Well, the Young cubs, as the Singapore boys are better known as, should hold their chin up despite the defeat, for they have come so far, and had proven their worth with the skills and grits they have displayed in their journey to the semi final. They had earlier beaten Zimbabwe 3-1 despite the latter boasting a prediction of 5-0 thrashing during a pre-game interview. They managed to overcome Montenegro 3-2 after falling from behind in the game, to eventually top the group.
Perhaps the young cubs are not used to the media attention that was showered on them, after their amazing run in the qualifying round. They struggled against a very physical team in Haiti, whom I rate to be even more physical than Montenegro.
Surely the credits have to be given to the Haiti team for their ability to take the opportunity where it counts, taking advantage of the goal keeper mistake, and protect the slim 1 goal lead very well until the very last minute.
What I dislike, and do not want to give credit for, is the manner on how they protect their lead. Every single touch on their players, always end up with the player falling on the field, grasping in pain only to get up when the medical team and their stretcher rushed to them. Of course, one can say this is part and parcel of the football practice today, with professional players like Ronaldo and Robben doing all sort of play diving acts on the fields. One cannot fault the kids, having these professional players as their idols, to follow suite.
But to do it on every other minute, is a tad too much. The Haiti goalkeeper even had the audacity to showboat while preparing for goal kick. He was seen sarcastically clapping his hands when the Hungarian referee showed him a yellow card for time wasting. In the spirit of Olympic, which is about friendship, solidarity and fair play, surely what the Haiti boys had done should not be condoned. But if the adults (in this case, the professional footballers) do not show a good role example, what can and should we expect boys that’s under 15 year of age to behave?
The team manager of Haiti brushed away any accusation of his team’s play-acting, claiming that they are just kids. However, I hope he would instill the right value to his boys in the dressing room, for its inconceivable to imagine these boys will grow up to be professional players only to resort to such dirty tricks to get their goals.